What is it that Narendra Modi values more than winning elections? What does he want, now that he has achieved the highest political office that the Indian democracy allows a citizen to occupy? He wants to be a Prime Minister who will be remembered as the Pandit Nehru of 21st century India. He wants to leave behind a legacy which will grant him direct entry into school textbooks, cultural symbols and the average Indian's consciousness. Only death could displace Nehru as India's unchallenged leader, after remaining in office for 17 illustrious years. That is what Modi is after. While there is nothing objectionable about a Prime Minister who wants to dominate history, it is this aspiration of his that makes him despise that one man who has the potential to crush his dreams: Arvind Kejriwal.
Only death could displace Nehru as India's unchallenged leader, after remaining in office for 17 illustrious years. That is what Modi is after.
Only two parties in India at this point are presently growing: BJP and AAP. The Congress and the Communists are in secular decline. Regional parties continue to be in one stage or another of their sine curve in their respective states. The BJP and AAP are the only parties rapidly expanding in previously uncharted territories. The BJP's ambitious and determined push in West Bengal, the Northeast and Kerala could yield fresh electoral gains for the party by 2019 from states where it has never had much influence. The Aam Aadmi Party is in pole position in Punjab and is expected to finish with a historic seat tally in the February 2017 elections. In Goa, the party is making significant inroads and one survey by a private polling agency puts it ahead of the Congress but behind the BJP as of June 2016. The party is also making waves in Gujarat and with the momentum generated by victories in Punjab and Goa, it could propel itself to become the main opposition to the BJP in Gujarat.
The AAP could well be running three state governments and play the role of the chief opposition in a fourth. Even if it fails to win a majority in Goa, which is the worst case scenario, it will be the third most influential party in Indian politics after the BJP and Congress. With full states under its control, the AAP will be free from the daily shadow boxing that is forced by the Prime Minister's Office on the Delhi government.
What Modi fails to understand is that using the police to destroy a party may work in states like Chhattisgarh or Gujarat... but not in Delhi...
As the leader of one of the most influential and rapidly expanding political forces in contemporary Indian politics, Kejriwal will be well placed to challenge Modi in 2019. His ability to befriend regional leaders (who have a relatively clean image) is evident by the fact that the Chief Ministers of Bihar and West Bengal often share platforms with him, and are known to have a good working relationship. This is not to suggest in any way that Arvind Kejriwal can or even wants to be the Prime Minister in 2019 – that, frankly, is not even the aim of the Aam Aadmi Party. All that this means is that the country would be one step closer towards accomplishing AAP's mission to establish a genuine, honest, pro-people and post-ideological government at the Centre that does not have the baggage of socio-religious conservatism and is not aligned to either economic models of the 20th century.
The power and potential that Arvind Kejriwal has to challenge Modi in the future is not lost on the BJP leadership. As of 29 July, 2016, 13 AAP MLAs have made one or more trips of varying periods to jail, in concocted cases filed against them by the Delhi Police, which happens to report to the Central government. While it does seem wrong to say that all of these cases are purely figments of imagination, it is also rather farcical to believe that arresting almost 20% of MLAs of a single state Assembly is business as usual.
Delhi happens to be the only state Assembly in the history of independent India to have sitting MLAs who are dragged by policemen and locked up in jails. Many MLAs have already been acquitted by lower courts. And many others are out on bail because Delhi Police has failed to provide any evidence that could convince the court that there was any need for the arrest in the first place. When AAP MLA Amanatullah was granted bail by Saket Court, the judge rapped the police for failing to present any material that justified the arrest.
AAP is the only force which has the platform and the guts to take on a dictator, and Modi knows it.
In what seemed to be right out of a comic movie on an African tin-pot dictator, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chief Swati Maliwal had an FIR filed against her for allegedly revealing the name of a rape and murder victim. Of course it had no connection with Swati's role in pulling up some police officials for their role in that very case. While the arrests of MLAs have not yet resulted in adequate and proportionate media outcry about the vindictive actions, the FIR against Swati managed to awaken sections of the media who had been oblivious to what has been happening in the capital city.
Arvind Kejriwal's mere existence angers Modi on the one hand, and his ability to eat up the Congress makes the Gandhi Parivar nervous. Despite Modi's repeated vindictive actions against an elected state government, the Congress's dead silence says more than anything that the party has ever said about AAP. "Dushman ka dushman, dost hota hai" and the Congress could not have found a more useful friend at a time when its survival is at stake.
Why should Modi not be angry with Kejriwal? Kejriwal has given more than enough reason for Modi to be mad at him. What Modi fails to understand is that using the police to destroy a party may work in states like Chhattisgarh or Gujarat. But when a party is headquartered and founded in Delhi, not even the gods can make it disappear under the full glare of the national media. Members of the BJP made light of Kejriwal's concern that he may be killed off. Public memory may be short, but it does not change the fact that Haren Pandya, Gujarat's Revenue Minister was likely murdered for political convenience less than 15 years ago. Also, those mocking Kejriwal suddenly go silent when they are reminded that Narendra Modi himself had made similar remarks about the Congress's intention to have him killed off in 2014.
History is written by the victor, and to be able to dictate history Modi cannot afford to have AAP around for too long.
Modi's vendetta against the AAP will not stop and nor will AAP's rapid expansion. AAP is the only force which has the platform and the guts to take on a dictator, and Modi knows it. The aspiring Nehru of the 21st century cannot afford to be defeated or his mandate diminished at the hands of a rookie who has not even been in politics for five years. History is written by the victor, and to be able to dictate history Modi cannot afford to have AAP around for too long. Unfortunately for him, Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party are here to stay.