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Why Modi is desperate to demolish Arvind Kejriwal

Aditya Menon
Aditya MenonJan 11, 2015 | 14:20

Why Modi is desperate to demolish Arvind Kejriwal

The BJP's main focus in its campaign is destroying Arvind Kejriwal and his politics. Nothing reflects this more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at Ramlila Maidan today. Modi, who spoke for nearly half an hour, devoted more than half of his speech to attacking Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party. Modi didn't mention Kejriwal by name, but it was evident that each and every jibe was aimed at the AAP convenor. There are five ways Modi and the BJP are trying to demolish MufflerMan Kejriwal.

Anarchist AAP

Modi stopped just short of calling Kejriwal a Naxal. "Those who believe they are anarchist, should go and join the Naxals," he said, during his speech. The prime minister further attacked the AAP's dharna politics. "Jo jis kaam me achha hai  usse woh kaam dijiye. Jinko footpath par baith kar dharna karne ki mastery hai unhe wo kaam dijiye. Hamari mastery achhe sarkar chalane me hai, hame wo kaam dijiye (People who are good at a particular task should be given that task. Those who have mastery over conducting a dharna on the footpath should be given that task. Our mastery is in running  a good government, give us this task," Modi quipped.

It's not just Modi, BJP has put up posters across Delhi telling the people of the city not to support a party which organises dharnas.

Mudslinging the muckraker

Speaking at Ramlila Maidan, BJP president Amit Shah called AAP a party that only tells lies. "AAP has broken one record for sure and that is a record to tell lies. No one can beat them in that," Shah said. Modi joined in the attack by saying, "Dilli me bahut badi jhooth ki factory chalti hai. Jo jhooth bolte hain, usse janata hi parajit kar deti hai (Delhi has a huge factory that manufactures lies. The people will defeat those who lie)".  AAP has consistently been attacking the BJP for its proximity to a few business houses as well as its pro-industry and anti-poor policies. Demolishing AAP's credibility is, therefore, central to the BJP's campaign.

Destroying the Aam Aadmi image

Modi showered praise on the new BJP chief ministers such as Manohar Lal Khattar, Devendra Fadnavis and Raghubar Das in his speech. Cleverly, he emphasised  their humble origins to try and break Kejriwal's monopoly over the Aam Aadmi brand. He described Khattar as a "saamanya parivar se aane waala vyakti jisne Haryana ki Rajniti ko shuddh karne ka beeda uthaya hai" (a person from a humble family, who has taken it upon himself to cleanse Haryana politics), appropriating both the common man and anti-corruption cards. Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das, according to Modi, has emerged as a "hope of the common man". Modi was careful to not even mention the term "Aam Aadmi", using "Saamanya Maanav" instead.

Kejriwal the icon of class conflict

In a polity where caste and religious identities have held sway, class didn't quite develop as a political category in India. AAP, which has emerged as the champion of Delhi's poor and lower middle class, is a rare experiment in this direction. Attacking this brand of politics, Modi said, "Do chaar ameero ko gaali dete raho, gareebo ko bhadkate raho. Gareeb hisaab mangega ki mere liye kya kiya? (Some people keep abusing the rich and instigating the poor. Won't the poor ask them what did you do for me?". Though indirectly, Modi has for the first time come out in defence of the big industrialists who are seen as beneficiaries of "crony-capitalism". This is by far the most interesting point of criticism raised by the BJP against the AAP. Given the Modi government's pro-industry bent, the class might become the major faultline in Indian politics in the coming years.

Incompetent 49-day CM

In hardly any advertisement it has released in Delhi does the BJP fail to allege that Kejriwal "ran away" from government. Modi ridiculed Kejriwal on the same grounds in his speech today: "Agar chhote kaam karne hote to janata mujhe nahi chunti, aur bohat log hain aise kaam karne ke liye (If governance was a small matter, the people wouldn't have chosen me. There are many people who can do such small jobs)".  "Vikas karna hai toh kadi mehnat lagti hai (Development requires hard work)," he further added.

For the BJP, a victory in Delhi means much more than just maintaining the undefeated run it is having since the Lok Sabha elections. The party's worst fear is that if they lose to AAP in the national capital, it will not only demolish the myth of Modi's invincibility, Kejriwal would emerge as the face of the opposition against Modi, something that the prime minister cannot afford so early in his tenure.

Last updated: January 11, 2015 | 14:20
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