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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 10 New Delhi, February 22, 2020

Reading AAP’s Victory

Friday 28 February 2020

by Arup Kumar Sen

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had a landslide victory in the Delhi Assembly elections held on February 8, 2020, winning 62 of 70 seats. The BJP improved its seat-tally marginally from three in 2015 to eight and its vote-share went up from 32.2 per cent in 2015 to 38.49 per cent. The AAP’s vote-share came down marginally from 54.3 per cent to 53.6 per cent. The Congress drew a blank with its vote-share reduced from 9.7 per cent in 2015 to 4.4 per cent. (The Economic Times, February 12, 2020)

The above statistical figures show that the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections basically represented a contest between the AAP and the BJP. The AAP comfortably won seats in many Muslim-settled constituencies including Okhla, Ballimaran, Babarpur, Chandni Chowk, Seemapuri and Matia Mahal. In the Okhla seat, within which lies Shaheen Bagh, Amanatullah Khan of the AAP won, bagging more than 66 per cent of the votes.

The hate campaign of the BJP, however, was not entirely futile. The handful of seats the BJP gained over the last Assembly elections were in East Delhi and Northeast Delhi, home to several anti-CAA sit-ins, mostly by Muslim women. (The Telegraph, February 12, 2020)

Amit Shah, the Central Home Minister, set the tone for the BJP’s poll campaign in Delhi. He said on January 25, 2020: “Press the button of the lotus (the BJP symbol) so hard that the current makes the Shaheen Bagh protesters run away on the very evening of 8 February.” He was followed by ParveshVerma, the BJP’s West Delhi MP and son of former Chief Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, who warned the Delhi voters (January 28) : “Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh) and this fire can anytime reach households of Delhi.” He further warned: “These people will enter your house, will abduct your sisters and mothers, rape them, kill them, that’s why today is the moment.” Yogi Adityanath joined the poll campaign on February 2, when he addressed two rallies in the national Capital. He warned that “those who don’t understand words, will surely understand the language of the bullet”. (See theprint.in)

In the context of politics of hate propagated by the BJP, the landslide victory of the AAP in the Delhi Assembly elections is expected to provide a breathing space to the citizens of Delhi. However, the language of politics of the AAP carries multiple meanings. In the wake of the massive victory of the party, the AAP leader, Arvind Kejriwal, said: “The people of Delhi have given birth to a new kind of politics in the country, what is called kaam ki rajneeti (the politics of work)...Only this politics can take the country into the 21st century. This is not just a victory for Delhi, my friends, this is the victory of our Mother India, this is a victory for the whole country. Today is Tuesday, Hanumanji’s day. Hanumanji has been kind to Delhi today. Thanks to Hanumanji too.” (The Telegraph, February 12, 2020)

It may be mentioned in this connection that Arvind Kejriwal visited the popular Hanuman Temple near Connaught Place on the day before the Delhi elections and offered his prayers. He also recited Hanuman Chalisa on a TV channel. Kejriwal visited the Temple again with his family members and party leaders on the day of counting votes, as his party headed for a landslide victory in the Delhi elections.

It is transparent that Arvind Kejriwal is trying to combine his politics of good governance with the politics of soft Hinduism. He is speaking simultaneously in the language of secular governance and language of popular Hindu religious cults. Moreover, he is distancing himself from the contentious political issues of contemporary India.

Let us see how the Kejriwal-led AAP navigates the rough water of Indian politics in the coming days.

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