In 2017, following AAP's poor performance in Punjab and the BJP's sweep in Uttar Pradesh, Kejriwal consciously decided to minimise his attacks on his bete-noire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He continued with the strategy for a little more than a year. But with the BJP suffering a string of electoral defeats and anti-incumbency sentiment slowly “setting in” against the BJP government at the Centre, Kejriwal has renewed his attacks on Modi with the same level of acerbity as before.
“When Kejriwal changed strategy in 2017, post Uttar Pradesh poll results, the charisma of Modi was intact. You don't attack a leader who is popular because that will backfire. But when he is becoming unpopular, change the strategy,” a senior AAP leader told PTI.
The rising fuel prices that has resulted in anger among the people, the recent defeats in the bypolls and the opposition banding together against the BJP have prompted the change, he said.
On May 31, the day of the bypoll results in which the BJP won one parliamentary seat and one assembly seat of 14 constituencies, Kejriwal posted a carefully timed tweet in praise of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, the target of his anti-graft campaign during the 2013 Delhi Assembly polls and the Lok Sabha polls the following year.
Taking a swipe at Modi, Kejriwal said people were missing an "educated prime minister" like Manmohan Singh.
“…It's dawning on people now that the PM should be educated," Kejriwal tweeted, posting a Wall Street Journal article on the falling rupee.
This was a clear dig at Modi, reminiscent of his past attacks on the prime minister and reiterating doubts on the authenticity of his educational qualifications.
After the bypoll results became known, Kejriwal said the results were a reflection of people's anger against the prime minister.
The BJP had earlier lost Karnataka and the Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.
On May 31 itself, Kejriwal tweeted a video about people in Varanasi criticising the prime minister. He sought to link the CBI raid on state Health Minister Satyendar Jain's residence to steps the Delhi government is planning to take to reduce the charges by hospitals.
On the raid that took on place on May 30, he tweeted, “What does PM Modi want?”
A few days before that, on May 26, responding to a tweet on the performance of the Delhi government schools, Kejriwal said, “This is despite the obstacles created by the LG, the BJP and the PM. Congratulations to all students, principals and teachers.”
On May 22, he attacked the prime minister's insurance scheme on the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). “PM's crop insurance scheme is a complete fraud on the farmers. Its sole objective is to benefit some insurance companies,” the AAP chief said.
“Attacking a leader when he is popular will backfire. When the opposition is uniting against Modi, the bypoll results suggest that anti-incumbency is setting in, he is jumping on the bandwagon and mounting an attack,” said political analyst Sanjay Kumar.
AAP's Delhi unit spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said Kejriwal was a human being and was bound to hit back.
“How long will you push him against the wall? After all he is a human being, he is bound to hit back. They have not allowed the Delhi government to function,” he said.
“We also tried to use the strategy of minimising our attacks and instead focus on work, but the incidents over past one year reflect that the strategy has not worked,” Bharadwaj added.
He was referring to the recent raids on Jain's residence by the CBI, the interrogation of the chief minister and his deputy Manish Sisodia in the case of an alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash by AAP MLAs, the removal of Delhi government advisors, including Atishi Marlena, and the arrest of Kejriwal’s kin in an alleged irregularity in the PWD related work.