The stunning electoral victory posted by Arvind Kejriwal led AAP has set course for redefinition of Indian Political landscape. More importantly, the victory inflicts a humiliating defeat on the shrill, divisive and polarising rhetoric that marked this election.
Three incidents of firing, two at Jamia University and one at Shaheen Bagh, in the presence of Delhi Police Officials and men are bound to make a further dent in the image of Delhi Police already smarting from its action in Jamia University and inaction at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The people cutting across faiths and party lines made a beeline for Shaheen Bagh as it became an iconic symbol of peaceful public display of displeasure. Stray expression of narrow communal strategies from the likes of Sharjeel Islam failed to erode the support Shaheen Bagh got from a cross-section of society. The factually correct stand of the BJP that CAA does not impact Indian citizen failed to assuage the apprehensions. One of the primary concerns was that for the first time an Act of Parliament distinguished between people on the basis of their religion. It was seen as the first step towards institutionalized separation of people on the basis of religion. The nationwide NRC which was to follow, as per the Home Minister, could well use this institutionalized approach was the apprehension. That these apprehensions overrode and overlooked the miserable plight of minorities especially in Pakistan is stating the obvious. The government could have espoused the cause of Pakistani minorities through a different mechanism. A Parliamentary resolution that all possible help including granting citizenship will be considered on case to case basis for those facing persecution due to their religious beliefs in other countries would have been sufficient. It would have saved strain that was brought to bear on India-Bangladesh ties.
Apprehension was not limited to one section or one part of the country. The North East also saw protests against the Act. Questions were rightly raised about Srilankan Tamils, Buddhists from Tibet etc. The global perception of the new law being discriminatory, though not entirely rooted on facts or ground realities, also added to Govt worries. The CAA is also likely to cast a shadow on house listing operation and the updation of National Population Register due to commence in April for Census 2021. According to Pronab Sen, Former Chief Statistician, the survey system is already in “deep trouble”. The ongoing NSS surveys have seen field enumerators coming under attack in three states. Vitiating atmosphere over CAA during Delhi elections may put the safety of field enumerators in jeopardy. The government will need to undertake elaborate preparation mostly involving addressing of trust issues, to prepare the ground for a smooth NPR exercise.
The country’s Home Minister, toasted and celebrated for his political acumen, failed to see that as he asked Delhi voters to choose between Shaheen Bagh and the Nation. Immediately thereafter, as if on cue, BJP’s young guns like Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Singh started to spew fire and brimstone. Others like Kapil Mishra tried to outdo them in an obvious attempt to feel at home in his new party having joined it from AAP recently.
“Some provocative remarks such as India Vs Pakistan and Goli Maro should not have been made –and may have cost the party” said Mr Amit Shah in his first reaction after the electoral drubbing. If such talk set off mainly by Mr Shah’s call to choose between Shaheen Bagh and the Nation is to be avoided for electoral gains and not due to conviction or change of mindset, it may well resurface again, in a setting where it will work
In a calibrated and measured response, the AAP leadership focused on talking about their achievements. They successfully painted the BJP as a party bereft of any agenda except polarization for votes. Manish Sisodia, the Dy CM, visited Shaheen Bagh as a token show of support for people’s right to protests but AAP maintained a distance and avoided any direct involvement in what was generally perceived as a spontaneous expression of public ire against CAA.
BJP responded with the only way they know how to respond – pro-CAA rallies and shrill Goli Maro calls became the order of the day. The law and order machinery did not consider this open call to violence incitement and no case was registered. The EC on its part gave a caressing rap on the knuckles with a ban of two and three days from the election campaign. Contrast this with the leadership that BJP earlier provided to the city – the approachable, amiable Madan Lal Khurana, Sushma Swaraj, the genial Sahib Singh Verma, to name a few. Not one of them would have been part of this vicious campaign.
As the new Government in Delhi takes guard to start a new inning, what holds out hope is a congratulatory tweet to AAP from Gautam Gambhir Member of Parliament from Delhi and a distinguished veteran of many a cricketing battle. In the tweet, Gambhir assures the CM that “Development of Delhi and welfare of its citizens is a priority for everyone”
One hopes that the cricketer turned parliamentarian would be able to infuse this spirit in his party to leave the acrimonious and bitter campaign trail behind and work for Delhi that can be a pride for its people.(Published on 17th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 08)