Just a few weeks ago the field was clear with no opposition in sight. Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi were riding high as the Congress was unable to mount a challenge weighed down by allegations of massive corruption, misgovernance, policy paralysis, weak leadership and electoral debacles. The battle seemed to be going Modi's way even before the bugle had been sounded.
As the BJP had already decided to turn the elections into a presidential form by putting all its money on Modi and Congress nowhere in the fray, a political greenhorn with a shrewd intellect decided that there should be no one way traffic.
This man, who caught India's imagination during the Lokpal agitation by Anna Hazare in 2011, had already stunned the political class and pundits alike with his party's superlative performance in Delhi Assembly elections just three months back.
After decimating the Congress and puncturing BJP's march in Delhi, bureaucrat-turned-social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal went on to become the city-state's youngest chief minister, albeit for just controversy-filled 49 days. Yet, the massive support for his Aam Aadmi Party and his brief stint with power convinced him that he was ready for the big battle of Lok Sabha elections.
Not known to shy away from taking an adversary head on, Kejriwal had in the Delhi elections humiliated incumbent chief Minister and Congress stalwart in her bastion of New Delhi by 25,864 votes. With Congress struggling to find enough candidates to contest and challenge the BJP, Kejriwal has once again decided to play for the maximum.
Even as Modi and the BJP have been targeting Congress's biggest leaders - Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia - it is Kejriwal who has gunned for Modi. Without batting an eyelid, the maverick Kejriwal announced he would contest against Modi from whichever seat the BJP leader decided to try his luck from.
In one stroke and statement he has become the biggest talking point even as BJP dismissed him as another wannabe who wanted his two minutes of frame. But Kejriwal completes the presidential election paradigm perfectly.
With Congress not willing to challenge Modi directly, Kejriwal has found the perfect setting to take aim at the biggest available target. After BJP announced that Modi would contest from the holy city of Varanasi in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kejriwal too said that he would go to the city and decided after taking into account the people's views, a strategy employed by the AAP with great success in Delhi.
In the last few weeks, Kejriwal has been to Gujarat claiming that the state was not as developed or corruption-free as claimed by Modi. In rallies after rallies, Kejriwal has taken of Modi and tried to find loopholes in his claims. He has gone on record to state that India needs a much better choice that Modi and Rahul Gandhi.
From 2002 riots to the Gujarat model of development to his stand and reported closeness to big business groups, Kejriwal has used every available opportunity and ammunition to target Modi. In fact the belligerent Kejriwal has even targeted the media for what he called was its pro-Modi stance.
On one side is Modi, a leader who has won three consecutive state elections and has propelled his state on the path of development, while Kejriwal has already rewritten the rules of the game much to the discomfort of the established players even though he heads a party of political novices.
Indian electorate in known to be extremely finicky and takes into account several factors like caste and community apart from local emotive issues. Kejriwal literally swept Congress out of power from Delhi focussing on inaccessible, insensitive administration and corruption. Now he hopes to replicate the same during Lok Sabha elections even as it is a proverbial David vs Goliath battle with a 1.5 years old party of volunteers pitted against a strong cadre driven organisation with some of the tallest political leaders of the country.
And Kejriwal is eyeing the giant slayer tag once again even if the odds are much higher this time.
More from this Section
October 5, 2015, 2:41 pm IST
October 5, 2015, 12:40 pm IST
October 5, 2015, 12:21 pm IST
October 5, 2015, 11:59 am IST