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BJP cannot afford to take Kejriwal lightly

Sharad Gupta
Sharad GuptaJun 23, 2016 | 09:38

BJP cannot afford to take Kejriwal lightly

Union home minister Rajnath Singh offered a glass of juice to BJP's East Delhi MP, Mahesh Girri, requesting him to end his fast against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's charge of murder against him.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged an FIR against Kejriwal in the water tanker scam in the basis of the report of the inquiry the Delhi CM himself had ordered a year ago.

Kejriwal's rhetorical challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi: "won't bend or break against your onslaught".

All this happened within last the two days. Is it a desperate bid by Arvind Kejriwal to occupy the opposition space vacated by the Congress? The party's president-in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi, has flown abroad a day after his birthday. Only he would know what takes him overseas so often, leaving his party high and dry. Congress has been losing state after state and none of that seems to bother either Rahul or Sonia.

Arvind Kejriwal, smart guy that he is, pounces upon any opportunity, howsoever remote it might be. That is why his Aam Aadmi Party is slowly creeping into states which have so far seen a direct contest between BJP and the Congress; or at the most between NDA and UPA.

He "sacrificed" a lame duck government he had formed with support of Congress, to contest the 2014 parliamentary elections. The party contested 436 of the 543 seats on offer. He himself chose to contest against the prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, from Varanasi. The significance was hard to miss. He wanted himself too, to be seen as prime ministerial material.

He failed miserably. Both in Varanasi and nationally.

He lost to Modi by 3.72 lakh votes and his party's could manage to win only 4 seats - all in Punjab. To aggravate his misery, he was incarcerated by the court in defamation case filed by Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari.

But, he crawled his way up, redeeming his politics by bagging 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi Assembly in February 2015. After becoming CM for the second time, Kejriwal at first seemed repentant for having had taken his party out of Delhi. "I should not have left Delhi. Now, I will concentrate only on Delhi's development," he declared after swearing in.

But, the power of sheer numbers must have made him heady. He forgot that he was heading only a city government and started behaving autocratically. Lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung became his enemy number 2 (number one slot he had always reserved for Modi). And he also forgot his pledge of concentrating only on Delhi.

girri220616mb_062216031227.jpg
East Delhi BJP MP Maheish Girri ends fast over MM Khan murder case with Union home minister Rajnath Singh offering him a glass of juice. Photo: ANI

Punjab, having given him four MPs, was obviously the first choice. It's another matter that two of them have walked out on him. But, a badly battered and discredited Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and an equally dispirited and divided Congress offered him a fertile ground. And it did not take long for the effect to become visible.

The Maghi Mela rally - organised separately by all parties in Muktsar near Batinda - was one such indicator when the AAP rally was twice the size of SAD and Congress rallies put together. Soon enough an opinion poll conducted by C-Voter gave AAP 90-100 seats out of total 117 in Punjab Assembly.

That gave Kejriwal hope but not without caution. Asked at Muktsar whether AAP would contest in Uttarakhand, he told me, "We have learnt our lesson well during parliamentary election. We will contest only one  state at a time. Since Uttarakhand polls will coincide with Punjab, we won't enter the fray. However, we will go to Himachal Pradesh, which goes to polls six months after Punjab."

But four months down the line, he has decided to contest Goa Assembly polls. Next, the AAP announced it would be contesting Gujarat elections. And now, comes the news that AAP would fight in Madhya Pradesh too.

The common denominator here is that all these states - except Himachal Pradesh - are ruled by the BJP and Congress is the lone opposition. The AAP leaders, buoyed by the stupendous success of Delhi and C-Voter survey figures, used to boast, "We will enter only that state where we are sure of our victory. Not a simple victory but an overwhelming one."

However, with a rapidly changing political landscape, their rhetoric too has changed. "We will contest to ensure that we provide at least a formidable opposition if not the government," is the new slogan.

A senior AAP functionary claimed, "We are contesting all BJP-ruled states to create the same trouble they have been giving us in Delhi."

It would be be a perfect quid pro quo.

And what about the BJP? So far, it had been pretending to ignore AAP as a city/state party. But, with latter's ambitious forays into BJP-ruled states and at least one abuse a day for the prime minister, BJP can ill afford to overlook AAP and Kejriwal. Hence the FIR in tanker scam and fielding Union home minister to counter Kejriwal.

Not long ago, the BJP had to field two of its top leaders, party president Amit Shah and Union finance minister Arun Jaitely, to refute Kejriwal's aspersions on Modi's degree.

Yes, the signals are clear. The BJP can not afford to take Kejriwal lightly. And if it does, it will be at its own peril.

Last updated: June 23, 2016 | 13:05
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