AAP’s Hindu Outreach: Can Kejriwal’s Religious Politics Fetch Him The PM Post?
Kejriwal sprung to life with the promise of a new kind of politics much of which dissipated in the pursuit of power
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In his desperation for instant success, Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) Chief Arvind Kejriwal has plumbed new depths with a proposal to put images of Lakshmi and Ganesh on currency notes.
The demand is not only bizarre, but it would also seem to be unconstitutional as well. The Delhi High Court had observed in December 2014, during a hearing on the issue that the Constitution does not permit use of religious symbols on currency.
But anything goes in Kejriwal’s world of shoot-and-scoot politics. Constitutional propriety and political gravitas are the last things on his mind even as he aims to become prime minister sooner than later.
Kejriwal’s Ticket To Top Post?
If Kejriwal’s goal was to make a splash, he certainly succeeded. His demand made media headlines and drew immediate squawks of protest from both the BJP and the Congress. The former blasted him as an anti-Hindu bigot while the latter managed to look more ridiculous than Kejriwal with calls to include Jesus, Allah, Buddha and BR Ambedkar on notes.
In the short term, it may be a great tactic. Stay in the news as often as possible so that Modi and the BJP don’t grab all the attention. Today’s politics, dominated as it is by television and social media, is about occupying as much mind space as possible even at the risk of being absurd.
But as he goes full throttle with his dream to create a national footprint for his AAP to give him a shot at the PM’s post, Kejriwal may want to pause and evaluate whether his ambition has got the better of his politics or whether he is still in control of the narrative.
AAP Came With a Bang but Whimpers Now
Kejriwal sprung to life with the promise of a new kind of politics. Much of the fizz has dissipated because compromises are inevitable in the pursuit of power and Kejriwal has not shied away from making them when necessary.
Yet, he managed to stand apart from the rest because of two things. One, was his delivery in Delhi on better education in government schools and mohalla-level health care. No state government had ever created a model of governance that catered to the aspirational needs of the general public.
The second was his ability to get the better of the BJP with shrewd victim politics as the Modi government went out of its way to tie him down in procedural knots in Delhi and obstruct his schemes. Kejriwal always came out on top because he forced the BJP to fight on his turf and won.
However, in his second term as Delhi chief minister and particularly after his party’s spectacular victory in Punjab last year, giving him a second state government, Kejriwal’s politics has changed. Instead of trapping the BJP into fighting on his turf, he is wading into the BJP’s territory and trying to use its own weapons against it.
Will AAP's Hindu Card Trump Hindutva?
In other words, he is trying to trump the BJP’s Hindutva card with a Hindu card of his own.
For instance, his answer to the BJP’s ultra-nationalism has been to introduce desh bhakti classes in Delhi schools. His response to the Modi government’s 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign on Independence Day was to install 500 gigantic flags at strategic places across Delhi and distribute 25 lakh free flags to the public.
He made it a point to prove that he can recite the Hanuman Chalisa better than most BJP leaders. And now, of course, he’s demanded images of Lakshmi and Ganesh on currency notes.
The Many Shades of Kejriwal’s Populist Politics
So far, Kejriwal has proved to be a shrewd politician. Although he has changed colours again and again, he has always tried to be different. He started off as an anti-corruption crusader, turned into a populist leader with promises of free water and electricity and finally evolved into an administrator with an internationally acclaimed model of governance, all the while displaying a remarkable talent of staying in the spotlight.
But his ambitions seem to have got the better of him now. And the problems of governance seem to be overwhelming him. A botched-up liquor policy in Delhi left the Capital dry for weeks and people were forced to return to old habits of sneaking alcohol in from across the border.
His government is now facing a CBI inquiry which AAP is trying to fight by raising the spectre of political vendetta and impending arrests.
In Punjab, the AAP government has attracted more flak than praise. Its real test is now when farmers have to dispose of the stubble lying in their fields to sow the winter crop. Kejriwal spent his entire first term blaming the Congress government in Punjab for Delhi’s hideous pollution because of stubble burning. But does he have a solution to stop the fires that are waiting to be lit in the state and envelop Delhi with brown smog?
Can AAP’s Diwali Gifts Please Modi’s Home Turf?
Unfortunately, most of his energy seems to be taken up with fighting the BJP in Gujarat. In fact, his Lakshmi-Ganesh comments were probably meant to woo Gujarati traders whose new year began on Diwali.
All this to bag second place and edge out the Congress because he knows that the BJP cannot be defeated in Modi’s home state.
The question Kejriwal needs to ask himself is this: Does he want to be chief minister of Gujarat or prime minister of India? The answer may help him to restore some sense and sensibility in his politics.
(Arati R Jerath is a Delhi-based senior journalist. She tweets @AratiJ. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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Topics: Arvind Kejriwal Aam Aadmi Party AAP
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