‘Dharna’ CM to Smart Neta: Hurdles That Transformed Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal’s transformation has massively contributed to his landslide victory in the national capital.

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Acche beeta 5 Saal, phir laute hain Kejriwal...

This is what every AAP worker is chanting right now because The man is back with a thumping majority yet again.

But wait, this is not the same Kejriwal that the country knew when he came to power with a similar majority in 2015.

Yes, his popularity is intact, his voter base is intact and his ideology is uncompromised, but he has transformed from being an 'activist' chief minister to a 'politician' chief minister. He faced several hurdles, some laid by his Opposition and some laid by himself. But he overcame them and is now transformed. Let's scrutinise these hurdles.

Habit of ‘Modi Mongering’

“Modiji humein kaam nahi karne de rahe,” was Kejriwal's constant rhetoric for a very long time. In his constant tussles with the LG and raids by the CBI, this was a statement that was repeated often. But targeting Modi for anything and everything was upsetting the Modi voter who supported Kejriwal in Delhi.

After a huge setback in Punjab and Delhi MCD elections, Kejriwal changed strategies, stopped direct attacks on Modi that brought the attention of the people away from those headlines he made every day to the actual developmental work being done by the party. In fact recently when a Pakistan minister tweeted about Delhi elections and attacked PM Modi over it, Kejriwal replied to the tweet saying that Modi is "My PM" and the elections were India's internal matter.

National Ambitions

Projected as a national face after the landslide victory of 67 seats in 2015, the AAP went big in Punjab and Haryana, but that irked the Delhi voters. Kejriwal was riding high on his 2015 wave that saw him as a 'Modi challenger,' leading to negligence to Delhi to a certain extent. No, Delhi didn't like it and voters questioned his priorities. But this Kejriwal realised only after losing Punjab and Delhi's MCD elections miserably.


One of the biggest mistakes he made was asking for "proof" of surgical strikes that India conducted on terror camps in Pakistan, giving ammunition to the BJP to call him anti-national, disrespectful of the Indian Army and so on. The backlash was a lesson learnt. He has since then steered clear of the nationalism debate in a bid to not harm himself by the vision of nationalism that the Modi government had successfully sold the country.

Shaheen Bagh Politics

The BJP tried extremely hard to sell the voters that it was in fact the AAP and Kejriwal who were responsible for the Shaheen Bagh and anti-CAA unrest. But Kejriwal, in a bid to not upset the Modi voter that supports him, took a stand that the party backs the protests, but also want the road to be cleared, which is the Delhi police's prerogative that falls under the Home Ministry, meaning Amit Shah, putting the ball in his court.

Hindutva Politics

Something that the Opposition is still trying to tackle. But AAP played it safe this time. Kejriwal knew that even if he has transformed his image to a large extent, the BJP will dig out his statements against surgical strikes, will blame him for anti-CAA unrest in the national capital and try to paint an anti-Hindutva image of his.

Now credit Kejriwal or Prashant Kishor for this, up to you, but all the party candidates could be seen at temples in their constituencies and also photographed while performing yagnas and poojas. So the recital of the Hanuman Chalisa by Kejriwal on national TV was no surprise.

Image of ‘Dharna CM’

A leader who has emerged from a people's movement has time and again taken to dharnas against several issues, even after becoming the CM. But after a point, voters and critics started questioning, is an 'activist' capable of governance at all?

Kejriwal realised the importance of 'perception politics' and transformed his image from this dharna politician to a politician working for better shiksha, paani, bijli and sadak. He also became more calculated with his words and speeches, spoke more about 'kaam ki rajneeti' and highlighted government policies more than anything else.

The Kejriwal we saw in 2015 was aggressively anti-establishment, anti-Modi, anti LG... he had tiffs with bureaucrats, politicians and the media and openly spoke about those tiffs which painted an image of his as a constant complainer.

But after the massive defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he is calm, calculated, selective and patient. He has transformed from an activist to a politician, whom the national capital has given a clear mandate after successfully mastering perception politics. The end result of the transformation is before you.

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