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Why the muffler man makes BJP jittery

By Rashmi Sehgal, for
Last updated on: February 04, 2015 11:20 IST
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The more mud his opponents fling, the stronger Arvind Kejriwal emerges. Rashme Sehgal reports for

Muffler-clad Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is determined not to hold back his punches against the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP has unleashed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 20 Union ministers, 120 MPs, several thousand karyakartas (activists) and a multi-crore advertising campaign to take on the rag-tag AAP brigade who are fighting this battle on loads of spunk, gumption and the conviction that if they can hold out against the BJP, they will have achieved a turning point in the nation's current history as it will challenge the air of invincibility that Modi has built up.

Dr Anand Kumar, a sociology professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, points out: "The prime minister has raised the stakes of this war. He never forgave Kejriwal for challenging him in Varanasi and that is why he is going all guns blazing."

Kejriwal baiters call him an anarchist, a Maoist and now even a 'cheat.' But will all this mud-slinging pay the BJP dividends?

The more mud his opponents fling, the stronger Kejriwal seems to emerge.

With just hours to go before Delhi casts its vote, there appears -- according to the latest survey reports -- clear support for Kejriwal.

A new survey projects the AAP chief as the preferred choice for chief minister with 46 per cent of Delhi-ites backing him, followed by the BJP's Kiran Bedi (37 per cent) and Congressman Ajay Maken (9 per cent).

Surveys point out that catapulting Bedi as the BJP's chief ministerial candidate seems to have caused only a minor spike in the party's overall declining trend.

BJP sources point out that the euphoria over her induction is fizzling out. Rather, it has caused more heartburn with several party leaders alleging that they have been sidelined.

Even her roadshows and rallies do not attract the crowds that the BJP leadership had anticipated.

Bedi has also refused to coordinate with party MPs who had been directed to help her in her campaign. The result was a gag order on her, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley taking over the campaign.

Several surveys also confirm that the AAP has succeeded in making inroads across all sections of class, gender and age with Congress voters shifting to Kejriwal's team.

The last leg of the campaign has shown that the economically-backward sections, slum clusters, unauthorised colonies, Dalits, Muslims and even women could vote for the AAP.

Despite Kejriwal's previous government lastingd only 49 days, the public believes the AAP brought down electricity and water rates, and checked corruption which has not been the case with the BJP despite it being in power at the Centre for eight months.

An on-the-backfoot BJP has launched an all-out offensive which AAP leaders describe as 'carpet bombing.'

The latest being the charge that the AAP accepted hawala money through four donations of Rs 50 lakh (Rs 5 million) each at the stroke of midnight on April 5, 2014.

The BJP wants to know why this money was accepted and why, despite the AAP's tall claims, the sources of these funds were not probed.

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal said, 'How have companies which have made no profits donated the same amount at the same time? Were these shell companies used for money-laundering?'

Rejecting the BJP's claims as a conspiracy, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav clarified: 'Our party has taken all donations through cheques to ensure transparency and also insisted on PAN details for these transactions.'

Earlier, Kejriwal was up in arms against the BJP for an advertisement in which he was accused of belonging to the upadravvi gotra (nuisance-causing clan).

'The BJP can fight against me,' Kejriwal asked, 'but how can they call the entire Agarwal gotra disruptive? The Agarwals are a peace-loving community and form the backbone of the Indian economy.'

To this, Goyal retorted, 'This is the case of manufactured sensitivity. If you see the context in which the ad is given -- in the first few lines we are talking about the anarchist mentality. And this is a metaphor. They are trying to convert it into a caste-based dialogue. It reflects their mindset.'

On Tuesday, February 3, Modi addressed an election rally in north east Delhi in which he called Kejriwal a fraudster. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman went a step further and called him a chor (thief).

Kejriwal has stood his ground and sought a Supreme Court-appointed probe to look into the funding of all political parties, including the BJP and Congress.

The Election Commission has also been kept on its toes with vicious charges and counter charges.

AAP leader Kumar Vishwas is reported to have stated that one problem the BJP has with Kejriwal is that he coughs a great deal.

'What is your problem? Do you have to sleep with him?' is what Vishwas was reported to have asked the BJP.

Bedi slammed the remark stating it was sexist and perverse and reflected AAP mindsets. She, in turn, has promised greater security for women, announcing that a dedicated civil defence volunteer force would be deployed.

The BJP also approached the Election Commission demanding that Kejriwal be disqualified from contesting the election as he is not a Delhi resident.

Kejriwal, meanwhile, insists that electronic voting machines have been tampered with.

And so it goes on and on.

BJP MPs have been told to woo migrants. By Thursday, February 5, two days before the election, a personal letter appealing for votes for the BJP will be hand delivered to 13 million voters across Delhi.

The BJP was expecting a walkthrough. Party leaders believed the cult of Modi would help the BJP romp home as it did in Haryana and Maharashtra.

By the time the election campaign ends on Thursday, Kejriwal would have addressed 120 rallies and a punishing number of road shows and addressed several hundred street-corner meetings.

The AAP rhetoric is built around cheap healthcare, education, subsidised power and free water. Sections of voters apparently believe what he says and this explains why both the BJP and Congress were forced to promise cheaper power.

Image: Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal addresses an election rally in New Delhi on February 3. Photograph: PTI Photo

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Rashmi Sehgal, for