In this piece, Rahul Roushan argues that Kejriwal might have been underestimated by the BJP, and he makes some valid points. Firstly Kejriwal is just like Modi, in the sense he is a regional satrap, who his detractors say is only a media creation (Modi was said to be an APCO product) and that he might have won in one state, but he cant spread his wings all over India. Hence Rahul says, its about time BJP took him seriously.
He analyses how Kejriwal has got sway over the media. It is an open secret that most Editors back AAP, for various reasons. These Editors and other journalists turned “volunteers” for AAP, and their newspapers and Media channels were AAP’s “pamphlets”. On the other hand BJP had no media strategy. He also reminds us that Media has always been anti-BJP, yet BJP bypassed it by using other means of communication like RSS volunteers, who obviously weren’t effective in Delhi, possibly because they couldn’t connect with the young urban crowd in Delhi.
Another important point Rahul makes is how both AAP and BJP deal with “fringe groups”. He argues that such fringe elements are double edged swords, secular voters get put off by them, but some voters will not vote for a party if it doesn’t have such hard-liners. The trick, Rahul says, is to again get the “communication” right. AAP gave a ticket to person in Okhla who had earlier put up communally sensitive posters, it took support from hard-liners like Owaisis, and at the same time brushed the Shahi Imam away, thus controlling the “communal” narrative. On the other hand BJP had to pay the price for statements from the likes of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti & Sakshi Maharaj. BJP has a lot to learn from AAP in this regard.
Rahul also raises red flags over AAP’s “ideology”. AAP’s voters right now don’t associate it with any religious angle, rather they see AAP as a non-corrupt, dedicated party who will give them free bijli, paani and WiFi. But quite of a few of the AAP core members seem to exude the “Idea of India” (read Anti-Hindu) ideology, and hence “AAP represents the risk that it will make youth naturally allergic to everything Hindu, and thus anti-BJP by default.” This is even harder because in public, Kejriwal plays the charade well, by taking dips in the Ganga and by tweeting Hindu scriptures just before elections. The BJP has to try hard to expose this “Idea of India” ideology which AAP carries, which was also exuded by the same MLA who put up the communal posters, as soon as he was elected.
BJP is also losing the battle to reach out to the Urban poor says Rahul. While AAP managed to reduce petty corruption in their 49 days, BJP was projected as a pro-Industrialist party. Rahul further argues that “It is not the perceived closeness with industrialists that hurt BJP, but lack of some tangible benefits that this class could experience in the first few months of Modi government – contrast to the experience they had under Kejriwal government in those 49 days”. He also says that Swacch Bharat could have initially just focussed in areas where the Urban poor reside, thus building a connect with them. Here again BJP failed.
Rahul also makes it clear that BJP lost Delhi thanks to its poor strategies. Be it inducting Bedi at the last minute, or delaying Delhi Elections for so long, which gave Kejriwal a chance to rebuild his image, while all the Modi Wave goodwill of Lok Sabha was lost.
Now Rahul wonders whether AAP can take the place of Congress as the principal opposition to BJP in the national arena. He admits that for this to happen before 2019, BJP will need to make major blunders, but still, the threat of AAP is very real.