Arvind Kejriwal announces “Mass Lakshmi Pooja” on Diwali Amid Pandemic

From Delhi Elections 2020 to call for mass Lakshmi Pooja, AAP´s trajectory is steadily sliding towards Hindutva.

Arvind Kejriwal
Ahead of the Delhi Elections, Kejriwal visited the Hanuman Temple amidst much media coverage | Courtesy: NDTV

In a video message, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he will lead his team of ministers to conduct a Lakshmi puja and urged all citizens of Delhi to do the same in their homes stating that it will aid the development of Delhi. The message is reflective of the soft-Hindutva that Kejriwal and AAP have been peddling.

On November 4th, Arvind Kejriwal released a video message tackling the issue of increased pollution during Diwali and how it could worsen the spread of COVID-19. He referred back to the previous year, where “the people of Delhi celebrated Diwali together in Connaught place” and stated that they will do the same in 2020 but virtually and without bursting crackers. He said:

“On the day of Diwali, on 14th November from 7:39, we will organise a mass Lakshmi Puja with Delhi’s 2 crore people. I will start Laksmi Puja at a place in Delhi with all my ministers.
I feel that if Delhi’s 2 crore people take part in Lakshmi Puja to mark the return of Ram Chandra ji’s return from exile, then the entire Delhi will have an extraordinary environment. The whole of Delhi will have positive vibes. I believe that this will lead to the welfare of everyone in Delhi.”

Promoting public gathering during the pandemic

Large crowds can be seen at Lajpat Nagar market for Diwali shopping | Courtesy: The Print

Arvind Kejriwal’s argument that the increased pollution from crackers could worsen the pandemic is certainly true as the smoke is a cause of community spread of the virus. However, the decision to just celebrate the festival publicly with his ministers and setting an example for citizens to do the same without restrictions on gatherings seems disastrous as the primary transmission route is person-to-person contact and more likely to transmit in indoor spaces.

Delhi in particular already reports the 7th highest case of COVID-19 cases and has a high rate of death in proportion to its population. With Diwali, Dusshera, and Navaratri, the rate of COVID transmission is expected to increase, and this is expected to be worse in Delhi and nearby regions with the onset of winter. Air quality is a huge concern for Delhi in this weather as it has been reporting thousands of COVID-19 cases daily.

Though Kejriwal claims that he is putting forward the effort to reduce pollution to curb COVID-19, in actuality it is the Ministry of Law and Justice at the Centre that has introduced a new law through an ordinance which brought in a new commission which can enforce a jail term of five years and ₹ 1 crore fine for violators. One of the many graded offences is the use of firecrackers, which are banned in Delhi. Thus, Arvind Kejriwal has no choice but to implement this.

In this scenario, Kejriwal inviting Ministers to celebrate Diwali with him seems irresponsible and contrary to the claim of curbing COVID during the season. Moreover, while encouraging families to celebrate the festival, Arvind Kejriwal has not provided clarity whether the Delhi state will hold restrictions on gatherings within housing societies, markets and so on.

Arvind Kejriwal & soft hindutva

Arvind Kejriwal
Ahead of the Delhi Elections, Kejriwal visited the Hanuman Temple amidst extensive media coverage | Courtesy: NDTV

While the RSS and the BJP are openly considered to be pushing forward Hindutva sentiments, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP were presented as a secular alternative during the Delhi Elections this year. However, since the Delhi Elections 2020, the move of not just celebrating Lakshmi Puja but also imposing it on all Delhi citizens is evidence of their own soft Hindutva.

AAP’s victory in Delhi was seen as a victory for secular politics itself; liberal Indians praised them for not centring their campaign on religious lines like the BJP, but around welfare schemes such as health, education, free electricity and water for the poor, and so on. However, even then many pointed out AAP’s complicity in the anti-muslim pogrom that took place in North-East Delhi, as well as their lack of desire to protect Muslim women and students who were under attack in Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University and so on.

Related: The Trial of Chicago 7 or the ‘trial of Bhima Koregaon and North-East Delhi Riots’? 

At the time, many assumed that this was a tactic to not alienate his Hindu voters by being branded as part of the “tukde tukde gang”. This was branded as a “moral loss” for the “apolitical” party. But even then Kejriwal- like the Gandhi family- made an effort to present himself as a religious Hindu coming from a baniya family. He conveniently used his position as an upper-caste Hindu for political gain while remaining silent on atrocities against Muslims and quietly letting BJP take the blame. Now, he erases populations who don’t celebrate Diwali or even find it offensive from in his address towards all Delhi citizens.

By now AAP and Kejriwal have made their political affiliation towards the BJP and the Brahmanical right-wing apparent. On November 6th, The Delhi Government gave sanction to prosecute Umar Khalid, who had been charged by the Delhi Police under the draconian UAPA law. This is despite the fact that the protests against CAA and NRC, and anxiety caused by the same for Muslims, likely favoured them in the elections.

Related: Delhi Elections 2020: AAP and BJP Game of Thrones

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