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Can Arvind Kejriwal Go National?
Sutanu Guru analyses the future prospects of the controversial AAP supremo
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Even those who intensely dislike Arvind Kejriwal and his brand of hysterical, holier than thou brand of politics will have to concede this: the man is fiercely ambitious and believes he can go all the way. For middle class residents of Delhi, Kejriwal and AAP might have been a terrible disappointment. Many who enthusiastically voted for him in the February, 2015 elections now regret the decision. But that seems to have hardly any impact in Goa and Punjab where AAP has emerged as a serious contender. Most political analysts and pollsters now agree that Punjab is now a toss up between AAP and the Congress. Most also agree that the five year old party could spring some surprises in Goa and deny a majority to the BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal seems to have learnt some valuable lessons from 2014. In December, 2013 AAP formed a government with Congress support in Delhi. Intellectuals and analysts of the liberal hue who had lost hope in the Congress by then saw a new dawn of hope in Kejriwal. Some even hailed him as the new messiah who could save India from the clutches of a corrupt Congress and a communal BJP. Perhaps the hallelujah went to his head as Kejriwal resigned and announced that the AAP will contest more than 400 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The verdict that gave a thumping mandate to Narendra Modi was a wake up call. Since then, Kejriwal has been far more measured and strategic, even though his outbursts on social media paint a different picture.
For one, he chose Punjab and Goa to expand his base. Punjab was obvious because AAP had done phenomenally well there in 2014, winning 4 seats. People were palpably tired of both the Akali Dal and the Congress. In Goa, Kejriwal sensed an opening based on backing by activists. He stayed far away from Uttar Pradesh. Nothing can be forecast with accuracy in Indian politics. But if AAP wins Punjab and does well in Goa, Kejriwal will be back in business with a vengeance. And if the BJP does badly in Uttar Pradesh, Modi will become even more vulnerable.
Bo surprise then that the entire army of AAP workers and volunteers are now targeting Gujarat where elections are due in end 2017. Funds will perhaps not be a problem post March 11 when assembly election results are declared. And there can be no doubt that Kejriwal and AAP will go hammer and tongs at both Modi and Amit Shah. After all, the BJP has been ruling Gujarat since 1995 and there is bound to be fatigue as well as anti-incumbency. As of now, the prospects of AAP dislodging the BJP in Gujarat appear laughable. But stranger things ha e shoe need in Indian politics. In any case, it will be a huge watershed if AAP dislodges the Congress as the main opposition in the state.
Since 2014, Kejriwal has made every attempt possible to emerge as a national leader and an "alternative" to Modi. So far, these attempts have been laughable despite a sympathetic media in Delhi giving him too much space and airtime. But that could well change by the end of the year. The BJP can no longer afford to ignore this threat. But while the BJP has cause to be worried, the Congress should be in panic. If the party fails in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat despite anti-incumbency against the NDA, perhaps the beginning of the end will begin for Rahul Gandhi as a national leader.