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Can Kejriwal thwart Modi's rise? Congress sure hopes so!

By Renu Mittal
December 28, 2013 22:45 IST
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The Congress is hopeful that the new messiah of the middle classes will cut into the BJP’s votes in urban India, thus damaging the chances of the saffron party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, believes Renu Mittal

The winter of 2013 saw the rules of political grammar in India being re-written.

The last few days of the year witnessed both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party being upstaged in Delhi.

A young, fledgling political formation with novices at the helm -- riding on a wave of hope and elation -- took charge of the capital. It promised to rid Delhiwallahs of corruption and inflation, the twin problems which cost the Congress in four states in the recently held assembly elections.

Kejriwal and his team of ministers took oath at the Ramlila Maidan amid a sea of white gandhi topis.

Thousands congregated to witness a historic event as the ‘aam aadmi’ swept to power in the state.

It was a scenario straight out of a film, as the humble jhadoo (the AAP’s election symbol) swept away the ‘hand’ (the Congress election symbol) and the ‘lotus’ (the BJP’s election symbol), and rode to power on the back of a movement that started two years ago against corruption, at this very site.

Kejriwal, the erstwhile IRS officer who is seen as a determined and demanding leader, has promised the sun and moon to voters.

The voters, fed up of corruption and rising prices, were willing to give the Aam Aadmi Party a chance to usher in change into their lives.

Kejriwal has said no the red beacon, to VIP status for ministers and to government bungalows.

He has taken charge of the ministries of home, finance and vigilance. He has also asked for the files pertaining to certain crucial decisions taken during the Sheila Dikshit government.

The Congress, with its eight Members of Legislative Assembly, has extended outside support to his government.

But Kejriwal’s decision to reopen the Shunglu report, which probed irregularities behind the Commonwealth Games, has sent shivers down the party’s spine.

The Delhi chief minister also wants to expose the Congress over murky deals brokered in connection to the supply of water and power in the capital.

Some Congress leaders are puzzled about why the party is supporting a man who is going all out to send them to jail or, at the very least, further tarnish the Congress’s much-maligned image.

The Congress leadership has invested a great deal of faith in Kejriwal.

After its abysmal performance in the Delhi polls, the Congress doesn’t have anything left to lose. The party believes that Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi party will soon lose their shine if they fail to keep the many promises made to the people of Delhi.

The Congress is also hopeful that the new messiah of the middle classes will cut into the BJP’s votes in urban India, where people are fed up of corruption, thus damaging the chances of the saffron party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi sufficiently in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Incidentally, Ramlila Maidan was today adorned with posters that declared “Aaj CM kal PM” (Today he is the CM, tomorrow he will be the PM).

Kejriwal as PM would be the highlight of the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaign in the next few months as the country goes into election mode.

The worst fears of the BJP will be realised if Kejriwal and his party cuts into its votes, as was the case in the Delhi election.

Despite being the single largest party, the BJP could not form the government in Delhi after 15 years of Congress rule.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has also acknowledged that corruption and inflation are the two beasts plaguing the party and it will have to find a way around it.

On Saturday, Gandhi told media personnel that the party would resolve the Adarsh scam issue but also urged the media to highlight corruption in states ruled by the Opposition BJP.

By all means, said Gandhi, the media must expose Congress leaders when they make mistakes, but they should also look at states ruled by the Opposition.

The Congress will fight in a united manner and win the elections, claimed Gandhi

But for the moment, it seems to be a difficult and uphill task. A senior Congress leader said the best gambit would be to pump up regional parties as well as the Aam Aadmi Party, which can cut into the BJP vote.

The leader admitted that Congress’s priority is to ensure that the BJP does not come to power and Modi does not become the PM.

The Congress would then be able to give outside support to any government at the Centre, along the lines of what happened during the Delhi government formation.

According to the party’s calculations, the Aam Aadmi Party will continue its honeymoon with the people over the next few months by taking some popular and populist measures, and those may help the party in the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress would also need a respectable tally to remain relevant in national politics.

For that to happen, say sources, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has begun to send strong signals that he wants to take measures which will help curb corruption in the country.

But with the Congress’s credibility having taken a strong beating, there appears to be little that can be done to help the party regain its image in the current scenario.

The moment belongs to the Aam Aadmi, with Delhi’s new CM riding on a metro and chasing the dreams of crores of hopeful people who see the dawn of a new political era, as an eventful year comes to a close.

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