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BETWEEN THE LINES

For EC from Ahmedabad

Kejriwal’s Broom Rattles Modi in His Own Den

Gujarat, which has always been a two-party state with 26 seats, saw BJP win 14 seats in 2004 and the Congress 12. In 2009, the BJP increased its tally to 15 against 11 for the Congress. By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

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arendra Modi can be challenged in his own den. This is the message Arvind Kejriwal managed to put across by carrying out a four-day tour of Gujarat to verify Modi’s claims of exemplary development in the state,The Aam Aadmi Party chief went to meet Modi at his residence without an appointment, TV cameras in tow, and wanted to ask him 17 questions. The move has been interpreted variously here, but all agree the fledgling party would make a dent into Congress’ space in the long run. Arvind Kejriwal challenged BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to a public debate

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‘any time, anywhere’ on the ‘fictitious’ picture of Gujarat’s development portrayed before the world. AK went in all guns blazing. On his radar were the trio of Ambanis, Adanis and Modi who, he said, had conspired to strike a deal to loot the country. The Aam Aadmi Party leader likened the 2014 general election to a Kurukshetra. Speaking with a belligerence that people here are accustomed to hearing only from Modi, he said, “Why is Modi so scared of meeting me? Will I eat him up? I have written more than 50 letters to him, seeking his response on several issues. He has not responded to a single one. But

he will have to meet people and answer them.” He said a posse of 1,000 policemen stopped his car 5 km from Modi’s residence. “When I was a chief minister, I have met common men without appointments during my free time. The cops told me I needed an

Ahead of elections, the AAP chief was on a four-day tour of Gujarat to verify Narendra Modi’s claims of development


BETWEEN THE LINES 11 for the Congress. The BJP won the highest number of seats in the state under former CM Keshubhai Patel in 1999 with a tally of 20 seats. Since then under Narendra Modi, the BJP has not been able to match the 1999 tally.

Kejriwal visited the Sabarmati Ashram, which is closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi.

appointment. My colleague Manish Sisodia went to Modi to seek an appointment but was told he was busy,” Kejriwal said. Outside the venue, police resorted to lathi charge after BJP supporters threw stones and water bottles at the stage. A protester even managed to get on the stage. Commenting on the law and order here, he said, “I’m fortunate not to be a victim of an encounter. “AAP party leaders have faced four attacks in three days, including one on my car. If a former CM is not safe in Gujarat, how can 6 crore Gujaratis be safe?” Kejriwal said, “AAP leaders assessed ‘development’ in 33 districts. The claims of 11 per cent agricultural growth is false. In fact, there is 1 per cent negative growth. Farmland is being given to industrialists like Adani and Ambani for a pittance. This is Gujarat’s real development story.” “My team found schools and colleges without teachers; hospitals without doctors and medicines;

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and people seeking bribe to get any work done. Small- and mediumscale industries have been closed down to favour big industrialists. If Modi wants to turn India into Gujarat after becoming prime minister, this is what he will do to the entire country,” he warned. “In his Kanpur rally, Kejriwal challenged Modi to fight against him in Varanasi, and now he entered Modi’s lair and put across the challenge at his door step,” Prakash Shah, an Ahmedabad-based civil society activist and political analyst told HT. “It’s a psychological victory for Kejriwal.” According to Vidyut Joshi, former vice-chancellor, Bhavnagar University, Kejriwal was successful in laying the foundation of “alternative politics” which the Congress had failed to do. “He tried to bring out the contradictions in the state,” he said. Gujarat, which has always been a two-party state with 26 seats, saw BJP win 14 seats in 2004 and the Congress 12. In 2009, the BJP increased its tally to 15 against

But this time, with Modi aiming for the country’s top job, the BJP is hoping to go for the kill and win more than 20 seats. “It’ll be foolish to assume that the AAP will make a debut here ... It’ll not happen immediately,” Joshi said. Indu Kumar Jain, another social activist, however, differed with Joshi. He believes that the AAP could corner five to six seats in Gujarat. Kejriwal is clearly preparing a report card on Modi’s performance insofar as the development of Gujarat is concerned, to be probably released in Delhi. He has been stopping at villages, at road side corners, to sit with the people who are coming out in large numbers to share their

The BJP won the highest number of seats in the state under former CM Keshubhai Patel in 1999 with a tally of 20 seats. Since then under Narendra Modi, the BJP has not been able to match the 1999 tally.


BETWEEN THE LINES woes. Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi leaders with him are covering different spots, but saying the same thing. Reporters told The Citizen that the questions were all aimed at finding out what development work had been undertaken in different parts of the state by the Modi government, even as Kejriwal and the others told the people that they were speaking to all religious communities and castes to find out their problems in the state. The general secretary of the Gujarat unit of the Milli Council, Abdul Lakhani who had attended some of the meetings told that there was growing enthusiasm amongst the people, and this was not confined just to Muslims. His contention that villagers were pouring out to meet Kejriwal was confirmed by the local reporters who were surprised at the response to him, despite the fanning out of the saffron outfits, to contain the bold presence of AAP’s grass roots approach in the state. Interestingly two new saffron outfits that emerged overnight seemed to be taking the lead in organising the demonstrations with the BJP and the RSS hiding behind these. The Hindu Kranti Sena and the Hindustan Nirman Dal were two of these who had taken on the responsibility of shouting slogans

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Aam Aadmi party has shown its complete political naivety by not even bothering to advertise Kejriwal’s Gujarat tour to the rest of India. accusing Kejriwal of being antiHindu and pro-Pakistan, even as their ‘volunteers’ showed black flags and lined his route with the saffron flags. Unfortunately, the Aam Aadmi party has shown its complete political naivety by not even bothering to advertise Kejriwal’s Gujarat tour to the rest of India. The BJP has realised the significance of this direct confrontation but the AAP leader and his colleagues have failed, so far, at least to draw any political mileage from the event. Efforts to contact Yogendra Yadav for d e t a i l s failed, as he was in a

continuous meeting. The official website of the party carries only sketchy information, with the entire leadership busy handling the fallout of the political confrontation that AAP faced in Delhi , instead of turning the focus back to Kejriwal and Gujarat. Kejriwal has visited the earthquake-affected areas, and will be visiting the parts of Gujarat directly impacted by the 2002 violence. However, till date he has been careful not to speak of communalism in the state, keeping the focus and the rhetoric confined to ‘development.’ This tactic seems to be working in that he is being able to make a dent in the polarisation of communities in the state, with locals now hopeful that the visible support will cut into the BJP’s present hold on almost all the 26 Lok Sabha constituencies. However, there is no independent confirmation o f this as a great deal will depend on the candidates and the campaign t h a t follows the visit.


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