There is an old Indian saying about a mouse considering himself a grocer after stumbling upon a turmeric root. The imagery best describes the conceit of Arvind Kejriwal, who, after winning a teensy weensy state, has developed delusions of being a towering national leader.
Kejriwal's hubris did the full Monty on Twitter on Monday, revealing itself without a shred of modesty, when he accepted former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh's challenge of a public debate and then found an ingenious ploy to chicken out of it.
Yes, my party accepts the challenge; any time, any place, Kejriwal responded. But, he refused to personally debate with a regional leader like Singh, naming some members of his Punjab unit--HS Phoolka, Jarnail Singh, Bhagwant Mann--for the duel, saying he will grant the honor of a verbal duel with him only to "Sonia ji or Rahul ji."
Crudely put, Kejriwal considers it infra dig to publicly engage Singh, a former chief minister and deputy leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha. Only prime ministers or presidents of national parties are Kejriwal's worthy adversaries, in his exalted opinion.
Singh is a doyen of Punjab politics, a veteran of many political wars and witness to most of its modern history. For Kejriwal, a Haryanvi who has entered Punjab via Delhi, a public debate with a heavyweight Punjabi leader would have been a giant of leap of faith. Since discretion is the better part of valour, Kejriwal's reluctance is understandable.
But, his ruse is hilarious. For the past six months, Kejriwal has scoured Punjab's villages and streets in the hope of, it is widely suspected, becoming the state's CM. In a bid to keep the seat warm for Kejriwal, the AAP has connived to keep several challengers out, blocked Navjot Singh's entry and booted out several local satraps. So, it is hypocritical of him to consider himself over and above his principle adversary.
For, the Congress under Singh is giving AAP a tough fight. Only a few weeks ago, as Singh pointed out in his Tweets, AAP seemed to be dominating the race in Punjab. Its leaders claimed in public of winning 100-plus seats and relegating the Congress and Akali-BJP combine to single digits.
Because of a year-long campaign in the hinterland and aggressive posturing on the drug menace, AAP appeared way ahead of its rivals. But, recent incidents of infighting within the party, Sucha Singh Chhotepur's expulsion, Sidhu's humiliation (or volte-face depending on your viewpoint) and Kejriwal's indiscreet utterances after the Indian army's surgical strikes along the LoC have pulled the AAP own from its perch.
The BJP-Akali combine, in spite of creating war hysteria in the state, ordering residents to vacate villages on the Punjab border, have failed to benefit from AAP's slide because of insurmountable anti-incumbency and anger against the Badals. Congress has benefitted from AAP's decline; Singh has emerged as Kejriwal's only rival for the CM's job. So, the putative debate would indeed have been among worthy rivals.
But, Kejriwal is a shrewd operator. Like a shrewd politician, he believes in the adage that success has just one father, himself, and failure belongs to all of AAP. Keeping the suspense around the CM candidate has been part of his ploy to come marching in for the coronation ceremony if the party wins and to distance himself if AAP fails to form the government. So, it suits him to avoid direct comparisons and debates; to keep up the facade of being a national leader.
But, here is the irony of the situation: Today, Kejriwal may not be willing to talk about Punjab with his rivals, claiming himself to be a national leader. Tomorrow, the nation may not be willing to talk about Kejriwal if Punjab does not vote for AAP. And the mouse would realise a root of turmeric never made anyone a grocer.
Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 22:15 PM