But why it is relevant to speak of imitation in the context of these two people? Modi had given a completely apolitical interview to Akshay Kumar in the middle of the heat and dust of the election season. While the whole nation was feeling the political heat as well as the summer heat, here was the man at the centre of it all, the man who should have been nervous and tense but was speaking about mangoes, canvas shoes, childhood memories and more.
The interview became the talk of the town and brought the ‘real’ Modi alive on people’s screens. When a larger than life figure like Modi spoke about the little things that make life interesting, the people lapped it up. Of all people, Kejriwal, who had used appalling words to describe Narendra Modi, chose to imitate Modi. Reading it correctly, it is a sign of surrender from a person who considered himself Modi’s competition not so long ago.
Coming to interview itself, as Delhi has come to understand, if there is one thing constant about Kejriwal, it is disappointment. Kejriwal’s interview barely registered a blip on the attention of the people across Delhi, let alone the country. Given the way Modi has ensured a paradigm shift in the direction and speed of India’s development story across domains, there was a genuine curiosity among the people to know what Modi, the man, is like. This organic curiosity was quenched by the Akshay interview. In contrast, there’s hardly anyone who is curious about how many hours Kejriwal sleeps.
There are some simple reasons for this phenomenon, apart from the obvious difference in the profiles of the two people involved. First of all, Kejriwal seems to think ‘marketing’ is everything while Modi does not. Modi, when he gave that interview, was already on the way to winning a historic mandate, as even his critics had noted by then. So, he did not have to resort to marketing while Kejriwal is perhaps at the lowest ebb of his political career at the moment, poised to lose polls, having already lost the people’s confidence.
There’s a famous quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln that it is power that is the true test of a man’s character. On this front, the way power has ruthlessly exposed Kejriwal is there for all to see. Having seen power as an end in itself, Kejriwal had very little idea what to do with it. As a result of his lack of vision, notwithstanding puff stories from friendly media houses, Kejriwal has left Delhi much worse than he received it.
On the other hand, Modi utilised the mandate he was given to pursue welfare schemes that benefited crores of people and to put Pakistan in its place. He has gone about winning international honours one after the other and led India’s rise on the global stage. No matter which issue one speaks of, Kejriwal’s policy of blaming others for his problems stands in stark contrast with Modi’s policy is focusing on solutions. Throughout his tenure as chief minister of Delhi, Kejriwal kept blaming the Centre of the Lieutenant Governor.
As opposed to this behaviour of Kejriwal, Modi said in 2018, four years after coming to power, that the UPA had left the economy in a much worse state than was known or imagined. So, Modi chose not to come out with a white paper on the economy, since for him, it was not about looking for who to blame but about how to correct the situation.
So, even if one considers that innovative brand building is important in contemporary politics, no matter how much gloss one applies on a bad product, it does not work. Without any serious governance achievement to his credit, Kejriwal is a product that cannot be salvaged by mere marketing. Moreover, even in his attempt to imitate, Kejriwal cannot keep his political self out of the interview. While Modi’s interview was completely apolitical which gave it a unique appeal, Kejriwal speaks about his government’s work in various sectors, a clear sign of what the interview was meant for.
There’s a fundamental difference between a doer and a mere talker, and that is the difference between Modi and Kejriwal. No imitations or gimmicks by Kejriwal will change this.
Kapil Mishra is an ex-AAP minister who fell out with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2017.