Even as a bitter war between the BJP and the AAP takes national centrestage, an unexpected battle appears to be brewing on the sidelines between two illustrious alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal .
Both Parrikar and Kejriwal are automatic contenders for comparison, given the remarkable similarity of their background, political rise and even sombre appearances. While Parrikar has a degree in metallurgical engineering, Kejriwal is a mechanical engineer.
Alumni of the IIT-Kharagpur (IIT-Kgp) have thrown a phalanx around Kejriwal, India's second IITian chief minister, especially after the country's first, Goa's Parrikar, made snide remarks against the Aam Aadmi Party leader earlier this week.
"Parrikar's comments are way too partisan and uncalled for. We are very proud of Kejriwal's achievements. What he has accomplished is truly historic," Silicon Valley-based Pran Kurup told IANS via email, perturbed by the comments against his 1989 IIT-Kgp batchmate.
Parrikar, a Bharatiya Janata Party politician serving as chief minister for the third time and an IIT-Bombay graduate, had claimed that he was embarrassed at being called an "IITian CM", after the Delhi "nautanki" (farce).
"Nowadays, I don't want to be introduced as an IITian chief minister after the nautanki of Delhi," Parrikar's commented, referring to Kejriwal's dharna in the heart of the national capital demanding action against supposedly errant policemen.
Incidentally, Parrikar, as well as pro-Narendra Modi yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who was also in Goa, had used the word "nautanki" to describe the Delhi chief minister's protest.
Another Kejriwal batchmate, Sanjiva Singh, a California-based entrepreneur, appreciated Parrikar's "good work", but quipped that he feels proud of the Goa chief minister being an IITian, even if the latter does not.
"His comment is politically motivated. What Kejriwal and AAP are doing comes closest in spirit and ambition to what our freedom fighters did to rid the country of the evil empire. I am sure lots of their activities were called Nautanki also by vested interests at that time," said Sanjiva Singh.
"Kejriwal's way was unorthodox but was warranted given the situation. You cannot expect to provide law and order to your citizens without police being under your control," said yet another batchmate, Vivek Singh, who is now a US-based business school professor.
Two years Kejriwal's senior, Shail Kumar, who is a past president of the IIT-Kgp alumni association, believed the Delhi chief minister was "fighting for the collective hopes and aspirations of Indians for a corruption-free, united, prosperous and peaceful India".
But perhaps the best takeaway anecdote about Kejriwal and his "style of functioning" comes from Kurup. His recollection of one ragging episode three decades old could perhaps help political observers get their assessments in order about Team Kejriwal and AAP as a phenomenon.
"In our first year during the ragging period, our seniors used to make us enact scenes from Sholay. Arvind was many-a-time made to play Gabbar Singh (from legendary Bollywood film 'Sholay') because of his command over Hindi. Little did we realize then as to what the future had in store for him," Kurup said.