Why Delhi poll results are to be seen as polarised despite AAP's huge win

AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal waves from an open vehicle during a roadshow before filing his nomination papers for the Assembly polls, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI
The Aam Aadmi Party's huge victory in the Delhi Assembly elections is being seen as a setback to the BJP. That the electorate of Delhi refused to get swayed by the saffron party's virulent anti-Muslim tirade is in itself commendable. However, the fact remains that despite its remarkable achievements in delivering a host of services, the AAP could not prevent the BJP from registering a growth in its vote share. The poll outcome reminded me of a cynical remark made by a friend, who asserted that if the BJP manages to increase its tally beyond 3, the elections must be regarded as polarised.

Let us go back to the beginning. The AAP victory was being predicated even then. Our conversation with those who make it a point to cast their votes left little doubt that the ruling party in Delhi would win. A large section of the party's voters were, in fact, quite clear that BJP at the Centre and AAP in the state made a good combination. I tried to argue with one such voter that the BJP-led Central government had put up every possible obstacle in the path of the AAP government, so why would he still want it around, since it was AAP that had made life better and more  liveable for Delhiites like him! He had no answer but was sure that the man at the Centre knew better about things that he, the voter, should not bother about.

Voters in Delhi were confident that the AAP victory in the assembly elections wouldn't so much as serve as an irritant to the BJP, let alone rock its boat, as the saffron outfit was firmly and safely ensconced in power. An efficient delivery boy is all the electorate wanted. In the Delhi voters mindset, an ideology-agnostic party that does not impede the BJP's nationalist drive is tolerable. One must recall the stand of the AAP on the dilution of Article 370 and its ambivalent attitude towards the protests intimidated and led by students and Muslims against the CAA, NPR and NRC. The Delhi chief minister, not to be browbeaten by the BJP, went to extent of questioning the BJP's intent on Shaheen Bagh. Kejriwal, in fact, declared that he would have cleared it within two days had the police been under his control, and even challenged the Home Minister to arrest Sharjeel Imam! The very next day Sharjeel was picked from his home state in a move that seemed to play right into Arvind Kejriwal's hands. AAP would then argue that it did not want to take the focus away from the real agenda of improving civic amenities and boosting development. An idea of development without an imagination of the human being who is at the centre of it.

One could easily infer from the results that the BJP's anti-Shaheen Bagh tirade has backfired. The commentariat, in fact, has already begun advising the party to do a rethink on the issue. But one needs to think about the rationale of the massive political investments the BJP made even when it knew how the results were likely to pan out. The objective of the venomous campaign was to convince the people that the BJP sincerely believed in its agenda and was not like other parties that are prone to suspending it for short-term gains. In this election, it reiterated it did not count Muslims as one of its own. This belligerence is not without purpose. It lends a sense of seriousness to its long-term politics and forces the voters to be persuaded by its consistency.

The BJP's campaign was not limited to the aim of winning Delhi. It was to sustain the chain of hate that it has built over the years. Its defeat in Delhi would not deter it from its path. Its purpose is to keep working on the Hindu mind and transform it completely. As other parties cower before its relentless assault, it finds its path smoother. It has succeeded in creating a kind of panic among Hindu that forces other parties to desist from sympathising with the persecuted minorities. So, the field in which the bigger battle is being fought is all Hindu.

Even when the news of the BJP's defeat poured in, six young women and men were arrested in Ghazipur and promptly jailed. Incidentally, all were non-Muslims. Their crime? They were on a Pad yatra from Chauri Chaura with a message of peace, of Hindu-Muslim unity and of non-violence. The police and the administration found this slow and steady movement of six persons so inimical to the region's tranquility that it decided to put them away, lest the contaminate the minds of the people with their 'dangerous' ideas! This is how the so-called anti-hate election result in the capital of India was deciphered or deconstructed in the dusty pains of Uttar Pradesh!


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