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HomeOpinionIn Modi vs Kejriwal match, it’s hard to keep the scoreboard. One-upmanship...

In Modi vs Kejriwal match, it’s hard to keep the scoreboard. One-upmanship is constant

PM Modi, the undisputed king of Gujarat, is mighty territorial, and Arvind Kejriwal has upset him by trying to enter the state.

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Bring out the popcorn and settle in for the next face-off between Modi and Kejriwal. It’s the quintessential David vs Goliath, the lion-roaring at the gnat that refuses to fly away. And it’s playing out on the streets of Delhi and Gujarat.

It all began in 2014 in Varanasi. Arvind Kejriwal vs Narendra Modi has been playing at a theatre near us since then. It’s hard to say whether Kejriwal is gaining symbolic points by taking on the ‘invincible’ foe or is just getting crushed bit by bit. But in doing so, he’s skipping the path of incremental growth of a small regional party and shooting straight to front page headlines by riding on Modi’s coattails.

Prime Minister Modi, the undisputed king of Gujarat, is mighty territorial, and Arvind Kejriwal has clearly pissed him off by trying to enter Gujarat’s electoral race. In retaliation, the PM has brought the fight back to the Delhi Chief Minister’s home turf first by literally clipping his wings (remember Singapore?) then by making snide comments on the freebie or ‘revadi culture’, which is Kejriwal’s MO and more recently tearing up Aam Aadmi posters.

On the ‘revadi culture’ remark, Kejriwal hit back Monday saying: “People of Gujarat want free electricity and better schools and hospitals. People want change. If politicians are getting free electricity, then people should also get it. It should not be called free ‘Revdi’”.

Back in 2020, while the votes were being counted for Delhi’s assembly election, a man stood outside AAP’s office in Delhi with a poster that read ‘Kejriwal vs Modi 2024’. A replay of 2014 Varanasi Lok Sabha election.

This was no-coincidence. This was no ardent supporter, in love with Kejriwal, expecting him to lead the country. This was Kejriwal’s vision for himself ever since he found himself sitting with Anna Hazare as a disgruntled IRS officer at the Ram Leela Maidan demanding a Lokpal Bill. This is the context to every tussle between Kejriwal and Modi.

In many ways, Kejriwal is destiny’s child — too much success in a very short time. He is so new to India’s political playing field that his very audacity must certainly irritate Modi — who has been around since the ’70s as a karyakarta/swayamsevak and risen from the ranks with decades of hard work — at the core of his being.

Also read: Opposition on their knees but BJP has troubles brewing within

Gujarat, Modi and the emotional chord

Modi is emotional about the Gujarat election. Remember his all-guns-blazing campaign trail in Gujarat after exit polls were indicating towards Congress making huge strides in the state’s 2017 assembly elections? Or the fact that Ahmed Patel’s bid to Rajya Sabha (again in 2017) was fought like a bitter state election full of defections, alleged horse-trading and a midnight political drama of the Election Commission rejecting the votes of two Congress rebel legislators, thus making Patel the winner.

He has gone on to induct Patidar leader and ex-Congressman Hardik Patel into the BJP. Another anti-BJP voice, Jignesh Mevani, was arrested. Modi sure knows how to hold on to a grudge. So, ever since Kejriwal has set his eyes on Gujarat, Modi has taken it upon himself to give him a hard time. And it all started with a trip to Singapore.

Also read: Why Dhankhar and Murmu are perfect fit in Modi’s Mission 2024

Model vs Model

Arvind Kejriwal being invited to the World Cities Summit by Singapore’s High Commissioner to India to present the ‘Delhi Model’ of governance must have touched a raw nerve, with Modi considering the only model that he’d like India to be known by is the ‘Gujarat Model’.

Also, Modi’s love for foreign trips is infamous. He’s pretty much appropriated the job of the Minister of External Affairs. So it wasn’t surprising when Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena denied Kejriwal the permission for this summit.

But Kejriwal would not take this lying down. In a letter to the Prime Minister, he reminded Narendra Modi of keeping his political differences aside because “in front of the world, we should forget our differences and put national interest on the frontline.” He then promptly reminded the PM of how he had faced similar circumstances in 2005 when he was banned from stepping on US soil.  This was in light of the allegations against him in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Another raw nerve of Modi’s promptly stepped on by Kejriwal.

If you thought this ping pong match of humiliating each other was over, you couldn’t have been more wrong. It has just begun. Delhi’s LG has ordered a CBI enquiry against the Delhi government and specifically deputy CM Manish Sisodia, to probe the capital’s new excise policy. Apparently, under this new excise policy, huge benefits were made by liquor barons with “substantial” financial favours at the top political level of Delhi government. These allegations were promptly dismissed by the AAP. The party’s spokesperson and MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj said that the only reason this probe was ordered is because PM Modi was “jealous” of Arvind Kejriwal and the party’s recent political victory in Punjab.

The jealousy is not so subtle anymore. In an event – a plantation drive – on Sunday, held in Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, AAP’s posters were allegedly torn down by Delhi Police, as AAP claims, at the behest of the central government. Even if the claims are false, fact is that huge posters of Narendra Modi were put up at the event while those of Arvind Kejriwal were torn and thrown. Seems like we’re watching a teen drama gone wild.

Then comes the jibe from the horse’s mouth. Modi compared Kejriwal’s free 300 units electricity in Gujarat to “revdi culture” or a petty way of distributing sweetmeats to win people over. He said this was no way to benefit the country.

Kejriwal and Modi’s political ambitions and style of working are so similar that they seem to be made from the same mould. Just as Modi ditched those who made him rise from the ranks, Kejriwal too had a similar ascension to power by ditching his initial support group who were in those days more popular than him — be a it a Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Medha Patkar or Kumar Vishwas.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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