But the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi as the second-largest party and its forming the government with the Congress's support brought a new twist in the tale which was looking to have a predictable ending. From a dual contest between Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the next Lok Sabha elections now look more of a triangular contest between the BJP, AAP and Congress with the third looking a distant comeptitor.
How is this sudden twist going to affect the BJP and Modi? That the party is a bit rattled by the emergence of Arvind Kejriwal is evident from the way it is attacking the AAP-led government in Delhi. BJP leaders were heard saying "an industrialist brokered a deal between the AAP and Congress" and "Sonia Gandhi appointed Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister of Delhi" and even party president Rajnath Singh was heard saying "don't look for other leaders but Narendra Modi" at a rally in Ranchi on Sunday where Modi was also present. Singh also congratulated Anna Hazare for the success of the fight against corruption.
On the part of the AAP, Kejriwal said after taking his oath as the CM that the BJP's chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan was a nice person but not his party. So, there is definitely an intense battle taking shape between these two parties which are competing to get control of the vacuum left by the Congress's serious decline.
Now, who has an advantage in this battle? In terms of electoral base and reach, the BJP led by Modi is definitely the stronger competitor but that is not to say that Kejriwal has no chance. Instead, he can ruin any sort of prediction and calculation and make the unthinkable happen. The contest between the BJP and AAP is essentially one between the traditional and the trendy.
Advantages of Arvind Kejriwal over BJP/Modi:
1. Kejriwal is more a leader of the common man than the traditional politician, who becomes an alien the moment he takes oath. The intellectual sections who follow certain standards of morality are certain to back Kejriwal more.
2. Kejriwal has no ideological baggage to carry and that makes him a dear to the liberal-minded people, including the youth. The methods of simplicity and populism are Kejriwal's biggest assets with which he has managed to win the media's focus as well. Modi, on the other hand, is more of a prisoner of an ideological camp and had to do a lot of hard work to get over it to present himself just as an administrator who believes in development and objectivity.
3. Kejriwal isn't a polarising figure like Modi since he has not been a politician. Modi has a past which is still chasing him, despite the judiciary's clean chit. Many still are not convinced about his acceptability as a pan-Indian leader. Kejriwal, on the other hand, has a better acceptability from the very beginning for he had a moral backing of the 'suffering Indians'.
4. Modi's emergence has been benefitted by a negative mandate against the Congress's inefficiency. But Kejriwal's emergence, although was on a negative mandate initially, but gradually symbolised a positive vote in favour of a change. This is a crucial difference between the cases of Modi and Kejriwal.
5. The timing of Kejriwal's rise is also significant. It looks where Modi took a lot of time to reach, Kejriwal reached in a flash. It signifies the inner complications of the party politics, both within the party and the polity. Kejriwal has no such problems and since he is also the leader of a new and successful movement, he has little worry of facing any challenge rising from within, at least before the next Lok Sabha polls.
6. If the AAP manages to get 30-40 seats in the next LS polls, it will put a serious threat to Modi's mission to form the NDA II at the Centre. Modi, who has been targetting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi all this while, will have to find a new strategy to take on the new challenger. As of now, his party is doing all the talking on Kejriwal.
Advantages of Narendra Modi over Arvind Kejriwal:
1. Modi has reached the stage of taking off, unless there is some unpredictable roadblock ahead. He has prepared the ground with his positive image of an administrator, tactician and an alternative leader of the nation. It is difficult to imagine that his supporters will suddenly desert him in favour of a yet-to-be-tested Kejriwal.
2. Modi has successfully led his party to do well in four crucial states, which is an indicator of what is coming in another four months time. It is because Kejriwal's meteoric rise is a better food for the television business that we are seeing less of Modi nowadays. But the man's leadership and his party's organisation are potent forces which can't be overlooked.
3. The AAP's organisational extent is still at a nascent stage while the BJP is a national party. Modi's overcrowded rallies across the nation show his popularity. The AAP is still planning to expand its base elsewhere and there is no guarantee that its 'simple politics' can work equally well in far-off states and areas of the country where a democratic system acknowledging communities and not individuals are at play.
4.The AAP-Congress government in Delhi also gives Modi and his party a slight moral advantage. Kejriwal would also have felt the same but he did his best to minimise Modi's lead by taking a fresh public opinion on whether to take the Congress's support or not. But still, Modi's anti-Congress crusade maintains a lead over that of Kejriwal.
5. Modi has given a bigger alternative vision to the people than Kejriwal and it has been made possible by his long stay in administration. He has more anecdotes to offer to the people than Kejriwal, who has just come to power and is still dependent on idealistic talks.
6. Modi's pro-market administration is also an advantage over Kejriwal's statist economic visions in the long run.
No matter what the advantages or disadvantages are, it is undoubtedly an even contest between Modi and Kejriwal, both of whom are heroes in the eyes of the urban and educated class. We have interesting times ahead. Let's hope for an absorbing battle.