Analysis | Can Kejriwal now take on 'invincible' Modi-Shah duo nationally?

Analysis | Can Kejriwal now take on 'invincible' Modi-Shah duo nationally?
Delhi CM and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal (centre), accompanied by wife Sunita, Dy CM Manish Sisodia and other party leaders offers prayers at the Hanuman Mandir at Connaught Place after the party's thumping win in the State Assembly election in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

Aam Aadmi Party's Delhi election victory has put all the limelight on Arvind Kejriwal.

The question now doing the rounds in the national capital is: “Can he take on the invincible Modi-Shah at the national level?”

Shoaib Iqbal, AAP legislator in the newly-elected Assembly doesn't harbour any doubts. “AAP's national plans got a morale booster. The Delhi results show that Kejriwal is the leader who can take on Narendra Modi," he said.

"Amit Shah had not declared a chief ministerial candidate in Delhi. He had repeatedly said that Modi is the BJP leader. So who lost out in Delhi? It was Mr Modi," he added.

Other AAP leaders also indicate that the party will redraw strategies to work on the national expansion plan.

The focus will now obviously shift to the Bihar assembly election later this year, where the party hopes to make a mark with the help of poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who was recently shunted out of Nitish Kumar-led JD(U).

An AAP insider said the party's strength is the urban pockets and it has to make use of it.

Little wonder, then, that AAP wants other anti-BJP forces, such as Rashtriya Janata Dal, to focus on rural areas.

In Delhi, most of the seats BJP won were in semi-rural areas. The voting pattern throws a few narratives that would help us understand national politics from AAP's perspective.

Muslim support

Analysis | Can Kejriwal now take on 'invincible' Modi-Shah duo nationally?
Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrives at Parliament House to attend the ongoing Budget Session, in New Delhi. File photo/PTI

Five assembly segments where Muslims constitute more than 30 per cent of the electorate – Shahdara, Seemapuri, Babarpur, Mustafabad and Rithala – went to AAP rather easily.

In Okhla, AAP's Amanatullah Khan recorded a convincing win despite trailing initially to BJP's Braham Singh. Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests and Jamia Nagar are part of this constituency.

Other Muslim strongholds, such as Chandni Chowk, Selampur, Ballimaran and Matia Mahal also went to the AAP.

Kejriwal's soft-Hindutva image

Till the other day, political pundits believed that Modi and his poll managers made 'a lethal combination' of hardcore Hindutva and development. But now they feel that AAP has beat them in their own game. For, Kejriwal has cultivated the image of a doer with a soft-Hindutva image.

"Do not forget, we were the first party to welcome abrogation of Article 370," said an AAP leader.

A few AAP leaders indicated that Kejriwal's model of development, such as free water and electricity and Moholla clinics, will have takers in other states too.

Congress decline


Congress's poor show in Delhi (the party drew a blank) showed that voters in Delhi, especially Muslims, knew that if they wanted to beat BJP they should opt for regional players like AAP.

"Openly aligning with the anti-government protesters boomeranged on Congress," said one leader and pointed out that AAP leaders like Saurabh Bharadwaj (in Greater Kailash) did not miss an opportunity to display 'Tilak' on his forehead and never hesitated to display his Brahmin identity and show the pious red thread wrapped around his wrist.

These actions deprived BJP the 'sole claim' over the issue of faith and religion of majority voters.

All these bring us to debate on one simple question. Will soft Hindutva or rather symbolic Hindutva along with development agenda help AAP?

Bihar election

The community-wise identity politics also tilted in favour of the AAP. The Baniyas (business community comprising Hindus and Jains) form a large chunk of Delhi voters and they easily went with Kejriwal, who is a Baniya.

This shows there is need for a good chief ministerial candidate. AAP will be scouting for such figures in the run up to the polls in Bihar, UP and Punjab, sources said.

Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's son – Chirag Paswan, who is now heading the Bihar-based LJP, has tweeted with his typical nuanced hints. "Just as in the Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi ji got vote, today Arvind Kejriwal ji got the blessings of the people on the basis of his work."

Analysis | Can Kejriwal now take on 'invincible' Modi-Shah duo nationally?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Parliament House to attend the ongoing Budget Session in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

Sources in National Democratic Alliance (NDA) hinted that despite the bravado and claims of unity, there are chinks in the saffron combine in Bihar and LJP has already got feelers from RJD and state AAP leaders.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of books including 'Godhra - Journey of a Prime Minister')

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