In his first rally in Uttar Pradesh, Arvind Kejriwal launched a no-holds-barred attack on BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on Sunday. Rubbishing talk of a Modi wave, Kejriwal said he expected the Aam Aadmi Party to get more than 100 seats in the coming Lok Sabha polls, and said that no government would be formed without AAP.
While Kejriwal himself said nothing on the matter, there were clear indications that he would fight the Lok Sabha elections against Modi. Three AAP stalwarts called on him from the stage to contest against Modi from Varanasi, in what sources said was an attempt to force the Gujarat Chief Minister’s hand.
Sources said that Kejriwal would only make his announcement once Modi clarifies his stand, but confirmed that the BJP leader was the party’s principal opponent. “Modi will now either have to contest from Varanasi, or find a good reason to stand from somewhere else. Or he will be accused of being afraid,” sources said.
In another indication of its gameplan for Uttar Pradesh, AAP Sunday inducted influential Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Rushaid, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and several members of the AMU Old Boys’ Association at the rally. Rushaid, who spoke of Kejriwal in glowing terms, was the only man the AAP leader introduced and hugged on the stage.
Attacking Mayawati for allying with the BJP in the past, Kejriwal asked Muslims to choose AAP. “If you vote for the BSP, you are voting for the BJP. Don’t make that mistake. And Mulayam Singh will join whoever has the most seats, because he needs the government’s protection in the CBI cases against him,” he said.
The AAP rally also mentioned the Samajwadi Party government’s record with regard to communal tension, with Kejriwal talking of more than a hundred riots in Uttar Pradesh in two years. “I believe that all riots are engineered. I promise you that if one impartial invesigating agency looks into them, and one political lynchpin is caught, riots will stop.”
Amid loud cheers from the nearly 20,000 people gathered at Kanpur’s waterlogged Ramlila Maidan, Kejriwal said that he will travel through Gujarat for four days to “see Modi’s claims of development for himself”. “Hum bhi to dekhen Gujarat ko (I should also see the development in Gujarat)! If there is that much development, then we will learn and apply those methods in Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh. But if it’s not true, then the blindfold will have to be taken off.”
Having arrived at Kanpur after a roadshow across 17 parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Kejriwal dismissed the notion of a “Modi wave”. “When we left Ghaziabad, people said there is a Modi hawa. I went to Haryana and have travelled in Uttar Pradesh. Bas TV channelon mein hawa hai (the wave is only in TV channels). But the truth is that TV channels are being paid for opinion polls. It is true there is a hawa, but it is not a Modi hawa. This is only the media’s badmaashi. When we won the elections in Delhi, it wasn’t our victory, it was an expression of anger. That is the wave — anger among the people. “
Kejriwal claimed that visiting Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had also made him believe that an AAP government at the Centre was a possibility. “I know that we can have an AAP government. This much is clear, that we will get more than the Congress, they will be left with nothing. In Uttar Pradesh, they will only get six to seven seats. But we will get at least a 100 seats overall and no government can be formed without AAP,” he said.
Attacking Modi’s economics, Kejriwal said, “Modi had come to Delhi to speak about his economic policy. The BJP earlier used to say no FDI in kirana. The Congress had taken money from Walmart, but the BJP used to oppose this. But look, now Modi stays quiet on FDI in retail. It must mean that Walmart ka paisa has reached him too.”
Kejriwal also repeated his charges regarding Mukesh Ambani and Modi, saying, “People told me that Modiji is good. I wrote him a letter and asked him that if you are PM, would you allow Ambani to sell gas at $8 when it actually costs $1. Modi hasn’t even responded. If he doesn’t even acknowledge me, how will he help you?”
Hinting at a Modi versus Kejriwal electoral battle, Manish Sisodia also took on the Reliance chairman, saying, “If Narendra Modi doesn’t answer questions on Mukesh Ambani and the increase in gas prices, how should we ask him? We have heard that he is going to Benaras. Do you think Arvind should ask him there?”
Later, AAP national executive member and the party’s face in Uttar Pradesh Sanjay Singh made a direct request to Kejriwal. “I want to put this proposal before all of you that Arvindji should save our country. He should fight against Narendra Modi from Benaras,” Singh said.
Kumar Vishwas, who is contesting against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, repeated the demand. “I want Arvindji to come to Amethi and help me. I will come to Benaras, but you must come too,” Vishwas said.