Like Rahul Gandhi, BJP tried to paint Arvind Kejriwal a political novice who has no idea of governance, but witty Kejriwal broke that image while Gandhi scion is still struggling
By Anil Anand
When Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ajay Maken retorted to Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s charge that Congress only cuts into vote share of others (read opposition parties), with a counter that Congress only focuses on winning seats, and that no sealing of buildings would be allowed in Delhi if Rahul Gandhi became Prime Minister, little did he realise that Congress president was still lagging behind, in terms of acceptability and perception at least in Delhi, Narendra Modi and Kejriwal to be in the reckoning.
A shrewd politician that Maken is, he certainly did not make an off-the-cuff remark while addressing a huge rally of factory owners and residents in a Delhi suburb area against the sealing drive and was also not unmindful of the fact that Modi enjoyed a formidable image and that Kejriwal has been able to carve a niche for himself in Delhi. It is also a fact that such rallies being organised by him are pulling large crowds and that is despite internal squabbles but one worrying factor for him and other Congress strategist should be that while discussing the poll prospects for 2019 Lok Sabha elections Rahul’s name is still not generating favourable responses.
Despite glaring failures of both the AAP government and BJP-administered three Municipal Corporations in Delhi and fact that Maken has not let any opportunity go to protest and expose the two parties and their dispensations, it is rather ironic that his efforts, of late despite certain health issues, have not been able to bring Rahul to the Delhi’s centrestage as a Prime Ministerial candidate. It is not that Congress in the capital city is what it was after suffering two humiliating defeats in 2014 Lok Sabha, and subsequent Assembly elections in which AAP emerged as a formidable third player in Delhi’s traditional Congress versus BJP bi-polar polity. The over a century old party has covered much ground which has been reflecting in the well attended protests and rallies but there seems to be a missing contact between the AICC (more so Rahul’s personal camp) and the ground realities in Delhi.
This missing link, which seems to be the case in many other states as well, has directly to do with the Congress or Rahul camp’s strategic failure to project him as an acceptable Prime Ministerial candidate. Agreed there are compulsions of coalition politics and pressures of the regional satraps who are also aspiring PM nominees that must be preventing them from doing so but endeavour should have been, backed by solid strategy with Rahul himself in the centre of action, to at least ensure that he was top among the PM hopefuls.
Despite utter failure of the BJP’s local leadership in successfully running the three Municipal Corporations and despite the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘ cherish ‘Swach Bharat’ scheme seems failing under his very nose due to this factor, thousands of safai karamcharis perpetually remain on protests demanding salary withheld due to clash between Municipal Corporation and AAP government, he still strongly figures in the public discourse while discussing possible outcome of next general elections. The one reason for this despite rising petroleum product prices and resultant increase in costs of essential commodities is absence of a readily available alternative. Perhaps it is either the TINA factor or people are giving benefit of doubt to Modi that he is in the reckoning.
Kejriwal might be perceiving himself to be a Prime Ministerial candidate as he has been planning his political moves accordingly that included becoming a chief minister without any portfolio. But the manner in which AAP landed in controversies creation of team Kejriwal that also resulted in the party losing Punjab Assembly elections, it was the only state that gave the new party four MPs in 2014, his hopes of making it a Modi versus Kejriwal contest in coming Lok Sabha polls seems all but evaporated. Nevertheless, Kejriwal has been able to carve a place for himself in Delhi and by dint of that has been making efforts to remain in the limelight in all endeavours to forge an alliance against BJP.
Despite certain sections within the Congress, that excluded Rahul and Maken, are for an alliance with AAP in Delhi as part of the much talked about but elusive anti-BJP ‘Mahaghatbandhan’, it does not seem to be maturing as yet. There is a strong feeling in the Rahul-Maken school of thought that the space vacated by AAP would go to Congress and that any AAP-Congress understanding or tie up would further damage the latter in Delhi. Notwithstanding these factors, Kejriwal seems ahead of Rahul when it comes to discussing names of prospective future leaders at the national levels.
It terms of number of Lok Sabha seats, seven, Delhi might not be numerically important in the overall national context, but it remains a fact that Delhi is the nerve centre of the country and both hub of politics and media. Yes Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are more important for the sheer number of MPs they elect but for the purposes of generating a debate/ ideas Delhi plays a pivotal role.
Rahul not finding favour with Delhites, for the purposes of being Prime Ministerial candidate, should be viewed by him and his strategists as a shortcoming of his overall gameplan both at the organisational as well as personal levels. He should be careful and his plans measured and well-crafted if he is to expect a perceptible change in public thinking about his claim to Prime Minister’s seat. At least in Delhi!