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BJP readies for new rival

New Delhi, Jan. 7: When “Twitter freshman” Arun Jaitley chatted with followers this Sunday, he was asked over 5,000 questions. Of these, a thousand were about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the rest about Narendra Modi and the BJP.

Only half-a-dozen were about the Congress and the Gandhis, prompting Jaitley and his colleagues to wonder if the Grand Old Party was being forced out of “cyberspace” and “mind space” by a Johnny-come-lately like the AAP.

A BJP office-bearer conceded the party had “reasons to worry”. “So long as the Congress was our principal adversary, we crafted our counters in a particular way. Strategising against the Congress wasn’t too tough because the issues rolled on to our platter,” the leader said.

He said it had also been “relatively easy to evolve tactics against regional parties like the Samajwadi Party and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh and the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar”. “These are outfits we know through and through. The AAP is a different ball game,” the office-bearer added.

The BJP has two main AAP-related worries:

The AAP’s potential to rise as a big force in the metros and the large towns, most of which the BJP had lost to the Congress in the 2009 elections. The BJP had hoped to wrest these on the crest of the “Modi euphoria” over “good governance” and “development”. But the smiles went away from the visages of Modi backers after reports that volunteers and corporate bigwigs were rushing to the AAP in droves in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur

That the AAP would retain its credibility and goodwill until the Lok Sabha polls and not “discredit” itself to the extent the BJP would like

If, as a result of these factors, Arvind Kejriwal’s party nets even 30 to 40 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP fears its race to attain a 200-plus tally would be arrested.

Therefore, the BJP, tutored by the RSS, has decided to attack the AAP full hog.

“In the (Delhi) elections, many kith and kin of RSS members got carried away by the AAP’s anti-corruption agenda. Now after hearing some AAP leaders make outright anti-nationalist statements on Kashmir (Prashant Bhushan’s call for a referendum on army deployment for instance), they realise the AAP lacks an ideology,” a source said.

The BJP’s reading is that the AAP is a “conglomeration of disparate political persuasions” and “the co-existence of such divergent streams will make it hard for Kejriwal to manage the expectations he aroused”.

The source pointed to a recent call by Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s deputy and Delhi education minister, to reserve 90 per cent seats for domiciles in the capital’s educational institutions funded by the state government. The demand, the source argued, echoed Raj Thackeray’s campaign against “non-Marathi speakers” in Mumbai.

However, the BJP thinks its most potent weapon against the AAP is the Congress’s support to chief minister Kejriwal and his party’s perceived compulsion to adopt “double standards” because of the backing.

But the BJP is not banking only on this line of attack. “We expect to trump the AAP on its Achilles heel — its lack of a perspective on national issues and inexperience in governance,” a source said.