AAP, BJP clashes: Why Arvind Kejriwal is the real winner
The BJP honchos are being proved right today in Gujarat. What Nalin Singh got wrong is that Kejriwal doesn't want to attack BJP, as much as he wants to incite the BJP -- especially Modi -- to attack him. Arvind Kejriwal. Agencies. Barely hours after Kejriwal entered Gujarat, news wires flashed reports that Kejriwal was arrested by the Gujarat police for violating the Election Commission's code of conduct. The Gujarat Police detained Kejriwal for 30 minutes in Gujarat's Patan district giving AAP the chance to position Modi as the frontrunner running scared of their scrappy leader. Soon enough, tweets started flying fast and thick about Modi's "fear of AAP" -- which is exactly what Kejriwal is aiming for: An arrest in Gujarat that he can spin as evidence of Modi's anxiety. Meanwhile, TV grabs showed BJP workers, armed with lathis, grabbing AAP workers by their hair, shoving them against carts and downed shutters of shops, kicking them and beating them up. Only 20 workers had walked to the Lucknow office of the BJP - nothing that the party should have lost sleep about. But they chose to retaliate and beat them up with such violence that it would shake even the most cynical politics watchers. This was in Lucknow. Soon after the police in Gujarat let Kejriwal go, news poured in that his convoy was attacked. Reporters said that as Kejriwal alighted from his car and walked towards a gathering where BJP workers were demonstrating, scores of BJP workers attacked his car with sticks. This was from Ahmedabad. Within hours, AAP sprinted back onto prime time news headlines with visuals straight out of a Salman Khan film. If we might add, visuals that even a disinterested news watchers will be immediately hooked on to. The BJP supporters can whine about Kejriwal's machiavellian tactics, but BJP's hot-blooded politics led by the mid-rung leaders must equally share the blame. They are undoing the best efforts of their chosen candidate to defuse the K-bomb. In his own election campaign, Narendra Modi has not ceded much space to AAP. As long as Modi is at the helm of it, most of the political wrestling has been limited to the Congress party. It's all about dynasty, incompetence, and corruption.
In other words, Modi has focused on his favourite opponent: Rahul Gandhi. One has to keep in mind that with by literally bombarding states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka etc with Modi rallies, where BJP's presence is at best superficial, the party has at least been able to turn Narendra Modi into an name that now has recall value among average voters. Modi, being the clever political player he is, possibly realises that while every word that leaves his mouth might not resonate immediately with voters, they will also be not dismissed in a hurry. Therefore, if he does mention Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP in any of his speeches, there is a likelihood that people hitherto unaware of Kejriwal might just wake up and take note. And the BJP cannot even risk voter curiosity about Kejriwal at this stage. Arvind Kejriwal's car with the smashed windshield. Image courtesy: Twitter. Ignoring Kejriwal is exactly what they did in Delhi -- to disastrous results. But
BJP now seems to be giving Kejriwal and AAP exactly the wrong kind of attention -- the kind that works perfectly for him. That is exactly why the BJP-AAP street-fight in Lucknow, the BJP leaders likening AAP with the insurgent Maoists, the BJP internet brigade helping NaxalAAP trend on Twitter, the detainment of Kejriwal in Radhanpur will only hurt the BJP. If luck has it, it might also profit the AAP. The odds against the AAP in the Lok Sabha polls are immense. The buzz around the party was set to die a natural death following the week-long media hyperventilation about Kejriwal's talents as a politician soon after his exit from Delhi. Kejriwal's reported target states - UP, Rajasthan and Bihar - are states where the political discourses are already heavily clouded by a multitude of players. It is least likely that Kejriwal will be heard amid the Nitish-Modi, Mulayam-Modi din. So, AAP decided to draw blood and strike at Gujarat. It is evident that AAP has no intention to win over the Gujarati voter. It is obvious to even a layman that Kejriwal's chances are thinner than Congress' in the state. However, by landing in Gujarat to 'verify' Modi's claims -- and more importantly, do his best to get arrested -- Kejriwal is cleverly attempting to use Brand Modi to keep Brand AAP in the headlines.With Rahul Gandhi widely perceived as already ceding the race, the space for Kejriwal to emerge as Modi's true opponent is wide open.
It is also why Kejriwal merrily retweeted a BJP supporter's tweet calling him a "suar." More hardcore Modi supporters abuse him the better. The problem for BJP is that Kejriwal has locked the party between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If they hit back too hard, Modi looks threatened. if they ignore him, it just offers him incentive to ever greater provocation. The lesson of today's little debacle: BJP better come up with a better Kejriwal strategy... and fast! more