The arrest of Delhi’s deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an alleged liquor scam has triggered an expected political furore. The Opposition parties have rallied behind him, terming the CBI action as politically motivated in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

As expected the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is in power at the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that is in power in Delhi and Punjab are locked in a hostile war of words.

But amidst this scenario there is a need to revisit and understand the narrative of AAP being the ‘B’ team of the BJP that has always come up, ahead of the polls. This narrative has been particularly loud in states where the Congress and the BJP were traditionally in direct contest, and a rookie AAP has been trying to get a foothold. Most recently it was heard in Gujarat.

There are several questions around this narrative that call for deciphering, and there is no one view on them. Was there ever a kind of pact between the AAP and the BJP? If yes, what does the present scenario say? How are the present developments expected to play out in the forthcoming Assembly polls in states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana before the country goes in for the parliamentary polls next year?

One can recall that in May last year another AAP leader Satyendra Jain was put behind bars in an alleged money laundering case.

It needs to be stated that the Congress has been the most vocal about the narrative of the AAP being the ‘B’ team of the BJP. This was aired in the recent polls held in states like Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat. Does the party still believe so?

All India Congress Committee spokesperson Kuldeep Singh Rathore told The Citizen that, “It is pretty evident that till now wherever AAP has entered the election arena it has been to the advantage of the BJP.”

The exceptions that can be listed here are Punjab where AAP itself went on to register a landslide victory in March last year, and Himachal Pradesh where the rookie party remained a non-starter in the polls held in November last year.

But at the same time Rathore, while referring to the arrest of Sisodia said, “law will take its own course but prima facie it looks like an attempt to suppress the Opposition ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.”

When asked again about the Congress’ allegations in the past of AAP playing for giving an advantage to the BJP and now the same BJP allegedly targeting AAP, he said, “In politics, perceptions change with time.”

People who have been closely associated with AAP in the past have different takes on the issue. “This ‘B’ team narrative was played up by the Congress when the Anna Hazare-led movement on corruption and the need for Lokpal was on and the Congress’ political prospects were getting hurt.

Then it was the same Congress that supported the AAP in coming to power in 2013. Later AAP went on to register landslide victories in the 2015 and 2020 Assembly polls in the National Capital winning 67 and 62 of the total 70 seats.

It is true that AAP supporting the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and its national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s silence of Delhi riots have the message of the AAP peddling soft Hindutva. But the BJP has no tolerance for the AAP,” said a veteran political observer.

He further disclosed, “It was interesting to see both the BJP and the Congress harping on the same tune of the AAP being soft towards Sikh hardliners ahead of the Punjab polls. It needs to be understood in context of Delhi that the national capital was a stronghold of the erstwhile Jana Sangh that is seen as the earlier avatar of the BJP.

“The saffron party has been out of power in the National Capital for 25 years now. This is something that irks the BJP. At the same time it is finding it difficult to tackle the AAP that goes aggressive on issues of governance while not having any ideological baggage or mooring. As far as the Congress goes, the grand old party needs to realise that times have changed while it has fossilised with just 52 members in the Lok Sabha.”

Meanwhile, Professor Manjeet Singh who has closely witnessed the AAP’s growth in Punjab said, “What more proof is needed of the AAP being a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) larger plan. The leaders support the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. You support the abrogation of Article 370.

“Kejriwal flaunts his religious beliefs in worshipping Hanuman, and the party promises to make Uttarakhand international spiritual capital of Hindus ahead of the assembly polls there. The RSS wants bipolar politics where both parties espouse Hindutva platform so that one easily replaces another in elections if people want a change.

“They do not want multicultural, secular politics. They only want Right politics. Forces like the AAP are only brought forward to finish the Congress.”

He added that while the BJP wants to finish off the Congress, it also wants to retain dominance in politics vis-à-vis the AAP.

There is yet another line of thought among a section of the common people in Punjab who believe that the ongoing political developments in Delhi will help divert attention of the masses from the political scenario emerging from the fallout of the Hindenburg report on Adani group of industries as well as the incidents like the taking over of a Police Station by the radicals in Ajnala.

Meanwhile, the AAP leadership has come out with a sharp attack on the BJP following Sisodia’s arrest and also Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit saying that he would seek legal advice on allowing the Budget Session from March 3 onwards. The advice is being sought on the ‘derogatory and patently unconstitutional tweets and letter’ written by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann in response to his letter sent earlier this month.

Mann has stated that the Governors appointed by the Centre are acting as star campaigners of the saffron party in the respective states. He said that it is unfortunate the Raj Bhawans have turned into BJP headquarters for dictating the elected governments.

However, he categorically said that in a democracy it is the elected and not the ‘selected’ persons appointed by the Union Government who are supreme. He added that the AAP is a party of warriors who can do anything for the well being of people, and are not afraid of the misuse of CBI and Enforcement Directorate by the Union Government.

Reports say that the Punjab government has approached the Supreme Court against the Governor refusing to summon the budget session.

On Sunday, AAP’s Rajya Sabha member from Punjab Raghav Chadha said in a statement that the entire country is aware that only Kejriwal can defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the electoral battle and that is why the BJP is making all possible attempts to use the CBI and the ED to attack the AAP leaders such as Sisodia.

He said that on June 25, 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed an Emergency in the country and had introduced the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) under which opposition leaders and others were arrested. "Today, the CBI, ED and Income Tax are also working under the same law. I have no hesitation in saying that the CBI, ED and Income Tax have become the MISA law of today's era," he said.

However, he added that just like in 1977 when the people of the country dethroned the Congress party which was intoxicated with power, the same will happen in 2024.

Fireworks between the two parties were recently witnessed over the election of the mayor in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

After Sisodia was reportedly sent to CBI remand till March 4, the BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia went on to call the AAP a ‘Kattar Beimaan’ (fanatically dishonest) and ‘Arajak, Apradh Party’ (anarchist, criminal party) that neither respects the law, the Constitution or the people.