Once labelled as a mascot of change, Arvind Kejriwal aka 'Muffler Man' has today become an astute politician who is competing to conquer the throne of Delhi.
Often dubbed as an 'agent' of the other side by both the Congress and the BJP, Kejriwal has remained at the centerstage ever since elections were declared in Delhi.
However, he has a daunting task ahead as he focuses his energies to ensure that the Aam Aadmi Party emerges victorious in the Delhi Assembly elections scheduled to be held on February 07.
His challenge is big as the elections are being held less than ten months after his party faced a crushing defeat in the hands of the BJP in 2014 General Elections.
An Anna Hazare protege, Kejriwal entered the political scene by feeding story-hungry media with numerous exposés and scams that were reportedly unearthed by volunteers of his anti-corruption campaign.
He vouched to bring in institutional reforms and transparency in public sector and earned accolades.
Kejirwal has so far, tactfully, maintained an image of himself that leaves his opponents with little ammunition against him.
But unlike 2013, 2015 is a tough challenge. Earlier, he had to mainly train his guns on the Congress and highlight the alleged scams, dwindling economy and low growth during their tenure. This time the main challenger is the BJP, a party that has further evolved into a strong force under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The party has fielded Kejriwal’s one time associate in the anti-corruption in Delhi — Kiran Bedi — to counter him. Once a fellow activist, Bedi today is his arch rival.
The former IPS officer is sharp-witted, experienced and a crusader in her own right, leaving Kejirwal with little arsenal to attack her.
Also, his short stint in the CM office and an abrupt resignation has done more harm than good to his public image. Also, his government’s progress report has many loopholes. The files, that he had claimed will expose the corrupt Sheila Dikshit’s government, could never make it to the courtrooms.
His proclamation that he is an 'anarchist' tag has also stuck to him and made him a butt of jokes. Also, internal dissent within the party with many senior leaders like Shazia Ilmi calling it quits has not helped AAP's fortunes.
However, if opinion polls are to be believed, then Kejriwal has an edge over BJP’s chief ministerial candidate with the Congress nowhere in the picture.
Delhiites seem to still prefer him as the CM. Also, the difference in the projected number of seats between the BJP and the AAP also remains thin. Furthermore, he has been persistently campaigning in Delhi for weeks and months now.
Unlike Kiran Bedi of the BJP, who hit the campaign trail just a couple of weeks before the election, Kejriwal appears to be well entrenched in the minds of the voters.
His popularity is evident from the fact that the BJP is using every trick in the book to emerge victorious. The BJP has also been compelled to rope in top union ministers and prominent MPs to halt Kejriwal in Delhi. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has raised the poll pitch and is holding multiple rallies in different parts of the city.
There is no doubt that Kejriwal’s U-turns and shoot-and-scoot based politics has incensed voters. To re-connect with them, he is now banking on an agenda of governance and is promising that he won’t run away and complete a five year term if elected.
In Delhi, the electoral pendulum can swing very quickly. A fortnight ago, the BJP was certain about its landslide win, but then came AAP’s ‘Paanch Saal Kejriwal’ war cry and situation appears to have reversed.
Undoubtedly, 2015 Delhi Assembly poll is a trial by fire for Arvind Kejriwal.