By Aditya Aamir
Whatever has happened to Arvind Kejriwal? He looks and sounds a shadow of the firebrand leader he was on the eve of general elections 2014. Then, he personally challenged Narendra Modi to a one-on-one contest in Varanasi. And, even if he lost, went on to win a thumping majority for AAP in the Delhi Assembly. Today, after being lauded and feted by Kamal Haasan, Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu, Kejriwal remains restricted to Delhi, constricted in his role as Delhi Chief Minister, the fire in his eyes replaced by chill at AAP’s prospects in GE 2019.
AAP can only win Lok Sabha seats from Delhi and Punjab; and Punjab just now under Capt. Amrinder Singh’s watch looks rather barren for AAP. Kejriwal’s stock and stature in a post-poll coalition depends on the number of AAP seats in the Lok Sabha. But AAP’s prospects in Delhi are not that rosy. Opinion polls and national “approval” surveys point to a couple of seats or none. Either outcome will dash Kejriwal’s national ambitions.
Arvind is in a hurry; he wants national glory. Kejriwal locks horns with prime minister and would-be prime ministers, no less. But past AAP forays into Punjab and Goa did not amount to much. For a time, Kejriwal and AAP were “national”, which they are no more. Result: Indecisiveness seems to have gripped Kejriwal. He speaks in contradictions, the first sign of panic overtaking confidence.
Kejriwal is not sure if AAP can go it alone in Delhi. A move to forge an alliance with the Congress was thwarted by old foe Sheila Dikshit. The Congress ex-Chief Minister has not forgotten the drubbing at the hands of AAP in the assembly elections. And Kejriwal has not had one good word for the Congress in the last four years, labelling it “corrupt” and worse.
Now, he wanted a tie-up with the Congress to “defeat BJP in all the seven Delhi seats” and when that alliance did not happen, it was back to Congress-bashing with “Congress has a secret understanding with the BJP.” Last heard, he was still trying to tie-up. If so, it will be another flip-flop. Dolphin!
It’s not for nothing that politicians are distrusted. Witness Tom Vaddakan who is all of a sudden “for and with the armed forces and Mod’s vikas agenda”, not “for and with the Congress.” But Vadakkan is not Kejriwal and vice versa. The trajectories both took are completely different – Vadakkan the silent “backroom guy”; Kejriwal, always in the face public eye, self-styled anarchist.
Today, Kejriwal is tottering on the Delhi-Haryana border. With only two or three seats in the 17th Lok Sabha, AAP and Kejriwal will be reduced to dwarfs in whatever broad coalition replaces the Modi regime. Left indecisive and with confidence deserting him, Kejriwal is attacking political rivals rather than highlighting AAP’s success record in bettering Delhi’s education and health sectors.
Arvind Kejriwal says these general elections for Delhi are not about “who will be Prime Minister” but about “statehood for Delhi”; that an AAP survey reveals the “Balakote air strikes” and national security are not issues concerning citizens of Delhi, that it’s “statehood” which the Dilliwala craves for.
Kejriwal is so far gone that he gives the impression of living in another world, at another time. Dismissing “national security” as something of no consequence at a time when Pakistan and terror – now China also – are making headlines displays a shortsightedness no politician will envy.
If anything, Delhi is where the Balakote strikes left the most impression. And, if anywhere, it’s in the Capital where jingoism is commoner’s talk. Arvind Kejriwal, if he wants AAP to survive 2019, should step out of his make-believe world. AAP is a national experiment, born out of a movement grounded in values, which cannot be sacrificed at the altar of one man’s indecisiveness or murdered within the precincts of a single state.
Kejriwal can take a cue from the Congress which, while it is primed for GE 2019, is keeping 2022 in mind when deciding to go it alone in Uttar Pradesh. Maybe, bringing back Sheila Dikshit in Delhi is also part of a similar action-plan. Priyanka Gandhi’s induction definitely is. Kejriwal should take the hint and plan alike. AAP and its leaders are young and there is time plenty in hand and on the clock to go full national. (IPA Service)