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Arvind Kejriwal Arrested | 10 Reasons Why He Became Modi-led BJP’s Prime Target

The BJP thinks that the Kejriwal phenomenon has the potential to damage its electoral interests at the state level.

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While several Opposition leaders have been facing cases by central investigating agencies, Arvind Kejriwal seems to be the prime target of the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime. There are many reasons for this, and here, I list ten of them.

1. Even after two successive terms, the BJP seems to be invincible when it is pitted against the Congress party. Of course, Modi’s Achilles heel lies in the fight against the regional satraps. However, the appeal of regional parties is limited and they have a history of joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), barring an exception like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

On the contrary, Kejriwal's AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) refuses to have any business with the BJP and is trying to emerge as the principal opponent of the saffron brigade across the country, albeit with very limited success so far. The BJP sees AAP, led by Kejriwal, as a potential rival post 2024.

Usually, the BJP, its allies or possible allies benefit from the decline of the Congress in any state. For instance, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) or Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YCP) in Andhra Pradesh, and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Telangana. The BJP benefitted from Congress' decline in states like West Bengal, Tripura etc, as well.

But, in Delhi, the AAP emerged victorious as the Congress faded away, denying the BJP this opportunity. Similarly, the AAP replaced the Congress government in Punjab at the cost of the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The AAP is penetrating states like Gujarat and Goa as the Congress fails to challenge the Modi juggernaut.

Thus, the BJP believes that the Kejriwal phenomenon has the potential to damage its electoral interests at the state level.

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2. The BJP continues to have a firm hold in Northern and Western India. Since 2019, the BJP has significantly expanded its sphere of influence in the North and Northeastern parts of India and will continue to do so in 2024 too by allying with parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

South India remains a politically difficult terrain. The Congress and its allies have emerged further stronger in South India accounting for 130 seats, leaving little scope for the BJP to expand its tally. On the contrary, AAP challenges the BJP in North India, where the latter has a firm ideological and organisational hold. The BJP cannot tolerate such a challenge on its home turf.

3. The BJP uses Hindutva against its political rivals by describing them as anti-Hindu and appealing to the minority vote. Some Opposition parties, for their own reasons, continue to give the BJP political weapons in this regard. For instance, the BJP targeted the Opposition INDIA bloc on DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin’s comments on Sanatana Dharma.

However, the BJP cannot make such anti-Hindu accusations against Arvind Kejriwal, who has consciously cultivated his Hindu constituency by describing himself as a devotee of lord Hanuman and making promises like a free pilgrimage to Ayodhya. Arvind Kejriwal largely distanced himself from nationwide anti-CAA protests and remained aloof during the Delhi riots (inviting criticism).

Thus, Kejriwal consciously checkmates BJP in its attempt to paint AAP as pro-minority. Thus, Kejriwal's politics are unpalatable for the BJP.

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4. The BJP hits out at the Opposition, i.e., either the Congress party or the regional parties, calling them corrupt. On the contrary, the AAP and Kejriwal phenomenon emerged out of the 'India Against the Corruption' movement. In fact, this movement during the UPA II regime even benefitted Narendra Modi in coming to power.

Therefore, the BJP wants to quickly paint Kejriwal as corrupt to sell its narrative that it is the only party fighting against corrupt regimes across the country.

The 'anti-corruption' political narrative of the BJP has so far fallen apart when it comes to slandering Arvind Kejriwal.

5. The BJP cannot accuse Kejriwal of nurturing dynastic politics, a weapon often used against the Congress and regional parties. The AAP, after all, emerged out of a movement which several civil society organisations were a part of. There are no signs of dynastic rule being perpetuated by the AAP leadership, thus, giving no opportunity to the BJP.

6. The BJP knows fully well that Hindutva alone does not suffice in the diverse political landscape of India. In fact, Modi’s slogan was the Gujarat model of development in 2014 which the BJP has conveniently forgotten since then. However, it still uses political narratives of clean politics and good governance to attract the electorate disillusioned by decades of Congress misrule and machinations of whimsical regional satraps.

AAP also claims clean politics and good governance as its Unique Selling Point (USP). Its campaign around Delhi's model of development helped him attain power in Punjab and expand elsewhere. In fact, Delhi’s track record in education and health has proved to be a more credible narrative than the hype around the Gujarat model, which is essentially investment-centric.

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7. The BJP clearly scores over its rivals in terms of who leads the nation. Thus, the brand Modi persona is the BJP’s electioneering cynosure. The Congress performs poorly despite Rahul Gandhi’s image makeover post-Bharat Jodo Yatra(s). Several regional leaders could successfully checkmate Modi's persona. But, their reach is rather limited to their states. The attempts for a national appeal by Mamata Banerjee, KCR, Nitish Kumar, etc faltered. But Arvind Kejriwal remains a challenge in this regard.

8. Modi’s success is significantly associated with the decisive influence of social media that helped him have an effective connection with new, young, rather apolitical voters. Neither the Congress leaders nor any other regional leaders have come anyway near to Narendra Modi and the BJP in carving out a place in the world of social media. But, Kejriwal and his AAP continue to derive huge support from their social media following.

9. PM Modi garners support using the popularity of his flagship schemes. The BJP institutionalised labarthi politics, turning beneficiaries into vote banks. Kejriwal is a competition here too. These freebies are often targeted by Modi as revdi culture. But Kejriwal’s schemes on drinking water, power, and free transport for women are hugely popular among voters.

10. The BJP and the AAP share a common constituency of the electorate like educated middle-class and aspirational Indians. Kejriwal can prove to be a potential challenger to BJP in these traditional support bases. Through his ideologically diabolical but politically shrewd stand on a host of issues like Article 370, surgical strikes, Ram Mandir, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Uniform Civil Code, he disarmed the BJP in its tirade against rivals by calling them 'anti-national'.

Arvind Kejriwal joining the Congress-led INDIA bloc, despite bitter rivalry in Delhi, is distressing to the BJP, given that it won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi despite a hopeless show in the State Assembly Elections.

All this while curbing the powers of the Delhi state government, manoeuvred by the lieutenant governor and the arrest now being part of BJP’s game plan to contain Kejriwal's experiment in Indian politics, notwithstanding the merits and demerits of the alleged Delhi liquor scam.

(Prof K Nageshwar is a senior political analyst, faculty member of Osmania University, and a former MLC. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Arvind Kejriwal  

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