When Arvind Kejriwal appeared on the scene with politics on his lips and a cap on his head - politicians dismissed him as a size-zero threat. But unlike many a newcomer in the past, the former Anna aide is forcing netas to change how the game of politics is played.
The key change is that he has demolished an old ground rule of Indian politics. Till now, politicians would follow an unwritten code - attack other politicians but not members of political families. Mr Kejriwal has launched an aggressive assault on Robert Vadra, who is the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Last year, the BJP had a chance to attack Mr Vadra on the same issue. After a newspaper reported on Mr Vadra's foray into real estate, BJP leaders had submitted notices for a debate in both Houses of Parliament. The notices were rejected by the heads of the two Houses, but the BJP too was divided. A strong faction of the party was of the view that the BJP should stay away from personal attacks.
On Friday, when Mr Kejriwal first held a press conference and went public with charges against Mr Vadra, the BJP reacted with demands for a probe. But its reaction was feeble compared to the party's loud and aggressive campaigns on alleged scams like 2G, CWG, or what is now called Coal-gate.
Sources in the main opposition party say that the "probe Vadra" cry is not as loud because the party is wary of Mr Kejriwal; the anti-corruption activist turned politician's next target could well be a BJP man.
In fact, Mr Kejriwal pushed BJP general secretary Vijay Goel to tears yesterday. Mr Goel was holding a dharna against huge electricity bills that people in Delhi have received, when Mr Kejriwal and a handful of his supporters, landed up uninvited at the protest venue, climbed on stage, addressed the gathering and attacked the BJP with Mr Goel right beside him.
Most leaders in the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance it leads feel that Mr Kejriwal's "antics" will reduce their position as the principle opposition force. A senior leader claimed, "First Anna Hazare walked away with BJP's thunder on 2G. The BJP regained ground after it virtually stalled the entire Monsoon Session over Coal-gate. But now Congress' reform drive and Mr Kejriwal's expose are undoing what the BJP had achieved."
Also, the BJP's top leaders are of the view that eventually Mr Kejriwal, who is focusing on Delhi, may end up splitting anti-Congress votes in the capital and can never become a vote getter for the BJP across the country.
These worries are best underlined by a statement made by BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar. He said, "We are a 50-year-old party; our campaign is sustained - don't compare us with a 50-day wonder."
Mr Kejriwal's victim, Vijay Goel, went one step further and claimed, "Kejriwal's attack on all parties, including attacks on Vadra are motivated as he wants to enter politics."
This is the second scare from the civil society within one year for the BJP. Initially, the RSS had backed the Anna movement across the country. But when Team Anna turned hostile against netas and targeted MPs of all parties, the BJP, which was already worried about Anna stealing its anti-corruption thunder, decided to attack the anti-graft activists.
It's not just the BJP that is wary of Mr Kejriwal. Even the Left and other parties, usually quick to attack opponents on corruption charges, are not throwing their weight behind the anti-Vadra assault. Each has a different political logic for the "soft response." The Left's current focus is the slew of reform moves cleared by the UPA government. A senior Left leader said," The Vadra issue is diverting attention from a major issue that the Left wants to pursue. FDI in retail, insurance and pension are central to our politics and are issues which the country should be debating. We will prefer that Vadra is probed and the discourse shifts back to issues of significance."
After Mr Kejriwal released fresh evidence against Mr Vadra yesterday, Congress leaders were defiant. Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that an inquiry cannot be ordered by the government into the business deals between real estate giant DLF and Mr Vadra. "Transactions between two private individuals cannot be questioned on the basis of some imputed or implied act of corruption," Mr Chidambaram said yesterday.
Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi said, "He (Kejriwal) has a habit of garnering publicity. The manner in which he is appearing with some papers before the media proves it. Who will verify whether these documents are true or not?"
For the Congress, Mr Kejriwal represents a new brand of politics - no holds barred and with an element of rashness to it. The grand old party is used to the opposition attacking it and in return throwing political counters. But Mr Kejriwal is different - he is keeping the Congress guessing. On the face of it, the party is attacking Mr Kejriwal and defending Mr Vadra. But all along it is also waiting to see if Mr Kejriwal's target number two will be someone from the opposition.
Mr Kejriwal may be new, but he practiced "Gandhigiri" with Anna and now he is changing "Netagiri".