Arvind Kejriwal: THE GOOGLY MAN
From being a bhagoda, Arvind Kejriwal makes a powerful comeback
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
A googly is a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg-spin bowler. It is occasionally referred to as a Bosie (or Bosey), an eponym in honour of its inventor, Bernard Bosanquet. It can also be described, colloquially, as a wrong ’un. Any cricketer would tell you that it is not very easy to bowl the wrong ’un. It takes skill, understanding of batsman psychology and a spin-friendly wicket. Anything missing in these three variables needed to fox the batsman can make a bowler look so very ordinary. The One-Day World Cup in Australia beginning February 14 will provide many examples of spinners testing batsmen with their googlies and very few will get them right.
In the fiercely-fought Delhi Assembly elections, it seems the Aam Aadmi Party and its chief, Arvind Kejriwal, have got a lot of things right. He has hit form at a time when it was needed most, and thus has thrown a serious challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeat his earlier performance in the Lok Sabha elections when he had hit the opposition for a six.
Kejriwal seems to be repeating the stupendous performance the party had put up in December 2013 when AAP confounded everyone by securing 28 seats. Moreover, they created an excitement amongst the youth, the jhuggi-jhonpris and the middle class of a kind that had not been seen before. He became CM with great tamasha after conducting a referendum amongst his supporters on whether he should become CM with the support of the Congress — the party that he had helped defeat in the elections. His 49 days in power were manic. He sat on dharna in New Delhi, held chaotic janata durbars and behaved like a political rockstar —the kind the country had not seen. People came for his durbars to feed him laddoos and gajar ka halwa. The short while he was in office the distance between the ruled and the ruler vanished. Quite clearly, the aam aadmi had got their own government. And then he was gone.
He impulsively rejected the support of the Congress and resigned as Chief Minister. He was publicly shamed for his decision by his detractors in the BJP and Congress. Called a ‘bhagoda’, the guy who ran away, Kejriwal had to work hard to regain ground after his 49-day stint and the huge defeat in the parliamentary elections. Kejriwal had overreached himself when he decided to contest in the parliamentary elections in 2014 against Modi on a difficult wicket from Varanasi. AAP candidates also lost their deposits in 490-odd parliamentary constituencies. He may not admit it but he lost as those —the Sangh Parivar and their corporate backers—who propped him against the Congress party abandoned him to support their own leader in Modi.
The period after the parliamentary elections saw crucial churning among those AAP looked to for support. The middle class that had lent support to AAP shifted their loyalty to their other hero, Modi, who promised to get India moving again. The disintegration of the Congress and the loss of confidence of its voters had given this fledgling party an opportunity to reinvent itself as the party of the poor, dispossessed and those seeking a greater stake in the system, replacing what is handed on a platter to a clutch of fat cats. The minorities, too, fearful of the Hindu majoritarian violence and threat of re-conversion or ghar wapsi, and the diminishing of the grand old party were searching for other political options to build political protection in a democracy. Although AAP is a bit ambivalent on the issue of secularism, it talks about it in a roundabout manner. Its promise to give precedence to the interests of the poor and the dispossessed proffers comfort to the minorities who are also desperately poor.
All these social constituencies are really big in numbers and the BJP knows what this really means in a state of 1.8 crore people. The Congress enjoyed power for 15 years because of this. The BJP tried to steal Kejriwal’s thunder by scooping out Kiran Bedi—once part of IAC—and making her its chief ministerial candidate. Although her picture was put on posters, it was the looming visage of Modi that was prominent in the BJP’s campaign. Contrary to precedent, Modi also campaigned hard and derided Kejriwal for being overambitious.
Quite clearly, Kejriwal had got under his skin—like a clever spin bowler on a turning wicket. AAP is promising to carry forward the anti-corruption agenda and provide free water and reduce power tariff, besides auditing the accounts of the private sector discoms—an issue that troubled corporate giants such as Reliance Power and Tata.
Whether Kejriwal wins or loses, he will have shown Modi what it is to bowl on a turning and deteriorating wicket. And, as Kejriwal’s support expands, the contours of the big match —the parliamentary elections of 2019—are beginning to get clearer.