Punjab Election 2017: Why the outrage over Sisodia's 'vote for Kejriwal' remark was unnecessary

On 10 January, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, while addressing a public gathering at village Balongi in Mohali, had said, "You vote thinking that you are voting to make Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister (of Punjab). Your vote is for Kejriwal."

"People were asking me who will be the Punjab Chief Minister. I want to say one thing here that you should believe that Arvind Kejriwal is going to be Punjab's CM," he had further said. "Whosoever will be the CM, it shall be the responsibility of Kejriwal to get all the promises honoured...I give you guarantee in this regard."

Sisodia's remarks created a political storm as politicians from other parties tried convincing people that this actually meant that Kejriwal was going to be the chief ministerial candidate of AAP for Punjab and that Kejriwal was going to relinquish his role as Delhi chief minister.

There were also some media reports with headlines like 'Vote to make Kejriwal Punjab CM: Sisodia', 'Arvind Kejriwal For Punjab Chief Minister? Sisodia Comment Fuels Speculation' and 'Vote for Arvind Kejriwal as Punjab's CM face, says Manish Sisodia' that really encouraged the rumour that Kejriwal was going to be the CM face for AAP in Punjab.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (right) and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (right) and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

There were also media debates on prominent news channels like Times Now and NDTV on whether Kejriwal had plans to abandon Delhi.

"How else can this statement be construed other than the fact that Arvind Kejriwal intends to be the chief ministerial face of the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab?" said one of the anchors on Times Now during the debate over Sisodia's remark.

There is, in fact, another way in which the statement can be construed. And if media channels and opposition parties had gone through what Sisodia had actually said, they would have found out that it was the only way to correctly interpret that statement. Any other interpretation was a twisted one.

Perhaps what Sisodia implied through his statement can be best described what an AAP leader had been quoted as saying by The Indian Express: "Sonia Gandhi has been far more powerful as the party chief than Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. So if AAP wins in Goa and Punjab, Kejriwal will have two CMs reporting to him. As the party goes to polls in both the states, Kejriwal is the undisputed face of the party."

What Sisodia was doing through his 10 January statement is something all political parties have done at some point: Using the image of a popular leader well-known throughout the country to get votes in a state election.

If one goes through what Sisodia had said, one will find that at no point of time did Sisodia ever say that Kejriwal was going to be the Punjab chief minister if AAP won. He had just implied that whoever would be the Punjab chief minister would be answerable to Kejriwal, just like Sonia Gandhi was often viewed as more powerful than Manmohan Singh during UPA rule. Sisodia had just used this implication to get votes by further telling people to vote for AAP as if (the significance of the words 'as if' cannot be overstated here) they were voting for Kejriwal because the Delhi chief minister is the main man in AAP.

And all the outrage on the media and mud-slinging by opposition parties took place desite the fact that Kejriwal had himself clarified that the chief ministerial candidate from AAP would onyl be from Punjab.

BJP is currently using the same strategy in Goa. BJP chief Amit Shah had said on 25 January that the next government in the state will "function under Parrikar's leadership, irrespective of his posting".

"(Prime Minister) Narendrabhai (Modi) needs him (Parrikar) at the Centre as well. We will decide after elections where Parrikar will be working. But let me assure you that wherever Parrikar may be working, the Goa government will function under his leadership," the BJP president had said.

In fact, on Thursday, Parrikar had called himself "the leader of the state".

When Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi or Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaign in a poll-bound state, there is hardly any speculation on whether either of them has chief ministerial ambitions, and there shouldn't be.


Published Date: Feb 03, 2017 07:07 pm | Updated Date: Feb 05, 2017 10:44 am


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