Arvind Kejriwal is the target of yet another attack by the BJP, this time for sharing the dias and a warm hug with corruption-tainted RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.
On November 20, during the swearing-in ceremony of Bihar’s new cabinet of ministers, a jovial Lalu approached Kejriwal on the stage, shook his hands and went in for a hug. Kejriwal, like most other politicians would do, participated in the hug. Lalu then raised his hand along with Kejriwal's to a rousing applause from the crowd.
This made for electrifying imagery for the BJP. The man who rode to the Delhi CM post on an anti-corruption wave was now standing with Lalu Prasad Yadav of the chara-ghotala fame, a politician who has been convicted by a court for corruption. With one image, BJP was attacking both Lalu and Kejriwal. Kejriwal is not amused, and has defended himself.
We’ll come to Kejriwal’s defense later. What’s interesting about this incident, though, is that this is the second time Bihar is witnessing such a political coup on dais. Last time, it was a Gujarati CM, accused of not doing enough during the riots in 2002, who was trying to whitewash his image by standing along with Nitish Kumar, who had a secular image.
In 2009, Narendra Modi seized a brilliant opportunity when and shared the stage with Nitish Kumar, who was slowly growing more and more averse to the Gujarat CM. He raised the Bihar CM’s hand as a sign of victory and companionship to a large campaigning crowd, even as Modi did not give his fellow NDA leader any choice in the matter. You can read about how Modi engineered the event in this article by Sankarshan Thakur.
This move had far reaching political consequences. Kumar was already gaining a sense of cynicism when it came to his saffron-clad fellow politician. And with this move, the domino effect began that eventually culminated into the split in their alliance and a massive defeat for the BJP recently. For Modi, it was a fastidious attempt to project solidarity with a political peer with clean image, whether there was real solidarity or not. For Kumar, it was absolute and wretched arm-twisting.
And now, six years later, we have a Déjà vu moment. Lalu Prasad Yadav, at Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in, hugged Arvind Kejriwal in a similar manner. Kejriwal, in his defense, has stated that it was Lalu who pulled in him for a hug. The Delhi CM also attacked Lalu’s ‘dynastic politics’ and condemned his ‘record of corruption’. Kejriwal also said this, “I am happy that questions were raised by people on this. That means people expect us to be clean. It is when people stop expecting honesty from us that we have lost their trust.”
Kejriwal: 1, BJP: 0, Lalu: -1.
With inputs from Manek Kohli.