SEEMA MUSTAFA NEW DELHI: The Goa Chief Minister, not so long ago, disclosed inadvertently that he was asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi what response Aam Aadmi Party leader had got during a public rally there. To this the CM said he had said ‘nothing much’ but the point is that Kejriwal’s decision to contest the elections in Goa has rankled the BJP top brass. As is his seeming popularity in Punjab where AAP seems to be racing ahead of others in the fray.
Small wonder then that suddenly, despite the fact that his tweets and allegations have always been provocative, a BJP MP has decided to stake the CM at his residence for linking him with the murder of a Delhi estate officer M.Khan. And that troubleshooter Subramanian Swamy has been unleashed, as he says, to fix Kejriwal with the first salvo being fired by the former against the Delhi Chief Minister yesterday.
Kejriwal has made both the Congress and the BJP the target of attack. And in return he gets as good as he gives by both parties whose space he seems to be bent on limiting. AAP, in what is a clear policy decision, has decided to expand its base from Delhi into states where there is no regional party in the first instance, and where the contest has been more or less direct between the BJP and the Congress. And this is worrying both, as Kejriwal is the unguided missile in politics who does not lend himself to political cajolery, and likes to shoot straight from the hip.
In Punjab he has been giving both the Congress party,and the BJP-Akali Dal alliance a run for its money. Congress chief Amarinder Singh is finding the going tough as is the state government, with Kejriwal building on his Delhi reputation for a runaway start. For instance, in Delhi despite the many obstacles, he is seen as a clean man who tries to keep his word, and it is this reputation that seems to be working for AAP in a state that is fed up of corrupt power politics.
Kejriwal has not announced a Chief Minister candidate as yet for Punjab and might wait till after the elections to do so. But he is earning points, that according to local journalists and politicians, seem to place him ahead of others in the fray. At least at this moment.
He has used novel techniques in the part that make him the object of ridicule amongst the chattering classes, but endear him to the slums and the lower middle class that seem to be his target votes. In Delhi, he seemed to have lost support when as the Chief Minister he camped outside the Rail Bhawan and slept on the pavement, under the open skies, on a bitter cold January night. However, what many did not take note off with this one dramatic move Kejriwal was able to drive home the point into the often dense Delhi homes, that his government had no control over law and order as the Delhi police was not with him. And was under the central government.
This was a big plus as his predecessor Sheila Dixit had spent her consecutive terms in office trying to convince the Delhi voters of the same, but with little success. Today the refrain from the street in Delhi, captured by The Citizen team through impromptu interviews was a general, “he is not a bad man but what can he do, they are not letting him work.” This awareness ensures that Kejriwal’ goodwill remains intact, becoming the reserve to draw on as he moves into other states like Goa and Gujarat.
He has announced AAPs decision to contest the elections in Gujarat where till date the BJP and the Congress leaders have worked together at different levels. Kejriwal took the earlier electoral fight into the state when the Chief Minister was still Narendra Modi, and in what gave him big media eyeballs, went to the latter’s residence to meet him, and apprise him of what he had found to be wrong in Gujarat. Today Kejriwal has come out in support of Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader who has been in jail for over eight months now on sedition charges, even as he warms up to contesting the polls scheduled later next year.
In Goa AAP seems to be on a confident wicket, with the campaign having begun with a public meeting. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where the BJP is in power are also on AAP’s election map.
Kejriwal worries the rivals as he knows how to use the media in all its diverse forms. During the elections earlier he had captured the FM radio waves, until the BJP realised this and got on as well. Even today the Delhi Chief Minister continues to use radio to speak directly to Delhi residents, apprising them of decisions, and asking for their support. He takes time to explain the scheme and what is expected of them, that again might irritate the chattering classes, but works for those who like a government to connect. So while PM Modi whose use of the media has become legendary comes on with his Mann Ki Baat that has lost its resonance because of his refusal to touch on current issues of concern, Kejriwal comes on with small announcements every now and again.
Television of course, remains the ruling party’s preserve but the audacious use of the social media by the AAP leader clearly disturbs his political opponents. He is direct, to the point, does not hesitate to say what he thinks, and often follows up with letters to the ruling party, or to the Lt Governor and President. He is not abusive, but is direct, and tweets with perhaps more regularity and passion than the 70 plus Subramanian Swamy. For instance the decision to file a FIR against him on an alleged water tanker case, has already drawn a tweet from Kejriwal starting with “PM ke ishaare pe..” (under direction from the PM).
Kejriwal, along with PM Modi, has realised the power of perception in politics and uses the media—particularly the social media—to enhance what is projected as an honest, transparent, man of action image. The Congress party is equally hostile to him and AAP, and keeps a long distance with spokespersons attacking him frequently. The BJP, as its wont, uses trolls to reinforce the political attack on the Chief Minister who, however, remains at least visibly, unperturbed.
Interestingly, he has from the very beginning been placing himself against PM Modi in a move to capture the national space. His decision to contest against the Prime Minister from Varanasi is a case in point, and he takes care to take on the Prime Minister through barbs that seem to be hurting now after a long while. More so as he is expanding out of Delhi, fairly successfully into Punjab, with Goa and Gujarat next on his itinerary. Both are BJP ruled states, Gujarat being the home state of PM Modi where opposition is not easily tolerated as Hardik Patel has learnt. More so as Kejriwal is not the normal political opponent, but a maverick who can change direction at no notice, and fight a keen, high voltage political battle as he has proven over and over again.