Kejriwal’s dilemma: Delhi MCD or Gujarat?

Arvind Kejriwal

Is it more important for Arvind Kejriwal to win the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections or to focus on making a sizable debut in the Gujarat Assembly polls? Delhi is Kejriwal’s karam-bhoomi and what is giving him his political raison d’ etre. But Kejriwal is dreaming beyond the borders of the national capital and is looking for a national footprint.
The first step was in Punjab and now he is looking to establish his party in other states. While it is no one’s case that the AAP is in a position to wrest Gujarat away from the BJP—for that is Prime Minister Modi’s karam-bhoomi—what Kejriwal is trying to do is to establish the party’s base in a third state and is eyeing the role of the principal opposition party in Gujarat. The way the votes fall, he will in all likelihood first make a dent in the Congress vote bank before he can breach the BJP’s bastion. And, isn’t this how he conquered Punjab? By first taking on the role of the principal opposition and then working his way onwards and upwards.
Moreover, he is still Delhi’s most popular face. The BJP has not zeroed in on a CM candidate and the Congress has more or less ruled itself out of that election ever since Sheila Dikshit left the playing field. So, even if Kejriwal loses the MCD, he still has a strong chance of retaining the capital when the Union Territory goes to the polls. Also, if he wins the MCD—and opinion polls claim that he will—then that might work against him during the later polls, for the MCD is a can of worms and it will take a while before he can resolve all the issues that plague it. These are the issues that will plague him during the Assembly polls. Hence some political analysts—myself included—are of the view that from Kejriwal’s point of view, it makes more sense for him to keep the Gujarat campaign going and not lose his first mover advantage, even if it means making the MCD polls second priority.
The Congress may have started late, but it has a strong cadre that had won the party 77 seats during the last Assembly polls. Gujarat has always been a fight between the BJP and the Congress and it is one of the few states where the party is still a player. To hand that over to the AAP on a platter would be a self goal and there are some who see the merit in Rahul Gandhi staying away from the Gujarat campaign for that ensured that he didnt become a poll issue and a stick for the BJP to beat the Congress with.
Note what happened after RaGa finally held a rally in the state. Suddenly, BJP leaders began talking about his beard, about the Congress track record on terror and so on. Before that, Kejriwal had dominated the poll narrative by talking about the Delhi model and focusing on schools and mohalla clinics, pitting that against the PM’s famed Gujarat model of development. And given that the BJP was facing 27 years of anti-incumbency, he is sure to have found some traction. But then, the Delhi MCD polls were preponed and Kejriwal’s attention got diverted. Clearly, someone in the BJP figured that it prefers the Congress rather than the AAP as the main opposition party, both in Gujarat and at the Centre. Which itself is a statement on the political whirlwind Arvind Kejriwal is fast becoming.