By now, one should know why the Aam Aadmi Party, led by Arvind Kejriwal, has formed the government three times in a row in Delhi, where the BJP has not been in power since 1998. The problem with the BJP is that in Delhi, it does not have a leader of half the stature of Arvind Kejriwal, nor one as wily. There was a time when the Delhi BJP had a galaxy of leaders like Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma, Kedar Nath Sahni and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, but the present BJP leadership in Delhi is the greatest asset for the AAP government. The CBI inquiry ordered by Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena to probe alleged corruption in AAP’s liquor policy may have at first seemed like a good and aggressive move but AAP has cunningly trapped the BJP in a chakravyuha, successfully projecting itself as a victim of the Modi government. Like Opposition governments that were demolished in Karnataka, MP and Maharashtra, AAP has accused the Modi government of having unleashed Operation Lotus in Delhi, and the public seems to believe this.
On a TV debate, when I was asked about this, I said that if Arvind Kejriwal were to watch the show, he would be happy at how the BJP and its supporters on the panel were attacking AAP’s education policy. This is the best counter-attack for Arvind Kejriwal – to say that the BJP actually can’t stomach how AAP has revolutionized Health and Education.
The BJP spokesperson was so infuriated by my answer that instead of admitting his folly, he launched a verbal assault on me. Anybody who knows Arvind Kejriwal will vouch that when he takes decisions in haste, or is guided by his emotional impulse, his party and he land in trouble, but when he consults and deliberates over his strategy, he is dangerous. He anticipates his opponent’s move and plans two-three moves in advance, keeping his counter-attack ready.
From what I have gathered, Arvind Kejriwal knew that with a new Lieutenant Governor in Delhi, his liquor policy could land his government in trouble. AAP had developed a comfortable working relationship with the former Lieutenant Governor and Arvind Kejriwal was aware that the appointment of Vinai Kumar Saxena was done with a specific goal. Saxena moved quickly after assuming charge, got a report through the Chief Secretary highlighting the irregularities in the liquor policy. The CBI was asked to investigate Manish Sisodia who was in charge of the excise policy. Investigating Manish Sisodia amounts to a serious assault not only on the core of the leadership but also on the core belief system of the party. AAP had started its political journey as a crusader against corruption. Therefore, playing defense would not work and so AAP moved to equate the raids at Manish Sisodia’s residence with an all-out attempt to destabilise the AAP government.
article highlighting Delhi’s education policy proved invaluable. The BJP leadership was so inept that instead of sticking to the liquor scam, it held a press conference to attack The New York Times. The BJP was successfully trapped. AAP lapped it up. This was the beginning of the process to divert the attention of the public and media debates from liquor scam to the education policy. BJP leaders and their sympathisers were busy attacking the ‘reformed’ education system in Delhi on TV channels. The more they attacked this, the easier it was for AAP to show off its achievements. It was handed on a silver platter the opportunity to push a “best of” series – the visit of the First Lady of USA to Delhi’s government school, a letter by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, praising Mohalla clinics, etc. AAP is a master of social media. A massive, visually-appealing blitzkrieg was launched. In this din, the liquor policy was drowned.
Then AAP launched Phase 2. Manish Sisodia dropped the bombshell that he was contacted by the BJP to defect with MLAs with the promise of being made Chief Minister and having all cases against him being dropped. When the BJP called it a hoax, Manish Sisodia offered audio proof. TV lapped up the issue. It was juicy stuff. All the attention moved even further away from the liquor policy.
AAP waited for a few more days, then came its next big move. It declared that since the BJP had failed to lure Manish Sisodia, it had started contacting individual MLAs with an offer of 20 crores to betray AAP. Four of its MLAs held a press conference along with Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh. Perfect timing.The defection of more than two-third Shiv Sena MLAs is fresh in everyone’s memory. Nitish Kumar and his party, JDU, have also accused the BJP of conspiring against them in a similar fashion to split the party. All this is strengthened by the brazen raids on RJD leaders as Nitish Kumar was to prove his majority in Bihar.
To buttress its claim, AAP called an assembly session and meeting of its MLAs. Before the meeting started, it was reported by TV channels that a few AAP MLAs were unreachable but no names were given. Nobody knew the source of this information. Were reporters misled? Because finally, all the MLAs present in Delhi attended the meeting. After the meeting, Arvind Kejriwal led his MLAs to Rajghat and prayed there “for honest politics”.
Nobody knows the truth behind AAP’s claims but as of now, AAP has outwitted the BJP. If the central government had planned to trap Kejriwal, then it has miserably failed. It seems AAP is winning the perception war. Politics is a game of competing perceptions, not competing truths. Modi knows it, so does Kejriwal.
(Ashutosh is author of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and Editor, satyahindi.com.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.