AAP’s domination continues, Flats Modi’s Communal agenda | Goldy M George
As predicted by most of the exit polls, Aam Admi Party (AAP) has once against swept off a convincing win in the Delhi assembly elections. However its tally has come down to 62 from 67 from the previous round.
Former civil servant and activist Kejriwal, stormed to electoral politics with the formation of AAP in 2013. Started as an anti-corruption campaigner, his election campaign remained focussed on the development work his government did in Delhi, especially in education, healthcare, improved public distribution system (PDS), lower electricity bills and free bus rides for women.
In the 70-member legislative assembly, different exit polls gave AAP between 47 and 68 seats. The result has come as a big disappointment for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which had hoped for some after-effects of the 2019 Lok Sabha election sweep in Delhi. Since the 2019 lok sabha elections, this is the fourth state in a row after Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand that BJP couldn’t form a government.
BJP’s aggressive election campaign
With a solid agenda of Hindutva, BJP approached the Delhi election riding on three major political moves after the last year’s general elections – disenfranchising Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), imposing a state of imprisonment for the masses of J&K and enacting Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Keeping in mind the huge scope of vote polarisation, BJP mounted one of the most aggressive state election campaigns in the Delhi Assembly polls.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah led the saffron brigade from the front. Desired to capture power the 22 years phase, Shah fuelled the planks of Hindutva and aggressive nationalism. The months leading to the elections also witnessed targeted attacks on anti-CAA protesters across the country, with specific targets in Delhi. By January Uttar Pradesh (UP) reached a high alarming level in unleashing counter attack on agitators, when according to media reports nearly 50 people were killed, while nearly 30000 have been arrested or detained in different phases. Most of these were Muslims.
During this phase Delhi equally witnessed the attack on students in Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a flood of verbal attack on the women sitting in the anti-CAA protest in Shaheen Bagh. The idea was to clearly create the rift of Hindu-Muslim vote bank divide.
In the initial phase Amit Shah conducted 33 meetings for 13 days and eight road shows. JP Nadda BJP President participated in about 54 gatherings. Between January 23 and February 6, Shah took full control of the campaign in his hand and campaigned for yet another batch of 13 days. He conducted 53 meetings and road shows. He even addressed the booth workers in Talkatora stadium and also did the door-to-door asking for votes and addressed booth workers in Talkatora.
Interestingly Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s campaign was at low ebb in Delhi this round. Modi addressed only one rally before the budget, and later campaigned in Shahdara in East Delhi on February 3. The PM also campaigned in Dwarka in West Delhi on February 4. BJP deployed almost all of its 70 union ministers, 270 MPs and leaders and Chief Ministers from various states, to deliver its campaign message on anti-CAA protests and nationalism.
This election also would be noted for the pitched verbal battled. The BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Parvesh Verma on an all time Hindu nationalist arrogance went on to declare Kejriwal as a ‘terrorist’. Another BJP leader and Union Minister of Information and Braodcasting, Prakash Javadekar on February 3 went on to say that there is ‘plenty of proof’ to establish that he is a terrorist.
This proves the paucity of understanding among BJP leaders and cadres on the very notion of terrorist. Since Modi has come to power in 2014 anyone who opposes the government policy is stamped as Pakistani, traitors, terrorists, urban-Maoists, anti-national. Criminal cases have been slapped on them under sections such as war against the state, sedition and other similar laws.
BJP conducted a massive campaign, roping in most of its 70 union ministers, 270 MPs and leaders and Chief Ministers from various states, to deliver its campaign message on anti-CAA protests and nationalism.
In order to take strategic mileage from the anti-CAA protest in Delhi and to criminalise the women sitting in Shaheen Bagh, BJP roped in Yogi Adityanath, the UP Chief Minister (CM). He campaigned for four days from February 1 to 4 addressing 12 rallies. Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari campaigned across Delhi, but his focus remained on Purvanchal voters, who constitute approximately 30-32 percent of the total voters in Delhi.
The issue often dominated the political discourse during the campaign, with many BJP leaders targeting the AAP, and the Congress, accusing them of ‘misleading people’ holding anti-CAA protests in Delhi.
The Voters voted off
This round the voter turnout was lower than the previous assembly election in 2015 at 62.59 percent. This is a sharp fall from 2015 elections which saw 67.12 percent voters’ turnout. Traditionally election experts access that a lower voter turnout indicates the incumbency factor being active. The trend of the current voter turnout is similar with that of the Congress when Delhi was ruled by Sheila Dikshit. In 2003 the turnout was 53.42 percent while it was 57.58 percent in 2008. Both the time it was Dikshit’s turn to be at the helm of power in Delhi.
In later elections people turned out in large number to oust the Dikshit government out of power. While in 2013 the vote percent was 65.63, it was an all time best with 67.12 percent in 2015.
BJP on the other hand assumed the repetition of the 2019 lok sabha scores in the beginning. It is to be noted that BJP’s vote share rose from 32.19 percent in the 2015 Assembly elections to 56.86 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The party was desperate for a victory in Delhi due to the previous failed to win or form government in three states. AAP retained this round with 53.63 percent, while BJP could bag on 38.45 percent of the total votes polled.
Delhi CM Kejriwal remained in the news throughout campaigning. The ruling AAP has retained power based on the successful implementation of at least some of the promises done during the previous election. Besides, they also devised a concept of a report card of the government and a crisp guarantee card for the future, town hall gatherings, intense use of social media and a unique campaign song to resonate across all constituencies. These varied election tactics focussed on one thing – brand Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi CM and the AAP chief.
It is the victory of the people who voted out the communal agenda that BJP envisaged that would create inroads to rule Delhi. It is they who still keep our hopes alive of the secular democratic polity in India. It is the victory of the women of Shaheen Bagh who have held the fort despite all odds.
However for Kejriwal and his team this is beginning of a new innings, afresh and has to address the key problems of the poor, marginalised, working class masses who have voted AAP to power. Any arrogance that AAP has won will lead them to more crisis and problems. The party needs to take it not just as the victory of their work but also as the loss of BJP and their nefarious agenda. The big question is: will the BJP take a leaf out of this Delhi election book and learn to engage in a free and fair secular democratic polity?