That no matter how many times Rahul Gandhi has dinner with a Dalit, no matter now many times he tells Niyamgiri tribals he is their sipahi and no matter how many times he travels by a Mumbai local train, if India wants a common man, it will choose the original. Arvind Kejriwal.
Arvind Kejriwal has done everything that Rahul sensed he needed to do, but could never execute. He knew, as he had said so famously, the Congress needed to change in ways we cannot imagine.
Yet he never could stay the course.
Instead Kejriwal did, learning from his 49-day blunder. Here are some things he did right, which Rahul can learn from, should his party give him another chance to take it down.
#1. Kejriwal took on Narendra Modi in the General Elections in a very difficult constituency. Rahul Gandhi stayed on home turf and relied on his sister to extricate him from a tough fight against Smriti Irani. Voters respect courage, and Kejriwal showed it in spades.
#2. Kejriwal stuck to his common man image. Despite hiccups like business-class travel to Dubai and a peculiar attachment to an official bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi, the IIT-educated-former-IRS officer showed consistency in his messaging. Rahul is inconsistent, and despite the fog surrounding his many private trips abroad, it is clear that his simplicity is a very expensive construct. It is possible to be a cosmpolitan common man, but that man is not Rahul Gandhi. That man may well be a Magsaysay-award-winning-RTI campaigner and father of two who watches Baby on his day off with his party workers.
#3. Kejriwal apologised, repeatedly. This is very important. When given a chance to run Delhi, Kejriwal blew it the first time around. But since then he has apologised to almost everyone he has ever met. Has Rahul apologised even once to his party, or his leader, for his lack of persistence?
#4. Kejriwal perfected the art of the jan sabha. Sadly this is a tactic Rahul had first tried out in Uttar Pradesh, but then forgotten about. Of course, it is difficult to replicate on a national level, but Kejriwal showed that jan sabhas are light on their feet, easy to execute and inexpensive to stage.
#5. Kejriwal engaged with the media. He gave interviews, welcomed debates which his opponent Kiran Bedi shied away from, and consistently steered clear of negative campaigning even though, as he says repeatedly and astutely, he was called a bhagoda, a chor, a Naxal, a forest dweller. He is on twitter, sometimes with a too happy finger on the trigger, but he seems accessible, available and alert.