Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kejriwal-Modi meeting in 2010: "Reason" behind secularists' lukewarm response towards AAP in Gujarat?

By Rajiv Shah
Does Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal have soft-corner for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi? Though AAP’s unit in Gujarat vehemently denies this, the question is being widely debated among political circles and senior Gujarat activists, who have known Kejriwal ever since he was more of a right to information (RTI) activist about five years ago. The confusion is particularly worst confounded because they are privy to a little-known fact about Kejriwal – he had a two-and-a-half-hour long meeting, which, they recall, took place with Modi in 2010.
Informed sources have told Counterview that Kejriwal was “desperate” to have a meeting with Modi as part of his effort to gather support for India Against Corruption, which he wanted to form with Anna Hazare as the main face. “He contacted a few social activists in Gujarat for a tie up with Modi, but he failed, as the activists did not want to identify themselves with Modi. Then he tried it through his own channels in Delhi, via BJP leader Rajnath Singh, and succeeded in getting an appointment. The meeting was quite amicable”, the sources said, adding, “The meeting took place after he got disillusioned with RTI campaign.”
Following the meeting, Kejriwal told his “contacts” in Gujarat that Modi had offered his “all-out support” to Anna’s anti-corruption movement. “Thereafter, some BJP supporters joined the movement, which could not have happened without Modi’s nod. Kejriwal seemed quite impressed with Modi then and he felt that allegations against corruption of Congress leaders in Delhi could not be strong enough without Modi’s support”, the sources pointed out.
The sources said, the suspicion of Kejriwal’s “softness” to Modi is one reason why the AAP in Gujarat, which is led by senior social activist Sukhdev Patel, and has under its wings well-known anti-Modi campaigner, danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, is unable to rope in large sections of social activists who have spoken out against Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 communal riots. “This is because AAP has not clarified on major contentious issues, including 2002 riots, Modi’s role, efforts by the corporate sector to corner huge tracts of land for its gains, and so on”, an AAP insider said, adding, “This has caused confusion even in AAP ranks, too.”
The only time Kejriwal criticized Modi, suggest these AAP insiders, was ahead of the December 2012 assembly elections, when he called a press conference to say that if UPA government in Delhi was “Ambanis’ dukaan” (shop), the Modi government in Gujarat was “Adanis’ dukaan”. He cited various instances of corporate tieup of Modi with Adanis to show how this was so. “Thereafter, he has not spoken once”, says Sanjiv Bhatt, the IPS officer who was suspended from the service for taking up cudgels against Modi. Bhatt’s refusal to join AAP and criticism against Kejriwal on social networks is said to stem from this factor.
The suspicion about Kejriwal’s “softness” to Modi has come, say observers, at a time when the recent list of AAP’s most corrupt politicians “underplayed” Modi’s name, and AAP added Modi’s and Sonia Gandhi’s name as an afterthought. Many wonder why this has happened. Of course, AAP officially denies this, with its Gujarat branch spokesperson saying “Kejriwal named Modi along with Rahul”, wondering why did the media underplayed the reference to Modi is “difficult to understand”, adding, it “looks suspicious.”

Activists form Javab instead of joining AAP

Meanwhile, secular-minded social activists in Gujarat have regrouped under a new formation called Javab. Formed in January third week under the support of Delhi-based anti-Modi crusader Shabnam Hashmi, a statement issued by Javab, and signed by several dozen activists, talked of the “imminent danger of communalism” in the country in case Modi becomes PM. “The portends are dark already. As we inch closer to the elections, the fa├žade of development talk is forgotten and an unabashed Hindutva agenda begins to unfold. Uttar Pradesh is the best illustration of this”, it said.
“The fate of the avowedly communal political force, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is tied to its electoral fortunes in the state of UP. The arrival of Amit Shah last year as the BJP’s UP in charge coincided with the heralding of the old style communal propaganda. These are again – as earlier – matched by their real ability to foment violence, engineer riots, and drive vulnerable minority groups out of their homes and villages. Muzafarnagar burnt. But the entire belt of Western Uttar Pradesh remains on edge, the traditional unity between Jats and Muslims fractured because of cynical political calculations”, the statement reads.
“The manner in which activists have been targeted by registration of vindictive FIRs for pursuing the legal process in the case of 2002 pogrom; the muzzling of all dissent, provides a glimpse into the authoritarian vision of this communal force. Indeed, the very existence of liberal, democratic and secular consciousness seems to be under assault”, it pointed out, adding, “Activists, academics, artists, writers and social workers are coming together to form a National Platform for Secularism called Janvadi Vichar Andolan Bharat (JAVAB) with the twin agendas of countering communal forces in the forthcoming elections and advocating for a truly inclusive society, politics and economics.”
“This Platform will be guided by the sensibilities forged in our collective struggles for dignity of dalits, the rights of Adivasis and other marginalised communities (pastoralists, fisherfolk, landless wage labour, informal and casual labourers), gender justice, the battles of the working class, increasingly fissured and invisibilized; mobilizations for a more equitable and sustainable development, environmental movements, as well as the democratic aspirations of peoples everywhere in the country”, it underlined.

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