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HindustanTimes Tue,30 Sep 2014

This means war: Why Modi can't ignore Arvind Kejriwal

Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 27, 2014
First Published: 00:16 IST(27/3/2014) | Last Updated: 02:25 IST(28/3/2014)

Finally, Narendra Modi realises that he can no longer ignore the challenger as an upstart in a hurry. And it’s better to take him on in public than in a one-on-one meeting, as the challenger tried to force in Ahmedabad last month.

And, thus, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, the self-proclaimed anarchist, earned the title of a Pakistani agent at a Modi rally in Jammu on Wednesday.

Kejriwal, who has been flexing muscles against the BJP’s PM nominee for quite some time and even tried to storm his home turf, couldn’t evoke much response so far from Modi, barring a stony silence.

Read: Modi calls Kejriwal Pakistan agent 'AK-49'

The reason was the advice of the BJP brass, including chief Rajnath Singh, that Modi should try to avoid being provoked by the self-proclaimed ‘anarchist’ even if he calls the shining Gujarat model a sham. For, it’ll only help him gain in stature.

But with the anarchist becoming a rival in Varanasi and questioning Modi’s — and the NDA’s — USP, the Gujarat model of development, there was tremendous discomfort in the BJP camp.

In fact, some saffron leaders insisted that Kejriwal needed to be given a severe tongue-lashing — in true Modi style — for attacking Modi and his governance model.

A senior BJP leader told HT on condition of anonymity: “There was a view that the silence was serving no purpose. If the party does not effectively contradict Kejriwal, some people may conclude that the AAP allegations were actually based on facts.”

Soon after Kejriwal again took pot-shots at Modi in Varanasi, BJP sources said, the PM nominee was asked to respond to his allegations. Quickly, the Gujarat government prepared a draft, countering Kejriwal’s allegations, and shared it with BJP leaders within hours.

Such was the hurry in the BJP camp that the party decided not to wait for Wednesday morning to release it. BJP veteran and spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad was asked to take on Kejriwal on Tuesday night itself.

Prasad said, “The fact that Narendra Modi has an excellent track record in governance does not need any certificate from Kejriwal.” He also questioned AAP’s governance during its 49-day rule in Delhi.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that Kejriwal is acting as a front of the Congress,” Prasad said.

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