Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are not known to be friends. They have referred to each other as "AK49" and "psyc(h)opath" over electoral and administrative clashes. But the irony is that both these leaders have a great deal of similarity among themselves and represent a change in the nature of political leadership with which India is traditionally familiar with.
The tale of similarity begins from the fact that both reside in Delhi. But the biggest factor that puts the two leaders on the same side is their willingness to act out of the box. This is something that comes naturally to both Modi and Kejriwal despite the challenges that come with it.
Odd-even scheme: Kejriwal's gritty move
Take for example, Kejriwal's gritty move on the odd-even scheme to fight the dangerous level of pollution in Delhi. It is a plan that not many populist leader would contemplate for the political risk that comes with it is big. Kejriwal has every chance of facing a backlash if the odd-even formula doesn't pay off in the long run because of institutional failure. He would be the one to bear the brunt even if the agencies fail him in achieving the desired success.
His own carpooling would be dubbed a photo-op if the entire plan fails to fire. But yet the AAP leader took the initiative to leave a legacy behind-of a leader who genuinely tried to take on one of the most pressing problems that today's India faces which is pollution.
Modi's Pak policy: Flexible and determined
Similarly, Modi's policy towards Pakistan speaks of improvisation which various quarters believe to be inconsistent. The prime minister has continued with his efforts to maintain the talking channels with Pakistan despite all odds. His critics have dubbed his government's policy vis-à-vis Islamabad as weak but in reality, Modi's stand on Pakistan has been flexible.
Even after the terror attacks in Pathankot airbase, the prime minister's calling the militants as "enemies of humanity" shows that New Delhi is not ready to let the revived peace initiative with Islamabad go waste.
The effort to not identify Pakistan's various power centres as one and shut the door for progress in the bilateral relation by adopting a coercive diplomacy has been the hallmark of Modi's foreign policy. He also wants to show to the world that he genuinely believes in breaking the ice permanently with Pakistan. But this stand is not without the dangers.
Modi, just like Kejriwal, needs the luck to see the institutions back his personal initiative (like reaching out to Pak PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore) or else it would go down in history as a meaningless photo-op.
Modi, Kejriwal ready to take risk despite the challenges
The Modis and Kejriwals are leaders who act on their personal instincts. They represent a political culture which is not propelled by the whims of the high command and is thus flexible and at the same time, ready to take risk. This also makes them popular in the media as the latter finds their adventurist nature profitable in all weather conditions (whether they succeed or fail).
This two-edged equation with the media makes the task of both the leaders more difficult for they have to constantly raise the bars of their own performance so that they can lead the rest (Opposition and media). Not an easy job but so far, both the PM and Delhi CM have done their jobs exceedingly well. And both are clever to convey the message through their determination that they had always tried it. If it didn't work out still, it was the opponents who had failed them.
But then why do these leaders are at loggerheads?
But then why these two leaders, who essentially symbolise a post-Congress political culture in India, are not friends themselves despite the similarities?
The first reason is their geographical proximity. Had Kejriwal been the chief minister of some other state, the friction would have been lesser. But since the Centre and state government in Delhi often come face to face in matters of administration, the clash of personalities become imminent. Given the fact that neither of the two leaders are traditionally Delhi insiders also contribute to the clash in some way. For they are more result oriented and not ready to hide behind the façades of power centres and bureaucracy as traditionalists would have preferred.
Kejriwal needed a giant opponent to grow big
Another reason is that both are fierce competitors. Kejriwal, being a newcomer in politics, always needed a big-stature enemy to make a mark in the cut-throat competition that the Indian democracy presents. Initially, he had taken on former Congress chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit and defeating her in the 2013 Assembly polls did the AAP convenor's confidence a world of good.
Once the Congress became history, Modi was the obvious second choice for Kejriwal to erect his new enemy. He even contested against Modi from Varanasi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He lost the battle but even that loss was significant for Kejriwal's CV as a politician to show that he is not somebody who knows to retreat.
Both Modi and Kejriwal are ambitious leaders who want to leave behind a legacy. The pursuance of the Pakistan policy and the odd-even scheme despite the challenges has established the fact that these two leaders are ready to see things till the end.