Once in rare while, through sheer happenstance, you get a big break. Like we did the other day, eavesdropping on a conversation presumably between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia. Unable to resist the temptation to overhear what the two, and only, bosses of the Aam Aadmi Party talked over what otherwise were supposed to be secure landlines, we must confess we heard them for some fifteen minutes until the MTNL connection snapped as abruptly as it had got entangled with our line.
Below we reproduce to the best of our ability what we presume was a long conversation between the two dignitaries. Apparently, each morning Delhi CM and his deputy start the day comparing notes about the day gone by and plotting the moves for the day ahead. And, crucially, decide as to who to attack next —the LG, Police Commissioner, Narendra Modi, BJP, et al. On the day we supposedly overheard them, the apocryphal dialogue went something like this:
Arvind Kejriwal: Manish, I am telling you we can under no circumstances take Kirti Azad even if you say he is ready to become the head of our Bihar unit. Don’t anger Nitish. Let him dream the prime ministerial dream, phir hum apna haath dikhaye gey (Eventually, I will reveal my hand.) Meantime, string Kirti along for some more time. Let him throw some more muck at Jaitley.
Manish Sisodia: Arvind, you are right. In no case should Nitish get the feeling that you harbour ambition to lead the all-India grand alliance. Let him think he is the natural choice for leading the challenge against Modi. I agree with you. Yeah, I will find some excuse to get Kirti off my back. Yes, will prod him to come up with something new. Frankly, all he said at his press conference against Jaitley was old hat.
AK: Arrey, humey kya? Jaitley was the only one in the BJP who was squeaky clean. Kiriti has been parroting the same charges for over a decade. But only when Arvind Kejriwal threw them at Jaitley did it have national impact. I am telling you, after you take over from me, I will play my ultimate card and replace Modi. If Jaitley can be destroyed, what is Nitish?
MS: Arvind, you do not have to say it. I am always alive to the ultimate goal we have to attain. Not for nothing did we raise the publicity budget over 20 times. Arvind Kejriwal ka naam aur chamkeygey. But I must say I was a little upset seeing the debate on that Hindi channel last night. Although I have personally assured the krantikari anchor a Rajya Sabha seat, he unnecessarily allowed that BJP Kohli to rebut our spokesperson about…
AK (cutting MS short): Nahi, nahi, our chap was wrong in allowing (Nalin) Kohli to make his point. I have repeatedly said that our spokespersons should not only say what they want to say, but they must ensure that the spokesmen of the BJP and even Congress are not allowed to speak. And if they do, they must drown their voices by speaking louder when the latter speak. You must tick off Ashish (Khetan). For at least 20 seconds last night I could clearly hear what Kohli said on that English channel of Arnab (Goswami). You know that I sit at home in the night and see these debates and send SMSs to our fellows to say what to say, but sometimes they fail to do their job.
MS: I’ll talk to Ashish right now. How could he have allowed them to be heard? But Arvind, this Jaitley has filed a civil and criminal defamation case. What do we do? Kirti’s charges do not in any way implicate him. Even otherwise, these were investigated by the UPA and they did not find anything serious…
AK (cutting MS mid-sentence): You do not understand. Hum ney jo karna tha kar diya (I have done whatever had to be done). Even if there is nothing in the charges, so what? Some people who do not know Jaitley might think there is something wrong. Aur case ka kya hai? It will go on for years. And we do not have to bother about lawyers’ fees. Jetha will do it free. Uski Jaitley sey personal khundak hain (He bears a personal grudge against Jaitley).
MS: Par mainey suna hain ki Jethmalani might want a Rajya Sabha seat when his present term ends. Tab kya karey? Hum ney to Ashutosh, Chaddha, Priti Menon, krantikari anchor aur ek TV key maalik ko already promise kiya hua hain (I am told that Jethmalani might want us to reward him with an RS seat when his current term ends. What shall we do then? We have already promised Ashutosh, Chaddha, Preeti Menon, krantikari anchor and a TV channel owner.)
AK: Manish, you do not understand me, even though we have worked together for so many years. What do we lose if we promise Jetha a seat? So long as each person we promise is told to keep it a secret so that there is no pressure on us, we are fine. I too have promised two more people RS seats, including the person who arranged some money. When the time comes I will decide. It is good that till 18 January there is no election to the Rajya Sabha. Till then we can string along all these aspirants. Do not let it bother you. At that time if those who do not get it can leave the party. So what? Look at what has happened to those two kaminey (lowlifes) Yadav and Bhushan. Koi dana nahi dalta (nobody cares a fig for them).
