Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been asked a lot of questions in his political life.
Those defending monogrammed suits have wondered why he wears a muffler; those who get infuriated with queries into personal lives and family details of other politicians have questioned the cause – nautanki or real – of his persistent cough; devotees of monologues have probed the logic behind his dialogue with people; fans of scripted interviews have doubted the credibility of his live interactions; and those who admire burning ambition in their idols have lamented why Kejriwal can't be content with the chief minister's job.
Among the litany of hypocritical questions the Delhi CM has been asked, this one is the most amusing: Why is he washing utensils at the Golden Temple? Why is he up to nautanki again? Doesn't he have other things to do?
The answer is simple: Kejriwal and his party made a mistake by hurting the sentiments of Sikhs. And, by performing sewa at the Akal Takht, he is performing penitence and seeking forgiveness in the hope that the mistake doesn't cost AAP the election in Punjab.
A few weeks ago, while releasing its election manifesto, the AAP incensed a section of the Sikh community by placing the party's symbol, a broom, next to a picture of the religious shrine. Around the same time, party leader Ashish Khetan compared the AAP 'youth manifesto' with the holy book of the Sikhs. This lead to a series of protests and complaints against the party.
To understand the significance of religious symbols in Punjab, bear in mind that the panthic agenda has always dominated electoral politics in the state. The Akalis, who control most of the religious bodies in the state, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, survive in the state in spite of charges of corruption and dynastic hegemony primarily because they have positioned themselves as custodians of the panth in Punjab.
In December, when Captain Amarinder Singh was named the chief of Punjab Congress, he began his campaign by swearing over a gutka (holy book) that his party would rid Punjab of the drug menace within months of coming to power.
Short point: In Punjab, politics and religion are interlinked.
Just a few weeks ago, Kejriwal's party was considered the front runner in Punjab. A C-voter survey indicated that the broom will sweep Punjab, relegating rival parties to single digits. Among bookies, Kejriwal was the clear leader with his party expected to win thrice the number of seats the Akalis and Congress may win. Obviously, Kejriwal can't let all these gains slip away by letting his voters simmer over a mistake his party made.
Those who resent Kejriwal's tactics somehow fail to understand a simple fact: Elections, like wars, are fought to win. Like every politician in this country, Kejriwal too has the right to dream big, and aspire to the highest electoral office in the country. Nobody except the Indian voter has the right and power to thwart a politician's ambition.
In his pursuit of power, Kejriwal often borrows from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ideas, fine tunes them and sells them as his own (Talk to Arvind Kejriwal is Chai pe charcha meets Mann ki Baat). He understands the importance of relentlessly selling the Delhi model of governance, attacking the PM to position himself as his major rival, staying in the media limelight and rolling out catchy slogans and strategies. Like Modi, he has eyes fixed on his ultimate goal – 2019 General elections.
As veteran journalist S Nihal Singh argues in The Tribune, Kejriwal has been copying the Modi formula. After cynically ousting men of stature such as Yogendra Yadav – who could pose a challenge to him – from his party, he set about a publicity blitz in newspapers and on television glorifying his leadership. In the manner of Modi making his name synonymous with the BJP, the subtext of the ads is to transform AAP into a Kejriwal party. The parallel has been so striking that in the capital’s political circles he has been nicknamed “chhota Modi” (little Modi).
It is primarily for this reason, that Kejriwal gets under the skin of the BJP and its bhakts. They see in Kejriwal a glimpse of their own idol's past.