Kejriwal's arrest could dent AAP's prospects in Lok Sabha polls

AAP supporters shout slogans in favour of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal outside his residence, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 21, 2024. An ED team has reached Kejriwal's residence Thursday evening, after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him protection from coercive action in an excise policy-linked money laundering case.
AAP supporters shout slogans in favour of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal outside his residence, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 21, 2024. An ED team has reached Kejriwal's residence Thursday evening, after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him protection from coercive action in an excise policy-linked money laundering case.

New Delhi | The arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Thursday night could not have come at a worse time for the Aam Aadmi Party, which is already grappling with the absence of its top leadership from action.

The party is eyeing at expanding its footprint across the country and has tied up with the Congress to contest the Lok Sabha polls against the BJP in Delhi, Haryana and Gujarat.

Kejriwal is the fulcrum of the party's Lok Sabha campaign and its star campaigner. The party is already feeling the pinch of the absence of its senior leaders like Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh.

Now the arrest of Kejriwal has landed the ruling party of Delhi in the doldrums.

On earlier occasions, whenever this question rose, the party maintained a tough stance saying it will fight it out, but there is no denying the fact that AAP's think tank won't find it easy to wriggle out of this problem.

The party's campaign in Delhi, where it is contesting on four seats and in Gujarat, where it has fielded candidates on two seats, is centred around Kejriwal.

In Delhi, the party's campaign is titled, 'Sansad Mein Bhi Kejriwal, Toh Dilli Hogi Aur Khush Haal' while in Gujarat, it is being run as 'Gujarat Mein Bhi Kejriwal'.

In Punjab, while the campaign is centred around state chief minister Bhagwant Mann, Kejriwal had been frequently travelling to the state, where the AAP is contesting all the 13 seats without an alliance with Congress.

At a press conference on March 19, Delhi Cabinet minister Saurabh Bharadwaj had alleged that there was a conspiracy to arrest Kejriwal since his questions were making the BJP uncomfortable.

Inevitably, a question arose, 'If Kejriwal is arrested, how will the party's Lok Sabha campaign proceed in his absence?'

Earlier this week, Bharadwaj said that "The face will be Arvind Kejriwal. He is the only face that people trust and love. The strategy will be formed once we reach that stage."

Before Kejriwal's arrest, the party, somewhere, at the back of its mind, was also hoping that he is not arrested considering his mass appeal and popularity, especially among the people of Delhi.

"The BJP also has a fear that their plan to arrest Kejriwal might backfire. Kejriwal's arrest could lead people to revolt against the BJP in the polls," a senior party leader had said when Kejriwal was being issued multiple summonses by the ED in an excise policy linked money laundering case.

Not only does Kejriwal's arrest threaten to derail the party's Lok Sabha campaign, it could have long standing repercussions on governance in Delhi and the Assembly polls next year.

For now, the party is maintaining a brave face and saying, 'Ladenge, Jeetenge' but the truth is that a bumpy road in the coming days awaits the 12-year-old party.

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