Kejriwal’s arrest: AAP hopeful of sympathy wave; BJP insists on CM’s resignation

AAP seeks to step up emotional outreach ahead of polls

Delhi Ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj with AAP MLAs protest at the Delhi Legislative Assembly against the arrest of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal | PTI Delhi Ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj with AAP MLAs protest at the Delhi Legislative Assembly against the arrest of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal | PTI

The pendulum of public discourse in the AAP-BJP battle in the national capital is tantalisingly swinging from one direction to the other. While the Aam Aadmi Party is trying to make the issue emotional and insisting on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal running the government from jail, the BJP is maintaining that Kejriwal is the “kingpin" of the liquor scam and is demanding his resignation. 

In her second address since the arrest, Kejriwal's wife, Sunita Kejriwal, in an emotional message on Wednesday appealed to feel her husband's presence around them. 

“My body is in jail but my soul is with the people,” she said, reading Kejriwal’s message. Keeping the suspense alive, she said that the Delhi CM will make a big expose in the court tomorrow on where the money of the Delhi liquor scam is. The AAP has been repeatedly targeting the BJP on the donations of Rs 55 crore through electoral bonds to the saffron party by Sarath Chandra Reddy, reportedly an approver in the case. In her previous message, too, Sunita Kejriwal had reminded the people that Arvind Kejriwal was their ‘son' and ‘brother' while reading out his message.  

“You have put one Arvind Kejriwal in jail. Everyone is an Arvind Kejriwal. How will you put everyone in jail,” said Somnath Bharati, the AAP's Lok Sabha candidate from New Delhi constituency. The AAP MLAs today wore t-shirts with a message ‘Mein Bhi Kejriwal' in the assembly premises. “Ever since the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, people are coming to us lovingly and saying that they will take care of everything.” 

The BJP, on the other hand, on Tuesday lodged a formal complaint with Delhi LG V.K. Saxena against the chief minister over his “unauthorised use of power and authority" after the AAP said he issued directions from the custody of the Enforcement Directorate. “Mr. Kejriwal is currently in remand and lacks the legal capacity to issue such directives without court's permission,” said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, BJP's national secretary.

Although the AAP maintains that legally Arvind Kejriwal can run the government from inside the prison, they are not articulate on how exactly that will be done. 

“There is no legal or constitutional bar for Delhi CM to run the government from inside. It has happened in the past in some cases. He can be allowed to hold cabinet meetings and other important work from the jail,” Bharti, who is himself a lawyer, told THE WEEK. “We are, however, asking the courts to annul the remand of the Delhi CM altogether.”

Bharti also dismissed fears of a big jolt to the AAP’s campaigning strategy in the absence of Arvind Kejriwal, who is the prime vote catcher of the party. “People are with Arvind Kejriwal. All these talks are speculations. The reality is opposite.”  

Some observers feel that if the AAP's “emotional” strategy convinces people that Kejriwal has been wronged, especially in an urban setting like Delhi where “voter's temperament changes frequently", then the arrest of the chief minister may go in favour of the AAP in the upcoming Lok Sabha election and the Delhi assembly elections scheduled next year. 

However, others are of the view that the emotional tactic will soon fizzle out. “The same pattern was there when Manish Sisodia was arrested. He was non-cooperative. But, when the truth came out, people eventually left their (AAP) side. The same will happen here also,” said Sanjiv Ranjan, assistant professor, Moti Lal Nehru college. 

A tug of war has begun in Delhi between the AAP and the BJP over Kejriwal's arrest. A mega rally has been announced at the Ramlila Maidan by the INDIA alliance on March 31. With Congress largely absent from the public discourse, the AAP is hoping to amplify the emotional outreach, an important part of their strategy, further from the platform. 

With voting in Delhi scheduled for May 25, the battle between the two parties is expected to become more stimulating in days to come. Which way the pendulum would stop remains to be seen. 

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