Kejriwal takes over, ventilates national ambition but seeks Modi’s ‘help’

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Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, February 16: Scripting history, AAP leader and anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal took over as Chief Minister of Delhi on Sunday for the third time and made his national expansion plans clear but sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “blessings” for development of Delhi.
“We want Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blessing for smooth governance and development of Delhi,” Kejriwal said in his 20-minutes address at the Ramlila Maidan here after taking oath and literally pressed all right buttons talking about India’s greatness as a nation.
Tactfully, Kejriwal sought to maintain an equi-distance between BJP and other opposition parties and thus no opposition leaders were invited for the mega event. A known Modi-basher, Mamata Banerjee, was more than keen to attend the swearing in ceremony, reports from Kolkata suggested earlier.
Kejriwal sported a red Tilak on his forehead making it clear that he was a devoted Hindu and would like continue to garner Hindu votes.
The Chief Minister was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal at the spacious Ram Lila ground – wherein 2011 Kejriwal along with Anna Hazare had led a massive anti-corruption campaign.
Other ministers who took oath were Manish Sisodia, who was the deputy chief minister in previous term, and also Gopal Rai, Kailash Gahlot, Satyendar Jain, Rajendra Pal Gautam and Imran Hussain.
In his speech, Mr Kejriwal raised ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan more than once — a leaf of Modi’s page – and asserted that the results of the Delhi election would mark a new beginning of a new kind of politics in the country.
“Teachers, doctors, rickshaw drivers, students, bus drivers, tradesmen, are the people who run Delhi,” he said trying to present himself as a ‘leader’ of faceless Indians.
He also sang ‘Hum Hongey Kam yaab (We shall overcome….)’ making it clear that winning Delhi polls was just an episode and never the final milestone.
In his tenure as Delhi CM between 2015 and especially till 2018, Mr Kejirwal and his government were generally seen as ‘confronting’ each other at every step. AAP leadership must have realised that these do no go well with electorate and in 2019 Lok Sabha polls and even in 2017 municipal polls, the people of Delhi had preferred BJP.
In fact, in 2019 Lok Sabha polls – BJP not only won all seven seats and did well in about 65 assembly segments but when it came to assembly polls – the electorate reposed faith in AAP and endorsed his freebies and local colony level medical units.
The AAP observers must not miss the vital point that Kejriwal tried to play up the twin cards of ‘soft Hindutva’ often laced with emotional appeal “I am Delhi’s eldest son” and of course that of a ‘performer’.
Modi’s image of a ‘catalyst of change’ got a serious challenge! The ‘soft Hindutva’ point scoring was certainly tactical.
“The AAP was perhaps the only party in the opposition camp which supported abrogation of the Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019,” says a BJP leader.
With AAP’s mission for national level getting clearer, it is obvious now for the BJP and even for other parties, the political challenge will be mounting as Kejriwal’s new generation ‘model’ of development and good governance such as free water, electricity and Mohalla clinics will certainly have takers in other states.
The games in Bihar – later this year – with the able support of poll strategist Prashant Kishor and subsequently in states like UP, Punjab and Goa would be interesting.
What is in Delhi voters’ mind is well summed up in what one housewife Akanksha Singh, a resident in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar said.
“We voted for AAP, it is true. But ideologically, I still remain firm about Hindutva ideology and admire Modi ji for Ram temple and abrogating Article 370″.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author)