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BJP basks in Arvind leash

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The BJP believes the passage of the Lokpal bill has to an extent numbed the edge of Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign to demonise the political class and “prove” that the Congress and the main Opposition party were intrinsically similar.

Sources said the BJP, together with the Congress, had played on the “contradictions” between the Aam Aadmi Party chief and Anna Hazare, who had disapproved of Kejriwal’s decision to float a party and contest elections.

The sources claimed that with the bill’s passage in the Rajya Sabha, they had succeeded it “convincing” Hazare and other former well-wishers of Kejriwal that the political class wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.

For instance, former National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, who spearheads the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information and has pitched for laws to protect whistleblowers, called on BJP leaders today and endorsed the bill.

Kejriwal was a protégé of Aruna and an integral part of her right-to-information campaign. He later fell out with her when he went solo on the proposed anti-graft ombudsman.

“At last, Hazare figured out Kejriwal’s agenda. He used Hazare’s credibility and stature to give himself name, fame and acceptability. Fancy a scenario in which Hazare was missing from the anti-corruption wide-angle frame. Who would have looked at Kejriwal and company? Hazare galvanised the crowds at Delhi’s Ram Lila and Jantar Mantar. So when Kejriwal started getting larger-than-life (after the Delhi poll victory), Hazare decided to show him his place. We regarded this was an opportune moment to display our solidarity with Hazare,” a leader explained.

The BJP, the source said, did not pull its weight behind the Lokpal bill “just like that”. Its leaders were in touch with Hazare and Kiran Bedi, a former Kejriwal associate. The source denied that Bedi, a former top cop, had acted at the BJP’s behest. “She is independent-minded. This was precisely why she couldn’t take Kejriwal’s agenda to foreground himself at the expense of his colleagues,” the source said.

When BJP leaders learnt that Hazare and Bedi had no issues with the government’s bill and would publicly green-flag it, the party declared its unequivocal support. Hazare and Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley exchanged missives and the BJP veteran even enquired after the activist’s health on the phone.

For the BJP, the main worry was not who would ultimately adopt — or co-opt — Hazare as their face of the anti-corruption plank, the Congress or itself. “We are convinced that it’s too late in the day for the Congress to correct its image. The fear was Kejriwal was out to tarnish us with the same brush,” a source said.

“Now, along with the Congress, we have at least put him on the defensive. The objective is to contain his national ambitions at least to the extent that he doesn’t hurt us irreparably in 2014.”