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
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