It couldn’t have been more embarrassing than this for Aam Admi Party, in particular for Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia.
Exactly 36 hours after Manish Sisodia had practically declared victory for AAP, crediting it to Kerjiwal’s popularity in Himachal Pradesh where elections are to be held by year end, via a tweet, the BJP struck where it would hit AAP, its top bosses, Kejriwal and Sisodia, the hardest.
Call it a swift post-midnight coup by the BJP or an impromptu change of heart, or total disillusionment of top AAP leaders in Himachal Pradesh -- on intervening night of April 8-9, at around 1 am its state president Anoop Kesari, organization general secretary Satish Thakur and Una president Iqbal Singh deserted AAP to join BJP. The importance of it was formalised by BJP president JP Nadda at his New Delhi residence.
What was even worse for AAP—this was engineered by the man who Sisodia claimed was a sacrificial goat for the BJP, Anurag Thakur. In his tweet Sisodia had claimed that when elections would be four months away Union minister for I&B, Sports and Youth Affairs, Anurag Thakur, would be sent to replace incumbent chief minister Jai Ram Thakur. He implied that Anurag Thakur was only to face ignominy of poll loss and loss of two posts, union minister and chief minister in quick succession and consequently suffer loss of credibility and face.
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister seemed to suggest that he had more information and greater understanding of the minds of BJP central leadership than the BJP leaders themselves. What he didn’t know was that the next 36 hours were going to prove that he didn’t know his own ground as it slipped from under his feet.
Instead of entering into a war of words with Sisodia, the cricketer-turned-cricket administrator, turned four-time MP and union minister, Thakur seemed to go by the age old cricket dictum, 'let my bat speak for my game.’
Ultimately, he made Sisodia and Kejriwal suffer loss of face. Let’s see how.
On April 6, Kejriwal and AAP’s magic man, new Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann (who is credited to have brought an end to rampant corruption in Punjab in just a week’s time and who with help of an engineer friend built a wonder bridge with a projected cost of Rs 1.80 crore by spending only six lakh rupees) held a roadshow in Mandi, HP. But they didn’t care to give any space to their own local leaders in that roadshow, on the so-called Rath. Pride of local leaders who had toiled for long to make the event a success was deeply hurt.
The BJP leaders had noted that sentiment among the Himachal cadre of the AAP: two ‘outsiders’ hijacking the event, using the ‘insiders’ or those rooted to ground just as furniture. As AAP’s erstwhile HP unit president Anoop Kesari said after joining BJP: We were toiling for AAP for the last eight years but it neglected state party workers and there was disregard towards the people of Himachal Pradesh. During the rally in Mandi, no space was given to any leader from the state other than [to the] Delhi & Punjab CMs.
Kesari, an advocate by profession, is from Una, which is part of Anurag Thakur’s Hamirpur parliamentary constituency. It is believed that contact was swiftly established between the two, sub-regional and personal pride issues were highlighted, leading to a ‘change of heart’ of the former and mingling of minds between the all concerned.
The two top AAP leaders, state president Anoop Kesari, organization general secretary Satish Thakur along with Una president Iqbal Singh, drove quietly from Himachal, straight to Anurag Thakur’s New Delhi residence. They reached late, prior to midnight. From there the minister took them to BJP chief Nadda’s residence to announce their formal induction in the party.
The severity of shock in the AAP’s camp is indicative from the time it took for the party to respond and from the content of the party's response.
Sisodia now says that AAP was about to conduct an inquiry on Anoop Kesari as there were complaints against him that he allegedly indulged in loose talk with some women. The question is that if an inquiry was on its way, then how come Kesari continued to be Himachal AAP chief, and remained on his post even for the Kejriwal road show event. Kesari was their chief ministerial candidate in HP, just as Punjab state president Bhagwant Mann was their chief ministerial candidate in Punjab. AAP’s post-facto search for an excuse is clearly not up to mark.
AAP bosses erred on another count: in understanding the BJP and its organisational structure. They leaned heavily on rumours propagated by some sections that there was a power struggle in the BJP – Jai Ram Thakur vs Anurag Thakur. They also erred in thinking that since party chief JP Nadda was also from HP, he would have his own interests, favourites and priorities.
The BJP since 2014 is a new BJP and those challenging it need to observe better.
Sanjay Singh is a seasoned journalist who has worked in all formats of media: print, tv, digital. He is known for his field reporting and political analysis and commentary, particularly those relating to UP elections, assembly or parliamentary.
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