A Gleam of AAP

DELHI’S COMBATIVE CM LEADS HIS PARTY IN A HEADY CAM­PAIGN TO WREST PUN­JAB AND GOA FROM THE BJP AND CON­GRESS, SIG­NALLING AAP’S AM­BI­TIONS TO EMERGE AS A NA­TIONAL PLAYER IN 2019

India Today - - INSIDE - By Shougat Das­gupta Pho­to­graph by PRABHJOT GILL

Led by the in­trepid Arvind Ke­jri­wal, the Aam Aadmi Party is chart­ing a de­ter­mined course to­wards be­com­ing a na­tional party in time for the 2019 elec­tions

Naren­dra Modi whether the op­por­tu­nity presents it­self or not. And Modi has not re­mained above the fray. Two years ago, he called Ke­jri­wal AK-49, the Pak­istani agent. Last year, Ke­jri­wal called Modi a psy­chopath and cow­ard. The tone has been scarcely more ed­i­fy­ing since; na­tional de­bate con­ducted with the wit and po­litesse of a Twit­ter flame war.

In June, Ke­jri­wal tweeted, as a spu­ri­ous FIR was filed by the Delhi anti-cor­rup­tion bu­reau against him in the Rs 400 crore ‘wa­ter tanker’ scam, of his de­light that Modi had ac­cepted that they were in a fight, mano a mano. “Mu­jhe khushi hai,” Ke­jri­wal wrote, “ki aapne sweekar kiya ki aapki ladai seedhe mu­jhse hai.” It should be a mis­match. One of the com­bat­ants, af­ter all, pur­port­edly has a 56-inch chest. But what Ke­jri­wal lacks in size, he makes up in pug­nac­ity, in ap­petite for the fray.

Early next year, AAP will con­test state elec­tions in Pun­jab and Goa. The NDA is in govern­ment in both states. Very early polling in Pun­jab in­di­cates that AAP is on the path to a vic­tory as gaudy, as be­di­zened as the one it achieved in Delhi 17 months ago. A Huf­fPost-CVoter sur­vey, for in­stance, gave AAP be­tween 94 and 100 seats in the 117-seat as­sem­bly. Other, less bold­face sur­veys, by web­sites and pri­vate poll­sters, uni­formly pre­dict AAP will win be­tween 85 and 100 seats. A bullish Ke­jri­wal has al­ready claimed AAP will win 35 of 40 seats in Goa.

Pun­jab and Goa, the party hopes, will be the first domi­noes to fall, cre­at­ing mo­men­tum for elec­tions in Gu­jarat, Hi­machal Pradesh, Kar­nataka and Mad­hya Pradesh over the next cou­ple of years that will turn AAP from a small, if yappy, Delhi phe­nom­e­non into a for­mi­da­ble na­tional party in time for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion. With the Con­gress pe­ter­ing out, dip­ping in­ex­orably be­hind the hori­zon, AAP could yet be the main op­po­si­tion to the BJP. Of course, Ke­jri­wal speaks as if this were al­ready the case. A stan­dard line in a Ke­jri­wal stump speech is that Modi, when he is not trav­el­ling abroad, spends sleep­less nights plot­ting AAP’s down­fall.

Why else, the ar­gu­ment goes, would Modi’s govern­ment put so much ef­fort into stymieing the AAP govern­ment in Delhi, a govern­ment al­ready stymied by hav­ing to share power with var­i­ous mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties, with a Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor and the Cen­tre? Con­spir­acy, ac­cord­ing to AAP, be­sets the party from ev­ery side. Ashutosh, the former jour­nal­ist-turned-AAP na­tional spokesper­son, told IN­DIA

TO­DAY that “all the at­tacks on us in the past week or so are part of a po­lit­i­cal vendetta. The BJP and Modi are run­ning scared of the Aam Aadmi Party’s ex­po­nen­tial growth. What op­po­si­tion is left in this coun­try? We are the only party fight­ing Modi.” As Joseph Heller would point out, just be­cause you’re para­noid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

FIGHT THE POWER

Look at the re­cent record. The BJPled cen­tral govern­ment re­turned all 14 bills passed by the Delhi govern­ment, in­clud­ing AAP’s sig­na­ture Jan Lok­pal anti-cor­rup­tion bill, be­cause “pro­ce­dure was not fol­lowed”. The Pres­i­dent, Pranab Mukher­jee, re­jected an amend­ment to a bill that would ex­empt the post of par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary from be­ing an of­fice of profit. Mem­bers of a leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly (MLAs) are not per­mit­ted to hold of­fices of profit dur­ing their term and 21 AAP MLAs, ap­pointed as par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries, are in dan­ger of be­ing dis­qual­i­fied. In his party’s de­fence, Ke­jri­wal has cited prece­dents by BJP and Con­gress gov­ern­ments in Delhi: “When they do it, it’s con­sti­tu­tional and when we do it, it’s un­con­sti­tu­tional. What is this, if not dou­ble stan­dards?”

Last week, while Ke­jri­wal was on a three-day visit to Pun­jab, the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) ar­rested his prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary, Ra­jen­dra Ku­mar, for cor­rupt deal­ings to the tune of Rs 50 crore. Ku­mar, an In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive

EDRIC GE­ORGE

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