Thursday, 25 Apr, 2024
Politics 01-Apr, 2024

CVoter-India Today Asks Citizens: Does Kejriwal’s Arrest Change the Game Before Lok Sabha 2024?

By: Damini Mehta

CVoter-India Today Asks Citizens: Does Kejriwal’s Arrest Change the Game Before Lok Sabha 2024?

Source: Getty Images

At least 50% of the respondents from the CVoter-India Today Snap Poll believe the BJP-led Union government’s actions against Arvind Kejriwal are a clear indication of the party’s misuse of powers through central agencies. The move comes just a few months few the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

It's been more than ten days since sitting Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Delhi liquor policy scam case. The arrest has courted responses from international organizations such as the United Nations, and countries like the US and Germany appealing the government to protect rights of all and ensure fair, transparent, timely legal processes in the case. Back home, the arrest has seen opposition parties come together to hold a mega rally calling out the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for misusing central agencies for political purposes. Opposition parties, ranging from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) amongst others are alleging that the arrests are an attempt to weaken the opposition just a few months before the crucial Lok Sabha Elections. 

Public opinion on the arrest of Kejriwal, who the ED and BJP allege was involved in massive corruption in the implementation of the now withdrawn liquor policy, remains divided. Kejriwal’s involvement in the corruption case and the BJP’s accusations make for an interesting development given he entered politics on the back of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazzare. The move is also crucial as many view it as the BJP’s attack on opposition unity amidst Congress’ allegations of blocking its bank accounts, denting opposition politics through alliances, biased appointment of Election Commissioners and arrests of key leaders right before the polls. 

The election to the 18th Lok Sabha is less than two months away and with opposition parties fighting to stop the BJP’s third consecutive victory, attacks on opposition leaders and parties raise questions on the free and fair nature of the poll. CVoter-India Today conducted a snap poll on 27th March 2024 to understand public opinion on Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party Convener Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest. 

False Arrest or Genuine Case of Corruption?

Nearly 40% of the respondents believe Arvind Kejriwal was rightly arrested for his involvement in corruption. However a cumulative 50% of the respondents at an all India level were also of the opinion that the arrest is driven more by political motives than Kejriwal’s involvement in any corruption scam with 32% saying the arrest was an indication of Modi’s vindictive policy against opponents and 18.8% saying that the arrest was due to Kejriwal’s emergence as a threat for Modi.

Public opinion on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated war against corruption as the reason behind the arrest of Kejriwal found agreement with 45% of the respondents but 34.2% also felt that the arrest had nothing to do with Modi’s attempt to remove corruption. This might also point towards a perception in the public that Kejriwal’s arrest is a political move to weaken opposition before the elections.

Should Kejriwal Resign?

In line with the AAP’s election symbol of a broom epitomizing clean politics, Arvind Kejriwal’s image was also based on a clean and corruption free politician who rose to power on the back of its fight against the Congress’ massively corrupt union government from 2004 to 2014. More than half of the respondents surveyed believe that the arrest has dented Kjriwal’s image as an honest politician, which might emerge as a challenge to the party’s core politics based primarily on presenting an alternative clean form of government.

More than two thirds of the respondents who favor the opposition believe that Kejriwal should continue to run government from jail but as high as one third of the respondents in this group are also of the opinion that Kejriwal should resign from his Chief Ministerial post. Overall, the opinion of Kejriwal’s continuance in running the Delhi government is somewhat divided when considering the total respondents. 43.5% of the respondents think he should resign whereas 48.3% say he should continue to run the government from jail. 

Who gains most from Kejriwal’s arrest?

Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP is in direct contest with the BJP in states such as Delhi and Punjab whereas it might dent the latter’s prospects in some other states such as Gujarat by creating a third front. However, while AAP has entered into a seat sharing agreement with Congress in Delhi, Haryana and Gujarat, the alliance’s stability is questionable. AAP has been a direct opponent of the Congress in all these states and in Punjab and has dented its prospects in past Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Moreover, whether or not seat sharing translates into support on the ground is another major concern. In this backdrop, CVoter-India Today asked respondents who will benefit the most from Kejriwal’s arrest. Public opinion on this remains equally divided. 42.3% of the respondents think that Modi will get support for his war against corruption after this stern move whereas 39.2% think AAP and INDIA grouping will gain sympathy from the arrest so close to elections.

Can INDIA bank on this issue against BJP?

In the last few years, Congress, the principal opposition party, has largely failed to create any solid anti-incumbency narrative against the incumbent BJP government. The opposition INDIA grouping also appears to have failed in doing so with the major component parties often disagreeing on key issues, this leaves room for the BJP to strengthen its poll narrative of development under PM Modi’s leadership with no credible attacks from the opposition sticking with the people. 

CVoter-India Today snap poll asked respondents if the arrest of opposition leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren have given a big issue to the opposition INDIA grouping. More than half of the respondents agree that it is a strong poll issue to attack the BJP government against but at least 30% of those polled at an all India level do not think it is a big issue for the alliance to attack the BJP and Modi on.

Battle for Lok Sabha 2024

AAP and the INDIA grouping members have consistently attacked the BJP government over alleged misuse of central agencies such as CBI and ED against opposition leaders. They have often linked ED and CBI raids and notices with opposition leaders’ jumping ships to join the BJP wagon in order to save themselves. On the one hand, it raises questions on the BJP’s misuse of such agencies and their abidance by law, on the other, the involvement of such leaders in questionable acts also comes to the fore. 

CVoter-India Today survey conducted at an all-India level with a sample size of 1,360 shows that at least 50% of the respondents believe the BJP-led Union government’s actions against Arvind Kejriwal are a clear indication of the party’s misuse of powers through central agencies. However, 35.9% of the respondents do not agree with this allegation, coming close to the 37.36% popular vote the party received in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The arrest has raised several questions against the BJP government’s actions and has somewhat dented the capacity of the INDIA alliance with one of its main leaders behind bars. With hardly two months to go for the crucial Lok Sabha polls, the next few weeks will be a game changer for Indian politics.