The other day when I wrote about BJP’s upcoming victory in Assam, there was a little discussion kicked off in the comments that I feel deserves a post by itself. In my post, I had made the point that the PM dreams of regional players like Kejriwal, Nitish or Mayawati actually help Modi in 2019. I argued that the presence of multiple small challengers none of whom can hope to score 272 in 2019 keeps the focus away from the opposition coalescing around Rahul Gandhi. And since people have shown a marked preference for decisive clear mandates in the last 15 years, a heap of small Opposition leaders pitching for a hung Parliament will lose badly to Modi who will hit the campaign trail asking for 300+.
Following this, there was a little debate in the comments over whether it is better for the Congress or the AAP to win Punjab. My view was that an AAP victory is better because it chokes out the Congress in the state. Even though Kejriwal gets on our nerves, ultimately the real national level enemy is Congress. A weak Congress is always good news for the BJP. But then, there was the counterview that while AAP may be small now, it is a bigger challenger because Kejriwal is a much smarter man than Rahul Gandhi ever can be.
I find this question very interesting and I am eager to hear everyone’s views on this: who is the bigger threat: Rahul or Kejriwal? While Congress is certainly way bigger than AAP, is this balanced out by the fact that Kejriwal is a much more cunning man and therefore poses a much bigger potential threat.
So, let me put these two questions explicitly to you all:
Q1) Who is a bigger threat: Rahul or Kejriwal?
Q2) Who would you like to see winning Punjab next year: Congress or AAP?
From what we have been hearing, I think we can safely rule out the possibility of an SAD-BJP victory, although I suspect that the Badals are stronger than the media thinks.
Frankly, I feel Punjab needs a shake up. It’s good for both Punjab and the BJP. While the SAD is an “ally” of the BJP, it has mostly kept the BJP on the fringes in the state. The BJP contests a mere 20 out of the available 130 Assembly seats and just 3 out of the 13 available Lok Sabha seats in the state. A shake up in the political establishment of Punjab might give the BJP a chance to reinvent and relaunch itself in Punjab. In this respect, the appointment of Vijay Sampla, a Dalit leader as BJP state president in Punjab seems like a good step. Punjab is the state with the largest number of Dalits as a % of the population and it is time the BJP thought about its own future in Punjab beyond existing as an appendage of the Badals. And let’s face it: from dynasty to corruption, there is very little that SAD has done to make us proud.
Ok, back to the question at hand. Who is a bigger threat: Rahul or Kejriwal? I always think that the RW systematically overestimates Kejriwal because of the constant media attention he gets. It does not help that Kejriwal has long forgotten about his day job as Chief Minister of Delhi and is currently a full time anti-BJP Twitter troll. Yes, Kejriwal gets on our nerves. And yes, we know that Kejriwal enjoys getting on our nerves.
No better example of Kejriwal getting on our nerves than his recent ridiculous “offer” to give water to drought stricken Latur. Of course, what he meant was that Haryana government would supply the water and the Railways would carry it to Latur, while Kejriwal himself would take out 526 cr worth of ads taking credit. There is simply no way Kejriwal could have believed that the government would accept his outlandish offer to carry water from Delhi when it might as well be carried from Miraj or Sangli within a few kilometers of Latur. He did it simply to annoy the BJP. And who knows, he might now take out 526 crore worth of ads accusing the BJP government of refusing his generous offer…lol. You KNOW he is capable of that.
But should we let such annoyance push us to overestimate his strength? There is no doubt that Kejriwal is a cunning politician. Winning Delhi in such a short time by a landslide is no small achievement. But if we overestimate him, I think we are unfairly underestimating the political acumen of other regional leaders. Does it really make sense to believe that people like Mulayam and Kanshi Ram were not as smart as Kejriwal? In fact, they built much bigger parties and ruled much bigger states. Yet, the national plans of the SP and the BSP have always remained a joke. India is HUGE. And AAP’s feat of sweeping a state within months of formation is not without parallel. The TDP and AGP also began their lives with such sweeps. Take a moment to think about the size of undivided Andhra Pradesh…think of the vast rural expanses across which the TDP often campaigned by bullock cart. In contrast, think of the size of Delhi and how quickly Kejriwal was able to get his message across to every person using 2013 technology. Now think back to the bullock cart in the 80s that the TDP had to employ across rural Andhra. Suddenly, Kejriwal’s feat doesn’t seem so impressive, does it?
For me, it all comes back to the same thing: India is HUGE. And I feel that Kejriwal’s party suffers from a fatal flaw in that it is a one person party like most other regional leaders. To spread out across India, Kejriwal will have to offer leaders in states and these state leaders might not be absolutely loyal to him. If AAP wins Punjab, they will have to find a CM for the state. Delhi is small. Punjab is big. The new AAP CM of Punjab will have no incentive to be loyal to Kejriwal. Unless Kejriwal installs Sisodia as Delhi CM and becomes Punjab CM himself! This is an untenable plan…how many times can he keep quitting as CM of one state and offer himself as CM candidate in another? In fact, while AAP faced a lot of humiliation by contesting 400 seats in LS polls, they would never have got a surprise breakthrough in Punjab without that gamble. Actually, Yogendra’s strategy of building a multi-faced, multi-nodal, broad based party was the right one when it comes to expansion. In the long run, I believe Kejriwal will realize that he concentrated all the power in his hands too early. I remember early 2014 when lots of random people, small time celebrities and do-gooders were joining the AAP, each person seeing himself as a political entrepreneur. Kejriwal killed that spirit too early and reduced the AAP to a party of flattering sycophants.
At least, this is how I feel. I am very eager to find out the views of others. Please please let me know 🙂