Why should Arvind Kejriwal saying that he and other leaders of AAP could be killed create a furore in political circles and in civil society? Some people have dubbed it a political stunt to catch eyeballs, but a few felt very concerned and aggrieved and many have offered suggestions to avoid any unfortunate incident. A person like me who has known the principal players of contemporary politics can say that it’s not a casual remark. He is the most bitter critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; he has shown the gumption to take Modi head on.
Modi on the other hand is not a conventional politician. He is not like Atal Bihari Vajpayee – charismatic and soft, loved by friends and foes. He is not like Lal Krishna Advani who, despite being the original Hindutva Icon and the “iron man” of the BJP has always had a moral compass up his sleeve. Modi is ruthless, self-centred and loves to be feared. He is not known for suffering dissent and disagreement in the party or outside. He is a control freak and micro manages to the last mile. There is no doubt that he has a big following. After he pushed Advani to the Margdarshak Mandal, he has no challenger in the party. Like Mrs Indira Gandhi, he is the PM and also the cabinet.
Outside his party, he had been challenged and defeated only by Arvind in Delhi and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. This is Nitish’s third term as a Chief Minister but due to the limited footprint of his party, he is no threat to Modi outside Bihar and even there, he is dependent on Lalu Prasad Yadav. Arvind has a national appeal and has a growing party structure outside Delhi. Punjab is overwhelmingly with him, in Goa and Uttarakhand, AAP has a more than notable presence and is capable of causing an upset. Recently, AAP’s popularity in Gujarat has shown a remarkable upswing. In Odisha and Jharkhand, one can discover tremendous potential for AAP. These are the worrying signals for Modi in the context of the 2019 parliamentary elections. Those who know Modi say that he does not like challengers and he crushes all opposition ruthlessly. He ruled Gujarat with an iron hand. Nothing moved without his permission. He single-handedly destroyed the BJP’s top leadership except Anandi Ben Patel. The likes of Keshubhai Patel disappeared from the political landscape. His one-time best friend Sanjay Joshi, once a powerful organisation secretary in the BJP, was thrown out of the party at his behest and is still searching for the reasons for his political banishment. He did not let the RSS and its affiliates like VHP, BMS, BKS survive. The powerful Praveen Togadia was not seen in Gujarat for a very long time. He even shut down the office of the VHP in Ahmedabad. There are legendary stories in Gujarat about his treatment of bureaucrats. Anyone who disagreed with him paid a heavy price, by either landing in jail or being forced to seek pre-mature retirement – be it Sanjeev Bhatt or Pardeep Sharma. Teesta Sitalvad is still being hounded.
Haren Pandya was once the Revenue Minister. He was a future claimant for the top job in the state. He was shot dead during his morning walk. His father Vithal Pandya and wife Jagruti openly accused Modi.
There were two alleged reasons for this. One, he annoyed Modi as he did not vacate his assembly seat for Modi. Second, it is being speculated that Haren was present in the meeting on 27th February 2002 in which Modi allegedly asked the police to be passive during the riots to let “Hindus vent their anger”. While deposing before the Citizens Tribunal, he requested his name not be disclosed, but it could not remain a secret and soon he started getting death threats; finally, he was eliminated. It was speculated that he knew too much and could have posed a serious problem in the future. Though Haren Pandya’s killers were shot dead later, the real motive could never be conclusively established.
Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah has been in jail in the fake encounter case of Shohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and friend Tulsi Prajapati. His role was also speculated on in the Ishrat Jahan encounter (he has been given a clean chit). Though the BJP and Amit Shah have always maintained that he was falsely implicated by the Congress government at the centre, Modi and Amit Shah both have a streak in their personas which their adversaries call dictatorial.
Unfortunately, Arvind has crossed Modi’s path many times. It was he who decided to contest against Modi in Varanasi. Arvind was physically assaulted several times during the campaign. He was also attacked when he went to Gujarat to expose Modi’s model of development during the 2014 elections. His car was smashed twice. Knowledgable sources in the government claim that these attacks were planned and choreographed.
But the real battle was fought during the Delhi assembly elections. It proved to be the greatest humiliation for Modi after his stupendous success in the parliamentary and four assembly elections. Modi is not a person who can easily digest defeat. He never forgets his enemies.
He proved to be true to his reputation. He has not let the Delhi government function properly even for a day. Brazenly, the offices of the Lieutenant Governor and the Police Commissioner have been used to humiliate and insult a duly elected Chief Minister. One after the other, AAP leaders, MLAs and bureaucrats are being targeted. Till now, ten MLAs have been sent behind bars on fake charges. Two MLAs are next in line. The Chief Minister’s office was raided and the Principal Secretary and Deputy Secretary have spent more than three weeks in jail. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has been taken over forcibly by the centre.
There is so much animosity between the Arvind and Modi that they hardly greet each other. The camera rather beautifully captured the coldness of their handshake when both met in the national integration council meet. Modi supporters like Nikunj Shahu have tweeted that Arvind should be shot. He is still being followed by Modi on Twitter.
The hostility between these two leaders has acquired mystical proportions. Even their supporters treat each other as bitter enemies.
The Punjab assembly elections have raised the stakes high for both of them. If Arvind wins with an overwhelming majority as predicted by the media, then he will emerge as a great challenger to Modi at the national level and will create a serious obstacle for his second term as PM. Our friends in intelligence agencies and sympathisers in the government have advised us to remain vigilant. As per them, anything can happen. One gentleman went so far as to say that AAP leaders should avoid campaigning in the night, not go deep in rural areas and should fly wherever possible rather than drive.