Soon it became apparent that for the BJP, more than anything else the election would be fought over Shaheen Bagh, the Muslim locality where a women-led 24x7 peaceful sit-in has become a wellspring of protests scattered across India in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and a proposed update of the National Register of Citizens. From cheap personal jibes to shockingly incendiary slogans, some of the political rhetoric — if one can call it that — that was a part of this election campaign could make the trash talk of pugilists seem like pleasantries.
The Election Commission served three-day campaigning bans on Union Minister Anurag Thakur and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma last week. Thakur had raised slogans egging on a crowd to “shoot the traitors”, while Verma asked Delhi voters to wake up and warned them that protesters who gather at Shaheen Bagh “will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, and kill them”. This week, Verma was banned again, for 24 hours, by the poll panel for calling Kejriwal a terrorist.
Amid the rabble-rousing, Delhi witnessed three incidents of gunmen — one said to be a minor — shooting at crowds in Shaheen Bagh and near Jamia Millia Islamia, also a site that has drawn anti-CAA protesters. Tellingly, the BJP
and the AAP
also warred over the identity of the Shaheen Bagh gunman. The family of the man has denied police claims of his father and his links with the AAP.
That youths with no direct link to the BJP or AAP are inspired to pick up the gun, while echoing majoritarian Hindu sentiments, tells its own story. The AAP has tried to distance itself from Shaheen Bagh and anti-CAA protesters, refusing to be identified as an anarchic alternative siding with “traitors” that the BJP paints it to be. The Congress, meanwhile, is nowhere in the race. A day before elections, Rahul Gandhi trends on Twitter — only after a verbal joust ended in Parliament with the Prime Minister poking fun at him.