Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s recent no-holds-barred attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be a calculated move ahead of the 2024 election. A subdued Kejriwal had steered clear of personally attacking the prime minister after his party’s rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but the recent actions by investigating agencies against his trusted deputy Manish Sisodia and another senior Delhi minister Satyendra Jain have perhaps led to the volte face by the AAP chief. He shed all pretence of restraint when he called Modi “uneducated” and India’s “most corrupt PM” in the Delhi Assembly recently. The Gujarat High Court last week set aside a 2016 order of the Central Information Commission directing Gujarat University to provide details of Modi’s MA degree to Kejriwal and also fined the Delhi CM Rs 25,000. But the court order has not deterred Kejriwal, who has only intensified his tirade against the PM and asked whether the nation should not know its prime minister’s educational qualifications. AAP spokespersons subsequently trumpeting Kejriwal’s superior educational qualifications as an IIT alumnus only served to create a contrast.
The AAP leader’s recent criticism of Modi over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as Lok Sabha MP following a court order in a defamation case, and his party’s joining hands with Opposition parties who have been jointly demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Adani imbroglio, are indicative of his long-term ambition of becoming a national political player. He has never shied away from claiming that he is the only true alternative to Modi. His confidence has only risen after the spectacular performance of the AAP in Punjab. In a historic feat, it got five seats in Gujarat where it made its debut in 2022 and by virtue of bagging 6% of the vote in four states, Gujarat, Goa, Himachal and Delhi, it managed to get the tag of a national party. The BJP, on the other hand, is out to demolish the anti-corruption plank on which Kejriwal rose to fame after the Anna movement of 2012 by exposing his alleged role in the so-called Delhi liquor policy scam. With both Sisodia and Jain behind bars and unlikely to be released soon, the noose is tightening around Kejriwal, too. His attack on the PM and BJP, therefore, may be to create the perception of him being the victim of an insecure ruling party’s attempt to crush its most formidable rival. Kejriwal is the consummate politician, who knows that it is only optics that matter in the battle for supremacy.
The Trump factor
The indictment of Donald Trump by a New York grand jury on charges in connection with the payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels has only sharpened the deeply partisan divide in the US. Trump is the first former president in US history to be indicted on criminal charges, but it will not debar him from contesting the presidential election in 2024. With his conservative constituency backing Trump to the hilt, this indictment may only serve to better his chances of winning the Republican nomination in 2024. The Democrats’ cause will not be served by the indictment of the maverick former president over the hush money affair rather than more serious issues such as his role in inciting the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, the dealings of the Trump empire and withholding classified information after leaving office. Trump projecting himself as the victim of a Democrats’ witch hunt will only serve to increase his support base. He has already proclaimed that he will not get a fair trial in New York where Alvin Bragg was elected the state’s first Black district attorney. Trump’s comment is, no doubt, aimed at his largely white, rural, working class constituency but it will only exacerbate the racial tensions that have created so much disharmony and unrest in America in recent times. That a vast section of the American electorate is swayed by Trump’s braggadocio remains unfathomable but it is very real. The world's largest superpower is in for tough times as a Trump return to the White House now appears to be a distinct possibility, especially in the face of the lacklustre presidency of Joe Biden and his vice president Kamala Harris. There are interesting times ahead indeed for the world’s oldest democracy.