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‘Concerned’ citizen vs aam citizen

- Signature campaign follows Kejriwal’s offensive in Gujarat
Narendra Modi

New Delhi, March 17: Arvind Kejriwal’s efforts to paint Narendra Modi as corrupt have prompted a group of “concerned” citizens, apparently sympathetic to the Sangh-BJP, to caution voters against the “misinformation” campaign.

The move reflects the BJP fear that Kejriwal’s attacks might rob Modi of the edge he has purportedly gained from his campaign and reduce the projected seat tallies, bringing his leadership into question and emboldening his intra-party rivals.

The “appeal”, carrying 12 signatures, was released yesterday by BJP national executive member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who has anchored the party’s soon-to-be-released “vision document”.

Among the signatories are authors and columnists M.V. Kamath and M.J. Akbar, former Intelligence Bureau director Ajit Kumar Doval, former general and one-time Jammu and Kashmir governor S.K. Sinha, bureaucrat turned green activist M.N. Buch, and economist and columnist Bibek Debroy.

Without naming the Aam Aadmi Party, the statement rues the attempts to target Modi and his Gujarat government rather than the “corrupt and scam-ridden” United Progressive Alliance.

It says that “certain new political parties” are deliberately “confusing” voters and “eventually muddying public opinion” to ensure a division of votes that would help the Congress and its allies.

Asked if the signatories’ target was the Aam Aadmi Party, a BJP source said: “Without doubt.”

“Look at the way Kejriwal is attacking only Modi and Gujarat,” the source added. “He has shifted his goalpost from corruption, scams and the Congress to Modi and, in the process, is functioning like the Congress’s surrogate.”

Kejriwal, who recently criss-crossed Gujarat to try and puncture Modi’s development and governance claims, has alleged that the chief minister has mollycoddled big industry at the cost of farmers against “considerations”.

A view is emerging in the BJP that Modi and the lead campaigners should directly attack Kejriwal and highlight his party’s “link” with the Congress instead of pretending that the new outfit isn’t important enough to merit attention.

“The Aam Aadmi Party may not win too many seats but it can damage the BJP by splitting the anti-Congress vote if Kejriwal’s anti-Modi rhetoric works on the ground,” a source said.

Asked whether this “rhetoric” can indeed sway voters, the source conceded: “Yes, because Kejriwal’s credibility still seems high unlike that of many of our opponents. People might begin to see reason in what he says. Those who signed the statement expressed apprehensions on this count.”

The signatories’ larger point was that by “tarnishing all political parties with the same, undifferentiated brush” and issuing “seemingly bland but dangerous statements that all parties are similar”, the unnamed Modi critics were diverting the “focus from a concentrated scrutiny” of the Congress’s governance.

They claimed that the BJP continued to be a “party with a difference” and offered a “robust alternative” to the Congress.

“We will be failing in our duty if we allow rank opportunism and self-confessed anarchism to masquerade as coherent political doctrine,” the statement said.

Doval, who organised the statement, is director of the Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi.

Although it calls itself an “independent and non-partisan” think tank, the foundation was started in 2009 by the Vivekananda Kendra, set up in the 1970s by former Sangh official Eknath Ranade. The Kendra is now headed by a Sangh pracharak, Parameswaran.

Ironically, the foundation had in April 2011 supported Baba Ramdev, then Team Anna stars Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, and former BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya on the “anti-corruption” and black money repatriation platforms.