Days before Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Friday evening landing in Gujarat, the BJP circulated a five minute video on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) talking about its unkept promises, and the cases against AAP ministers in Delhi to give out a message that here was a leader who had set his sights on Gujarat while “missing” from his work place in Delhi. The video also blamed Kejriwal for the Patidar quota riots and the Dalit unrest in Gujarat.
Why should the BJP, a political mammoth comfortably ensconced in Gujarat for over two decades, worry about a fledgling called AAP which barely got two per cent of votes in its debut elections in Gujarat in 2014?
Just like the painstaking five-minute video, BJP leaders in Gujarat have busied themselves countering Kejriwal’s every move, adding to the sound and fury that precedes every Kejriwal visit to this BJP bastion.
To begin with, the Surat Municipal Corporation removed all the arches put up by the party to welcome him, saying they were “unauthorised”. The latest are posters that came up in Surat juxtaposing Kejriwal with Osama Bin Laden, Hafiz Saeed and Burhan Wani, under the title “Pakistan’s heroes”. Even as the BJP leaders in Surat blamed AAP for putting up the anti-Kejriwal posters “to seek attention”, pictures of these posters were tweeted and retweeted by none less than BJP leaders.
Kejriwal, who was on his second visit to Gujarat in three months, was making a deep dent in the BJP constituencies and cashing in on the disgruntlement in them. Apart from meeting Patidars and farmers, he had also launched his Gujarat yatra from Somnath, auspicious as per the BJP tradition, on his last visit in July when his meeting with Surat traders was called off after permission was refused for the venue. Yet he covered good ground in Saurashtra, following up the meeting with farmers in Somnath with a road show.
This time, Kejriwal will be doing his first public meeting in Surat, in Yogi chowk of the Patidar dominated Varachha area where the opposition to the BJP has been so vocal that the Hardik Patel-founded Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) shouted down an event held a few kilometres from here in Mota Varachha, to felicitate BJP national president Amit Shah and other Patidar leaders of BJP, last month. Kejriwal’s announced “two-day Gujarat tour” will actually be a three night stay during which he will cover Mehsana, Vadodara and Surat and by taking the road, he would end up covering north, central and south Gujarat. The itinerary also has a “puja” at Umiya mata temple in Unjha — the reigning deity of the Kadva Patels.
While the attention that the BJP has given AAP is disproportionate to its electoral weight in the state so far, the math and chemistry of this tour is what could be worrying the BJP, which had swept the general elections with Narendra Modi at its helm in 2014, leaving the Congress out in the cold. While AAP cannot take the place of BJP in Gujarat, it can easily get into the Congress’s space. So, while the BJP is all for a “Congress-mukt Bharat” sources in the BJP suggest that it is happier fighting the Congress in Gujarat than AAP.