MS: Aisa nahi hai, Arvind. Entire media used the statement by Bhushan that you should not have given Rajendra Kumar the post of principal secretary when there were allegations and Transparency International had written to you.
AK (raising his voice): Manish, tum kuch samjhtey ho, key nahi (Manish, do you understand anything)? How many times have I told you that Rajendra and I go back to our IIT days? We are like family members. I cannot leave him. Aur CBI ney raid kar key dekh liya na? Poori Parliament khadi kar di Modi key khilaf (What did CBI achieve by raiding Rajendra? The entire Parliament was lined up against Modi exploiting the raid). Politics is all about manoeuvring and skullduggery. I got the entire focus turned to Jaitley. You are still a child in politics, Manish. How to thrive in politics you should learn from me. Kejriwal hoon aur bhi Haryaney ka (I am a Kejriwal and that too from Harayana).
MS: Honestly, I have always treated you as my guru. Thanks to you a minor journalist like me has become Deputy Chief Minister of the national capital. Why me, that fellow Dilip Pandey, who used to do small errands for us in our NGO, is now the convener of the Delhi AAP. But at least to Ashish you have given a good post. Ashutosh must be feeling cut up that he could not even head the Delhi unit.
AK (interrupting MS): Hey, listen, tell me what to do with Rajdeep. Today he has written that I should concentrate on governance. These English language journalists are not amenable to our blandishments. Even though he is against the BJP but occasionally he has started writing against AAP as well. See if there is any way to soften him. By the way, nominate some more journalists to college and other official bodies.
MS: No, it is not like that. Rajdeep might want to come to the RS from Maharashtra. He comes from the state. Even otherwise, even if TV channels and newspapers might be against the BJP but they are getting to be critical of us also. It was only Shekhar Gupta who had the good sense to put Arvind Kejriwal in the same bracket as Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi. But as Rajdeep said, educated classes are now saying that we should pay heed to governance.
AK (speaking angrily): Governance, governance. It is never easy to govern. Bureaucracy, police, others do not change. Even people refuse to change. See Delhi roads. I was in government. I know my bosses were unhappy with me. Even my CR (confidential report) was bad. You know I was running an NGO with you while still in government. No Chief Minister or Prime Minister can convince people about governance because the bureaucracy refuses to change, system does not change. Let us provide some more freebies like wi-fi, more subsidies on water, power, etc., but to stay relevant we will have to keep chanting so-and-so is corrupt, criminal. Otherwise, like Rajdeep, others will begin to demand governance.
MS: Arvind, you are being harsh on yourselves. We have done a lot of work already. According to our ads on radio, TV and newspapers, at least our supporters in jhuggi-jhopris have bought our line that though we want to work, Modi is not letting us work.
AK: This might well be true of people in jhuggi-jhopris and even of auto-rickshaw drivers, but I am telling you the middle class has dumped us. The other day I went to a Christmas lunch party in a fine-dining restaurant next to Lodi Garden and the people there were all South Delhi-wallas. I was so angry, nobody took notice of me. After all, I am the Chief Minister of Delhi and they continued merrily gossiping, drinking gin and tonic or whatever. I felt so small, I left in five minutes.
MS: Arvind, this is the constituency we have already lost. People do not want you to now throw stones at others. Now they want action, governance. I too will try, but the system does not lend itself to change.
AK: You do not lose heart. We have won Delhi. And the next elections are not due for over four years. Let us try and win Punjab. By the way, that fellow Mann (AAP’s Lok Sabha member Bhagwant Mann) is getting too much publicity. I do not approve of this. Focus should always remain on Arvind Kejriwal. He should know that I have already suspended two Punjab MPs. He should be careful. Incidentally, we must raise party funds. We will need them to win Punjab. Other parties on coming to power have no problem collecting funds. Only we have some problems.
MS: Arvind, we are bound to face problems collecting funds. In the Delhi polls, we got those four benaami demand drafts of Rs 50 lakh each and that led to an inquiry. Big donors are now afraid to contribute, especially with Modi at the Centre. Again, after the raid on your principal secretary no bureaucrat will help us get funds. Yet, I will do my best. A win in Punjab is absolutely essential for Arvind Kerjiwal to become Prime Minister. I will leave no stone unturned to collect funds.
Now, before we could hear what Arvind said next the line got cut. But we believe that, though entirely apocryphal, the above conversation broadly reflects the way the mindset of the top AAP leaders works. Happy New Year, friends! Keep reading.