NEW DELHI: The war is political and personal, even though the pretext is corruption.

The fight has assumed a “personal political dimension” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PM Modi usually does not enter the picture directly while Kejriwal, however, losing no opportunity to make it clear that the confrontation is direct, and that the Prime Minister is behind the almost constant attack on him at different levels.

AAP leaders are positive that the political war that has never ceased since Kejriwal became the Delhi CM, arises out of the personal.

Modi, they say, has not forgiven Kejriwal for:

1 . The huge defeat in Delhi, not once but twice with the BJP winning only three seats the second time around. That this came after PM Modi had thrown his entire weight into the Delhi elections is something that he has not been able to accept and since then the attack on the Delhi CM has been constant and systematic. Lt Governor Najeeb Jung was the first to needle the Chief Minister at every turn, effectively blocking decisions and openly challenging the authority of the elected representatives of the people.

2. The political again became the personal when Kejriwal took a cavalcade through Gujarat to expose the state government’s corruption and non-governance. As AAP leader Ashutosh told The Citizen, the attack on Kejriwal was “vicious” as his cavalcade was attacked, and he was detained by the police and made to spend time at a police station.

3. Kejriwal contested Varanasi directly against PM Modi. And though he lost this too was seen, as it was intended, as a personal affront by the Prime Minister who does not like being challenged politically.

The Congress is under attack too, but AAP leaders insist that PM Modi does not see Rahul Gandhi as a match but is certainly worried about Kejriwal’s ability to challenge him. As a senior AAP leader said, “he cannot deal with us as there is no corruption, so he really can only attack persons around us, or liquidate us.” Interestingly, AAP is convinced that the Principal Secretary under CBI investigation is a “totally honest man.” And point to the 11 whisky bottles and just 28 lakhs recovered from the senior officers bank accounts as evidence of this.

There is a certain anger within the top hierarchy of the BJP arising from the inability to silence Kejriwal. His latest remarks against PM Modi describing him as a “coward and psychopath” are seen as a challenge that the Prime Minister is not going to ignore. AAP can expect the war to intensify, but given the character of the Delhi CM and his close aides in the party, the response is a “bring it on.”

The CBI raid on the Principal Secretary, with the offices of the Chief Minister reportedly being sealed at the same time, has not placed the state government on the defensive. Rather CM Kejriwal came out with all guns firing, in a counter attack on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the basis of letters written to him and PM Modi by his own MP and cricketer Kirti Azad as well as Bishen Singh Bedi alleging fraud in the Delhi Cricket Association that he had had headed for a while. No action of consequence has been taken on the allegations of corruption made by the two top cricketers, with Kejriwal now claiming that the CBI raid on his Principal Secretary was basically intended to get hold of related files from his office. The Congress party that has also taken up the issue has now suggested that a Joint Parliamentary Committee be set up to investigate the cricket fraud, with BJP MP Kirti Azad as the head.

So instead of turning defensive the Delhi CM, characteristically, turned the tables on the government. Jaitley has been pushed to the defensive instead as is evident from a long post on Facebook where he has sought to defend himself against the charges. In fact currently the scales seem to be weighed against him as his own party MP Azad has said that his letters were not even acknowledged, whereas all that the CBI seems to have found against the Principal Secretary are a few bottles of liquor.

Kejriwal is a tough foe, particularly as he he does not succumb to pressure, and tends to respond by fighting back. He is a shrewd, intelligent politician with the ability of a Right to Information activist (as he once was) to dig out facts, and keep the ammunition ready. He does not hesitate to attack, as his tour of Gujarat and his decision to contest the Varanasi election showed. Jaitley is very close to PM Modi, in fact one of the troika ---the third being BJP president Amit Shah---that calls all the shots. Opposition sources insisted that Jaitley being a “careful operator’ will not run the risk of high profile decisions such as the CBI raid on the Chief Ministers office without clearance from PM Modi.

The Prime Minister, however remains behind the scenes and has taken exceptional care not to be drawn into a direct confrontation with Kejriwal. AAP leaders, however, insist that he is directly involved and supportive of the efforts on to stall governance in Delhi through the Lt Governor and the Delhi Police; or the attack on Kejriwal by the Gujarat government. Kejriwal on the other hand, does not lose the opportunity to attack the Prime Minister directly in deliberate tactics following from its belief that “the others are only doing what the PM wants them to.”