New Delhi, Jan. 1: The BJP thinks the Aam Aadmi Party is a mixed blessing: bad on some scores and good on others.
The “bad” part, a source confessed, was that for the “first time” Narendra Modi had “serious” competition in two spheres he thought were exclusively his: cyberspace and television.
“For the past month or so, in fact ever since the Assembly election results were out (on December 8), the 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 is mainly because of the perception that Modi was largely a creature of the media and “depended on it for nurture and sustenance”.
Well before the RSS had earnestly considered him a contender for the Prime Minister’s post, Modi, helped by teams of cyber-savvy techies, talked up his claims through two websites, gujarat-india.com and swarnimgujarat.com. These sites posted puff pieces by in-house bloggers and foreign writers, and national polls on favoured prime ministerial aspirants.
Modi’s techies 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 in an extended cyber spat, marked by name-calling.
“With the 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 the media coverage of Modi’s once-hyped public meetings started receding.
The BJP is also worried because of another reason.
Kejriwal’s determination to deliver on his poll promises has given 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 CM 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”.
Kejriwal had yesterday halved power tariffs for Delhi’s domestic consumers who used up to 400 units a month, a day after his government offered 20,000 litres of water free of cost to every household.
But the BJP glimpses some positives too from the AAP’s emergence.
“The AAP looks like the Congress’s last weapon to contain Modi. Our plank will be direct. Wherever the AAP is in the fight, we will tell voters that a vote for the party is a vote for the Congress because, if it wins parliamentary seats, it will sign a pact with the Congress like it did in Delhi,” an office-bearer explained.
The BJP also believes that the Congress and the AAP will joust for the same “secular-minority” political terrain in Delhi and outside.
Indeed, in the national capital, Muslim opinion-makers, who had advised the Congress’s war-room strategists in the 2009 polls, said they would switch to Kejriwal’s party in 2014.
“Kejriwal and his associates had a long sitting with some of us over a month ago. He patiently and convincingly answered our doubts about an association he possibly had with the RSS and the BJP. His acceptance speech (after he was sworn in as chief minister) used the religious symbols intelligently. The AAP’s anthem (based on an old Hindi song) is eloquent about communal amity. The community thinks he should get a chance in the Lok Sabha polls,” said a member of the All India Personal Law Board who also edits an Urdu daily.