NEW DELHI: “Aisa lagta hai Modiji bilkul pagla gaye hain. Desh ke PM ko bas ek yahi kaam reh gaya hai. Haath dho kar peeche par gaye hain” (It seems as if PM Modi has gone mad, and he has only this work left to do. He is totally after us) read a tweet by Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal in response to news of CBI cases being filed against his deputy Manish Sisodia and others in the party.

Sisodia himself responded by saying that he would be waiting for the CBI teams to visit him, at his office or home. Do come, was the gist of his message. The case has been filed for alleged irregularities in the “Talk to AK” program run by AAP. At least 19 legislators of AAP have been arrested as have senior officers working with the Delhi CM.

Clearly Kejriwal is a prime target for the BJP, as he is giving them grief in states where the Congress is on the wane. Despite its eroding popularity in states like Gujarat and Goa, the BJP would have been on firm ground had it not been for the presence of AAP that will be fighting the elections in these states. The Congress on the other hand, has been unable to revive substantially in either state and has wilted under the sustained attack on it by PM Modi and the BJP in these two poll bound states.

Kejriwal is also giving a good fight by all accounts in Punjab, particularly in the rural belt where AAP is drawing traction. Although it is difficult to say to what extent the party has made inroads into the electorate, it has drawn attention and support from the rural Punjab farmers who are fed up of the corruption of the Akali Dal, and do not look upon either the Congress or the BJP as a feasible alternative.

In Goa again AAP is seen to be ahead of the Congress, giving an almost direct fight to the BJP.

Success in Punjab and Goa will open the route to Gujarat for AAP, with Kejriwal already in touch with disaffected leaders of the state like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani. Gujarat will go to the polls later this year and AAP will again be the new entrant in a state that PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah regard as their bastion.

A victory in Punjab in particular, will give AAP a base away from Delhi where the government has no real powers, and is being controlled on a daily basis through the office of the Lt Governor. The systematic attack on the party and the government that CM Kejriwal has referred to in his tweets any number of times has however, failed to curb AAP that is a factor to reckon with in the two states it has focused on for the elections.

Interestingly, in clear strategy AAP is focusing only on the states where there is no third party, and where the BJP is in direct competition with the Congress. This is sound thinking, as since the BJP won the general elections in 2014 it has managed to secure states only where its contest has been directly against the Congress. In states where there has been a third contender in the form of regional parties, the BJP has lost the polls. Bihar is an immediate example with the BJP barely registering a presence in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala in the Assembly elections.

AAP’s emergence thus will threaten the BJP more than the Congress at this point, as the latter is on a low ebb anyways. PM Modi who had worked assiduously to discredit the Congress before and even more so after coming to power cannot be particularly happy about the AAP emerging as a challenge in the states he had thus tried to secure. He knows as do the other political parties that if AAP is able to get a respectable tally in Punjab and Goa it will move fast to expand in other states like Chhatisgarh where currently the BJP is in government.

CM Kejriwal is blunt and even audacious in his views, and has from the very beginning been taking on PM Modi directly. He does not speak off the record, and as he himself says, if he has something to say he will say it. This has become the way of AAP as well. And the attack has thus, moved to Sisodia seen as the CM’s confidante, and right hand man on whom he relies completely.

It has not been easy going for AAP and Kejriwal, as the arrests were intended to ensure that no one joined his party or his government. This, however, does not seem to have worked as the party had no dearth of candidates in Punjab and Goa although it has still to declare its chief ministerial candidate. But as AAP sources said, there is no rush and the results will throw up a CM with the results.