For a man who is entirely a media creation and one who has been hogging the TV screens to the exclusion of most other politicians for well over six months, I think it was a bit rich for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to grumble about Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) current run of popularity in the electronic media.
I was tickled pink to see Modi’s discomfiture at his Goa rally on Sunday where he complained that parties need grassroots ‘vision’ more than television. He is right. But then I thought that was exactly what the Congress and other parties were complaining about — that Modi was using television to score brownie points against them and has no real vision or policy. How the tables have turned — it is true that a week (or five months) could be a long time in politics.
But I believe Modi’s discomfiture is not on account of the AAP phenomenon alone. Just last week, his hope of getting 200-plus seats in the Lok Sabha flew out of the window when Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray made it clear that he was not interested in a three-way alliance with the Shiv Sena. Modi had hoped for at least 40 of the 48 seats from Maharashtra to make up his numbers in Parliament but that now doesn’t look like a real possibility. For one, Raj Thackeray has been influenced by the AAP experience — in Maharashtra, the MNS is the only party that has not sullied its hands with governance and he hopes the AAP experiment in Delhi will yield similar results for him in the state given the ennui among the masses with other political parties.
Then again, Modi made a strategic mistake in Maharashtra during his Bombay rally in December — he overemphasised the Gujarat experience and his promise to turn Maharashtra into another Gujarat only widened the existing distrust of Maharashtrians for the Gujaratis. Perhaps no one advised Modi that Bombay was the wrong place to speak about Gujarat — more than 100 people died here fighting for a state capital against the Gujarati attempt to grab Bombay for itself. That was the reason why the late Pramod Mahajan had tied up with the Shiv Sena in the first place — he knew it would be very difficult for the BJP to overcome that paranoia in the Maharashtrian mind without support from the original aapla manoos, Bal Thackeray.
The BJP has been able to keep its neck above water in the state essentially because of that endorsement for even in the RSS headquarters of Nagpur, where the antipathy to Gujaratis is non-existent, the party has not been able to win that Lok Sabha seat. At a time when the Sena-BJP swept Vidarbha, winning 10 of the then 11 parliamentary seats from the region, Nagpur was the sole bastion that had stood by the Congress. And though Nitin Gadkari seems to have been working hard over the past two years to break that jinx, the arrival of AAP has just skewered those chances and brought a new jubilation in the Congress ranks in Vidarbha as well. It will be an uphill task for the BJP considering that even the Shiv Sena is no longer allying with the BJP wholeheartedly — the reasons for that queasiness are the same as that of Raj Thackeray’s — Modi’s overwhelming personality threatens their own existence as well. They do not want to play second fiddle to Modi. For unlike Mahajan’s kid gloves vis-à-vis Thackeray, Modi is unlikely to give right of way to Uddhav Thackeray. And that’s where the cookie is likely to crumble.
Still, I am not too enamoured with the AAP candidates in Maharashtra. They either seem to have Congress leanings or otherwise have their own personal axes to grind — all that they can bring us then is more of the same.
Uddhav Thackeray was right, though — his father’s party was the original aam aadmi party. And, given that experience, we know it does not take too long for any of them to turn khaas!