Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal has been vociferous and direct in targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the same breath in an attempt to venture beyond the national capital.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Kejriwal had dared the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to arrest Gandhi and other leaders of the party in connection with the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal.
He had also questioned Prime Minister’s “silence” on the issue and wondered why CBI raids have not been conducted against Congress leaders in connection with the case.
“Modi ji got CBI raid conducted against me, but not against Sonia ji and Vadra ji. Gandhi family seems honest to Modi ji,” Kejriwal again tweeted in Hindi on Friday.
The row over the VVIP chopper deal erupted earlier this week when documents in an Italian court cited “handwritten references” to Gandhi, her political secretary Ahmed Patel and former Air chief SP Tyagi by a middleman in a judgement that convicted the helicopter company’s chief executive.
A subsidiary of Italian defence major Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland allegedly paid around Rs 375 crore as bribe, a revelation that led to the agreement being scrapped by the then UPA government in 2014.
“Had I been named in the Italian court order, Modi ji would have arrested me. But Soniaji has not even been questioned. Why?” he tweeted.
On the face of it Kejriwal seems to be attacking Modi and the saffron party over the issue, but the AAP leader - whose tenure as national convenor was extended by the party’s national executive two days ago for three years - is not sparing the Congress and the Gandhi family either.
Party leaders describe the development as a “politically perfect line” to toe at a time when the AAP has set its sight on expanding its political footprint beyond the national capital. The AAP is confident of winning the Punjab and Goa assembly elections due in 2017.
While the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP coalition is in power in Punjab, the party considers Congress as the primary opponent in the 2017 polls in the state. In Goa where a BJP government is in place, the AAP thinks it will face the main challenge from the ruling party.
“The targets for the upcoming battles are clearly drawn,” a senior party leader said.
In Delhi, the Kejriwal government has been on a warpath with the Modi dispensation after engaging in a turf war with the lieutenant governor’s office over administrative jurisdiction. With neither relenting, the undercurrent gets reflected in the positions taken by the respective parties.
The AAP rose on the political horizon in 2013 by unseating the Congress that had been ruling Delhi for past 15 years. A year after a brief 49-day stint, the party came to power in February 2015, decimating both the Congress and the BJP in the process.
Fighting graft was the biggest political pitch of the AAP that was formed in November 2012, following the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare.
In its endeavour to go national, the AAP is now working on its political strategy to cement its own support base even as it makes its ideological line on key political issues like reservation and foreign policy widely known.
The AAP unseated Congress in Delhi by making inroads into the latter’s core vote bank in the unauthorised colonies, JJ clusters, reserved constituencies and the minorities.
The Kejriwal-led party has been making attempts to appropriate this vote bank of Congress in other states as well. Dalits make almost a third of the total electorate in Punjab. Some opinion polls have even shown a groundswell of support for the AAP in the north Indian state.
“We are confident of winning Punjab. Once that happens, AAP will be the only party besides BJP and Congress to have governments in two states. It will be a huge leap towards going national ahead of the 2019 polls. That will pitch the AAP in direct contest with the BJP in the next general elections,” a senior party leader said.