Arvind Kejriwal's arrest pose major challenges to AAP, INDIA allies ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Delhi CM's arrest would provide his party with a big talking point against the BJP

Arvind Kejriwal A file image Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal | PTI

For a long time, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had been saying that the Modi government would get him arrested any moment in connection with the probe into alleged corruption in the excise policy.

The fear of the arrest of the founding leader and national convenor of the party came true on Thursday evening, with the Enforcement Directorate moving to arrest him. The party had been steeling itself for such a turn of events, and it is learnt that Kejriwal had in consultation with senior leaders of the AAP to prepare a backup plan concerning governance in Delhi as well as the party’s political activities.

The AAP leaders know that it will be a massive challenge for them to now not just carry on but also take on the BJP electorally in the absence of Kejriwal. He is AAP's face, the decision maker and the person every party worker looks up to. It is his shrewdness which has helped the party negotiate the choppy waters and establish itself as a force to reckon with just over a decade after it was established.

CM Kejriwal is also the party's mascot and the primary vote catcher. This is especially significant since the arrest comes on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, and the Assembly elections in Delhi are also less than a year away.

The AAP now also has to deal with a possible problem of perception. Many of its top leaders are behind bars for alleged corruption, especially in connection with the excise policy case. For a party that was founded on a nationwide campaign against corruption, the arrests, especially now of the main force behind Anna Andolan, is ironic.

The impact of Kejriwal’s arrest is expected to be felt in the opposition space as well. He is one of the most prominent leaders in the opposition INDIA alliance and also a leader who aggressively took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is also among its leaders with the best connection with the people.

However, AAP leaders hope the development will in fact act as a mobilising force for the party workers, making them rally behind Kejriwal rather than have a demoralising effect on them, or worse still lead to leaders and workers leaving the party.

They also expect there to be a huge public sympathy for Kejriwal because he has in the states under AAP rule been the face of the welfarist and populist measures.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal's arrest would provide his party with a big talking point against the BJP, especially in Delhi, where it will counter the BJP’s corruption barbs with the argument that a leader who cared for the poor and the middle class is being victimised by the BJP.

The INDIA alliance is also expected to rally behind Kejriwal and more forcefully take up the issue of the alleged misuse by the Modi government of investigating agencies to target opposition leaders. 

The arrest of Kejriwal for corruption is a moment of reckoning for the party he founded and a big turning point in Indian politics.

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