Realistically, does Congress have any answer to Modi & Kejriwal?

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The Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has decided to probe funding of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), saying that it has received complaints about them are trying to find out the foreign source of the money flowing in.

The AAP "welcomes" the move but demanding similar investigation against other parties as well.

But is why the step being taken now?

If the government decides to probe the funding on valid grounds, it has every right to do so. But the question is: Why did it decide to take up the initiative just just three weeks ahead of the Delhi assembly polls? The way the move is being made, one gets the feeling that the Centre is treating the AAP as a militant outfit which is trying to make a mark in mainstream politics.

The AAP's demand that the government should make equal efforts against all parties is a just one. A few days ago, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati got a super-bungalow in a posh locality in New Delhi and the event had an alleged backing of the Centre.

Modi & Kejriwal are two phenomena of the ambitious but disillusioned India

Similarly, other key leaders from important states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar get favours from the central leadership time and again, particularly when elections approach. But these issues are never announced in the public with a firm intention to tackle them. For the AAP, rules are different though.

Has Modi and Kejriwal rattled Congress?

The actual fact is that the Congress has been rattled by two figures in the opposition rank, namely, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. These two leaders have seen a meteoric rise in the last few years and have posed serious threat to the ruling party, which has so far failed to produce any magic to counter the aggressive opposition.

Neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been able to deal with corruption in his government to deal with the AAP's onslaught and nor the future leader, Rahul Gandhi, has been impressive enough to offer an alternative option vis-a-vis Modi.

Using state power because there is a lack of leadership?

The result is predictable. The Congress, which is in power, is trying to use the state power to meet the challenge thrown at it. Issues like 'fake encounters', 'CBI excesses' and 'probe against foreign funding' are becoming more central aspects of the struggle between the government and the opposition, something which is not ideal for a democratic system.

Will this ploy work? Modi and Kejriwal have undoubtedly captured the support of the urban classes, the well-off and moderate ones, which means the Congress has no other option but to depend on the poorer sections. But in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the presence of powerful regional leaders make it equally difficult for the Congress by playing the two eternal trump cards, namely, populism and secularism.

Modi and Kejriwal can't be just wished away

Crippled by a number of limitations, the Congress is pursuing a desperate 'pick and throw' policy. It is getting involved with an argument with Modi over the national heroes of yesteryear and now, trying to hit back at the AAP over financial matters. Why should it target only one party on the charges of financial irregularities and not face the challenges politically? Both Modi and Kejriwal are two phenomena of today's forward-looking but disillusioned India and they can't be just wished away by raising the same old issues of secularism and counter-populist measures.

Modi is definitely the better-placed of the two anti-Congress leaders by the virtue of his 12-year rule in Gujarat, but Kejriwal's importance is magnified by the fact that he is emerging into a political figure in the circles of Delhi, the very power centre of Indian politics.

Four decades ago, a man named Jayaprakash Narayan had rattled the Congress, even under a strong leadership. Can the grand-old party survive the latest wave of opposition this election season?

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