The transformation of Kejriwal from an aggressive and restless activist to a wily and affable politician was complete with the latest Delhi elections. Nobody is sure whether this change is for real or he is just wearing a mask. But it was fascinating to see him openly chanting Hanuman Chalisa, raising slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram” with which he has tried to take away BJP’s patented nationalism.
He seems to be slowly moving towards occupying the centre-right space in Indian politics which has been vacant for a long time now.
His strategic positioning of being likeable to both Hindus and Muslims in Delhi is a significant achievement. His tactics such as calling Modi as “sir”, not inviting opposition party leaders to his swearing-in ceremony, and avoiding wild accusations et al clearly demonstrate his matured strategy to avoid confrontations. Although his party says they would like to only focus on Delhi, there is a definite aspiration to expand nationally and target the caveat PM post.
Kejriwal Trying to Be the New Vajpayee?
Kejriwal had earlier attempted to go big when he contested directly against Modi and his party contested several state elections. But at that time, he got carried away with his initial success and made several strategic blunders and his party faced crushing defeat in those attempts.
Now, as he has done the course correction and built the “Delhi development model”, it should be giving him lot of confidence to convince the national voters that he can be given a chance to extrapolate his successful Delhi experiment of pro-poor and progressive policies.
If we recall, even Modi got into national fame by canvassing on his Gujarat model of governance and mixing it with Hindutva politics. Kejriwal may probably be having ambitions to simulate this by combining Delhi model of governance and centrist politics. He is, in a way, trying to become the new Vajpayee of Indian politics by being inclusive, charismatic, and people friendly which can get him the acceptance of all stakeholders of varying backgrounds.
Instead of Relying on Local Polls, AAP Should Merge With Congress
In order to further expand its footprint, AAP is already planning to contest local elections and make inroads. This strategy appears to be logical next step after Delhi win, however if Kejriwal wants to realize his dream of becoming India’s PM, this organic growth strategy will take very long time with lesser probability of success. Kejriwal may have to really think radically to accelerate his journey to occupy the PM chair. Here are couple of outlandish proposals which he can consider for perusal to rapidly catapult himself to the PM seat.
Option 1: Merge the AAP with the Congress and become national president of the Congress Party: India’s grand old party is in shambles and struggling to find a motivating and strong leader. Rahul Gandhi has failed spectacularly, and Sonia Gandhi is unable to resolve the leadership crisis which has doomed the party.
Before the party becomes totally irrelevant, the Congress can make Kejriwal as its president and he can energise the party cadre.
Kejriwal can solidly sell his governance model and leverage the Congress’ established national party cadre and infrastructure to win the elections. The Congress’s traditional vote bank combined with Kejriwal’s youth popularity can be a killer combination to realise the PM dream of Kejriwal and revive the Congress. This proposal requires openness from the Congress and some crafty negotiation skills by Kejriwal.
Even a Merger With BJP Will Boost AAP
Option 2: Merge the AAP with the BJP and become deputy of Modi: This proposal is relatively complicated compared to above first proposal but a very valid one for pondering. Although the BJP has won two back-to-back national elections, its weaknesses thoroughly got exposed with recent poll losses. The BJP does not have a successor to Modi who can equal him on his stature and pan-India appeal. Amit Shah is more of a backroom doer and unable to connect with masses.
Kejriwal’s recent and open leanings towards Hindu cultural nationalism should comfort the RSS to bring him into their fold. The RSS is trying for an image makeover and appearing to be toning down its extreme right ideology. The RSS can converge with Kejriwal at right of centre and he can be the best option to replace Modi and grow the BJP with his equal likeability in minorities and liberals.
To begin with, Kejriwal can become deputy to Modi and gradually transition to take over the ultimate mantle.
Both of above proposals may appear hypothetical but definitely not impossible to materialise. Politics is the art of possible and smart leaders make intelligent deals at the right time to realise their goals. So, it is over to Kejriwal now to maximise the momentum and take quick advantage of his newfound glory.
(The author is a US-based political analyst. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)