Arvind Kejriwal. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan. 1: The BJP thinks the Aam Admi Party is a mixed blessing: bad on some scores and good on others.
The “bad” part, a source confessed, was for the “first time” the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had “serious” competition in two spheres he thought were exclusively his: cyber space and television.
“We cannot believe it. For the past month or so, in fact ever since the Assembly election results were out (on December 8), AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have raced past Modi on Twitter trending. Barring the day when an Ahmedabad court rejected a protest petition against Modi, Kejriwal has mostly walked away with the TV headlines and has been the centrepiece of the debates,” rued a member of the BJP’s IT cell.
The BJP’s consternation over AAP — until Kejriwal’s success the media was dismissive about or negative towards his party — was caused mainly by the perception that Modi was a largely creature of the media and “depended on it for nurture and sustenance”.
Well before the RSS earnestly considered him as a Prime Minister contender, Modi, helped by teams of cyber-savvy techies, talked up his claims through two websites — gujarat-india.com and swarnimgujarat.com. His These sites regularly posted puff pieces by in-house bloggers, foreign writers and national polls on favoured PM aspirants.Histechies then got him on Facebook and Twitter in multiple languages.
The Congress belatedly copied Modi and registered Rahul Gandhi’s presence on the Net. Because of the head start Modi had, his cyber fans lampooned the Congress vice-president. Instead of creating positive space and notice for Rahul, his backers got entangled into an extended cyber spat, marked by name-calling.
“With AAP, it was a different ball-game,” the BJP IT cell member said, adding that Kejriwal’s engineering background made him a “natural” with technology.
The obvious fallout the BJP noted was that the media coverage of Modi’s once-hyped public meetings was receding.
The BJP was also worried about AAP for another reason.
Kejriwal’s determination to deliver on his promise-a-day gave heft to an image of a “person on the job”, “efficient, a doer and not a talker”.
This was the cachet Modi carried with him from Gandhinagar to the national platform. “A chief minister who worked 24X7, who fulfilled his pre-election promises unfailingly, dreamt big and delivered bigger,” a Gujarat MP claimed.
The BJP had deployed these “attributes” of Modi to evolve a campaign that contrasted his “dynamism” with the UPA’s “wishy-washiness”. The party’s feedback was this line of campaign was winning over for Modi, chunks of young voters and neo-converts from sections who had become antagonistic towards the Congress but weren’t entirely at ease with the BJP.
On the flip side, the BJP glimpsed some positives from the AAP’s emergence.
“AAP looks like the Congress’s last weapon to contain Modi. Our plank will be direct. Wherever AAP is in the fight, we will tell voters a vote for the party is a vote for the Congress. Because it will sign a pact with the Congress if it wins parliamentary seats like it did in Delhi,” an office-bearer explained.
The BJP also believed that the Congress and the AAP would joust for the same “secular-minority” political terrain in Delhi and outside.