(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014. The former journalist took on former Union minister Kapil Sibal and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the national election from Chandni Chowk in Delhi.)
I am tempted to call the Modi rally in Delhi a flop show but I will not. I will leave it to the wisdom of the people of Delhi and political pundits to decide. I am also tempted to say that AAP is winning in the Delhi assembly elections with a big margin, but let us leave it to the announcement of the final results by constitutional authorities. What I will certainly say is that Modi in Delhi has met his match in Arvind Kejriwal. The die is cast and the battle will be a historic one for everyone to watch and remember for posterity.
They are two individuals with contrasting personalities but both have one thing in common. Both have single-minded pursuit of their goal as their basic trait and are driven by passion unfamiliar to most people. Both of them have a modest middle-class background but the comparison ends there.
Modi is more pompous and believes in hyperbole and showing off. His rallies during the 2014 parliamentary elections and thereafter are classic example of money power and power politics. His rallies are always an attempt to showcase him as the most popular and most powerful leader this country has ever had. There is no denying the fact that Modi attracts huge crowds where ever he went for campaigning. Everything in his rallies is well-choreographed like a symphony, micro-managed to the last detail.
How will the stage be erected, what background will be chosen, how will TV cameras capture pictures (at Modi rallies, the video feed is not independently captured by the TV channels but provided by the BJP team as a common resource), what will Modi wear and what issues he will raise - all this is worked out carefully. He loves to send his own team in advance to supervise every detail of the rally. His social media team works independently and creates an atmosphere of 'winning'. I am also told by members of his core team that there is a separate team of volunteers whose shouts of 'MODI' 'MODI' reverberate; in terms of TV metaphors, it creates a euphoria which is normally reserved for rock stars.
All these attributes were for some reasons were missing at the Ram Lila ground this weekend in Delhi. There was supposedly a crowd of 1 lakh but there were barely 25,000 people at the ground. The Modi connect with the crowd was missing. The BJP's social media campaign was missing its bite. And above all, Modi's attack on Kejriwal was negative. He failed to put forth a positive agenda, a vision for Delhi. Calling Kejriwal an anarchist and a Naxal is not enough. Even Gandhiji, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and JP called themselves anarchist but they all were deeply loved by their countrymen.
In his enthusiasm, Modi forgot that he himself had claimed to be a chaiwala who aspired to become a prime minister and finally managed to reach South Block, so how does he now say that people should only do what they are suited for? In that context, he asked the people of Delhi to send Arvind to the jungle (as a Naxal). He was shrill and it showed his weakness. He was not in his element. He looked dissatisfied with the crowd management and lack of enthusiasm in the crowd.
In comparison to Modi, Arvind's rallies have everything but money power. It's not an expression of that. AAP just doesn't have that kind of money. I have accompanied Arvind many times. The stage is ordinary, the background simple; there may be a banner that depicts Arvind and the candidate. There is hardly any distance between him and the crowd and any one can walk in to shake hands with him or get a selfie clicked. I have seen women coming with their children to get photographed with him while he was on the stage. Unlike Modi's rallies, there is no security paraphernalia. There is hardly any attempt by his office to micro-manage the affair. He has no qualms about the venue. He can go for any nukkad sabha. For the last three months, he had been addressing two to three jan sabhas very day. By now he has already covered Delhi twice.
Arvind is not a great speaker. He rarely raises his pitch and never delves into hyperbole. His speeches are not about himself. Modi loves to boast and projects himself as the messiah. But Arvind has a tremendous connect with the masses and he rarely unleashes negativity. He always focuses on the issues of the day. In Delhi, he has only been talking about the achievements of his government. How policemen and government officials stopped taking bribes in the capital, how he fulfilled his promise of slashing electricity bills by half and making water available free of cost. Then he compares his achievements with those of the Modi government in the last few months, and finally, he talks about what his government will do for Delhi once it is in power. Modi in contrast does not spare his opponents. He calls them names - he referred to Rahul Gandhi as "shehzada" (prince).
This does not mean that Arvind spares opponents. But his criticism is more issue -based. If somebody has indulged in corruption or wrong practices, Arvind will not spare them. Modi is certainly a good speaker. His command over Hindi is commendable. But he rarely uses urdu words. His is mostly a sanskritised Hindi. Arvind does not have any inhibitions about usage of any particular language or word. In a Muslim locality, he can start his address by saying "adaab" and in areas like Tilak Nagar and Hari Nagar he greets people with "Sat Shree Akal." He does not shy away if he asked to don a skull cap or a pagdi. Unlike Modi, Arvind is very careless with his clothes. He is not bothered at all. His Raj Kapoor style attire has become a different kind of style statement. Old fashioned -trousers and shirt is his trademark. I have never asked him about his look, but may be it helps him to connect with the Aam Aadmi.
Let us not forget both of them had raised hopes. The 2014 elections were a verdict for change. Modi could position himself as an agent of change nationally and as someone with a vision for the future, determined to make India a great nation. People believed him. The BJP got a majority on its own but Delhi has another agent of change. His name is Arvind Kejriwal. AAP is the party. Delhi has seen and experienced Modi rule by proxy in the last seven months. It is time to experience the real thing now.
Ram Lila Ground has sent a clear signal. People are not happy with the proxy rule. They waited for the electricity bills to be cut by 30% as promised by the BJP in the previous elections, but nothing of the kind happened. They have hope that Arvind can do it as he did during his 49-day term.
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