- After the poll campaign ended for elections to 70 seated Delhi Assembly on Thursday, voters are left to choose between two sundry offerings- to embrace BJP regime that is contesting voters’ citizenship (through impending NPR/NRC/CAA) or denounce it by reducing one’s own citizenship status to being a mere state beneficiary in AAP regime.
Or to say either way: vote for AAP that is reducing a citizen to mere state beneficiary or denounce it for larger satisfactions sans citizenship.
These two options seem exaggerated and juxtaposed at first sight but both are two sides of a single coin.
Loss of a national narrative
Let us put it straight- Whoever wins this assembly election will do so at the cost of the Shaheen Bagh Movement. Shaheen Bagh will lose in any case. And why Shaheen Bagh is so central to Delhi polls? Not because BJP has brought in its highest leadership to instigate communal polarization, but because it is a focal point in our contemporary national discourse that will set the narrative for the upcoming state polls, most importantly for West Bengal. This narrative will go a long way in shaping the political climate of this nation-state. Alas! the stage has been set in the national capital for a loss of narrative in a double-edged sword game and we will see to it on February 11th when the verdict comes.
Meanwhile, let us have a swift look at the chronology of political developments.
It was the Aam Aadmi Party that responded much later to Shaheen Bagh, almost more than a month later after it kicked off. The reason stated on the record by Manish Sisodia was that the party did not want itself to get branded as Tukde Tukde Gang. And he was not incorrect in saying this.
The moment Sisodia came out in support of Shaheen Bagh, BJP branded AAP as the conspirator of anti-CAA protests. Delhi CM Kejriwal sensed the urgency and immediately distanced itself from Shaheen Bagh by placing the onus on the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He asked Shah why he is not clearing the roadblock if Delhi Police is under him! At the same time, Kejriwal could not sense the irony of his statement that could be read out of the text as follows: I would have cleared the roadblock if Delhi Police reported to me!
AAP Muslim voters also sensed it and they are in a lurch. A resident of Shaheen Bagh and AAP sympathizer Sultan Bharti says, “I am afraid if Muslim voters decide their vote on CAA/NRC. Then they would certainly go for Congress that is vehemently opposing CAA/NRC. Otherwise, it is true that AAP has worked on the basics in the last five years but distancing itself from anti-CAA protests will cost it Delhi’s fortunes”.
Satyam Shrivastava, a civil society member who works on tribal issues articulates this expression as follows: “AAP has NGOised Delhi politics. This election seems to be a renewal of grant for ‘NGO’ AAP. Asking votes in the name of bijli-pani is like completing the checklist of project requirements, ignoring the very basic question of citizenship for which a section of the electorate is protesting. This shows AAP is basically reducing citizens into a mere state beneficiary”.
On the other hand, BJP is in full swing, doing its own brand of politics from parliament to road. On Thursday, in his thanksgiving speech to President during the budget session in Loksabha, PM Narendra Modi spoke for around an hour and forty minutes. He did not utter a single word on development or basic services rather invoked Ram Mandir, Article 370, triple talaq, etc claiming credit to all these recent decisions given by the honorable Supreme Court. Does that mean that the SC’s decisions on Ram Mandir, triple talaq, Article 370, etc. were in fact dictated by Centre?
If what PM says is true, then, then Justice Kurien Joseph, Justice Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Madan B Lokur also spoke the truth in the unprecedented and historic press conference exactly a couple of years back that “Democracy is at stake in India?”
The Populism trap
No one will doubt the victory of AAP. Margins may reduce. In his weekly column at Dawn Jawed Naqvi termed AAP and kejriwal sucess as anomalous. But this “anomalous” in AAP has a perverse logic: When Kejriwal wins, he loses! This is where I see a change of the game in Delhi.
On the question of CAA, Kejriwal has remained cautious. But the perception that AAP tried to build among its Hindu voters by distancing itself from Shaheen Bagh has been shattered by sustained propaganda of BJP. Be it the paid media channels defamed AAP as Urban Naxal, TTG, terrorist or the hate speeches of Yogi Adityanath, Anurag Thakur and Pravesh Verma.
Likewise, Muslims are also not in a condition to pose full faith in AAP as they could see Congress taking a firm stand on the question of citizenship.
For AAP this is a Catch-22 situation. BJP is much comfortable with Hindu votes alone. As far as INC is concerned it seeks to grab a piece of pie from Kejriwal, especially in Muslim dominated areas. It has tried to mobilise some of its finest faces in civil society last week at protest sites. This may work in its favor garnering a couple of seats.
In CPI (ML) and other left factions, Kejriwal has got some blessing in disguise free of cost. Students and activists affiliated to Left groups are asking votes for AAP at anti-CAA protest sites. Not so openly, but Yes!
Polit Bureau member of CPI (ML) Kavita Krishnan affirms this when she speaks to Rohin Kumar of Mediavigil, “AAP is not clear on many issues, say CAA/NRC but the situation demands that whoever has the potential to defeat the communal politics of BJP/RSS is to be supported. This is our strategy in Delhi, although we will fight with a different strategy in Bihar”.
So here is some Oxygen for AAP coming from the left-outs!
Sultan Bharti openly accepts the role of left parties in building anti-CAA protests in Muslim areas of Delhi but he sums up this role in an interesting phrase. “Vaam ka kaam har murde ko kandha dena hota hai, use murda zinda to nahin ho jata!” (Left is there to lend its shoulder to every corpse but that does not instill life in a corpse!)
AAP is still alive and kicking- in the sense of a regular electoral party. But it was dead way back as a movement, hollowed with ethics and redundant with values. Left has lent its shoulder to AAP for fighting communal politics of BJP in Delhi but unfortunately, it has forgotten the basic lesson that from 2011-2014, AAP was the single Oxygen cylinder that filled air into nationalist aspirations of BJP. So for left politics, Delhi is again a populist trap. Nothing new! Whoever will win or lose will be a mirror image of the other.
The eventual losers are the Mothers and Daughters of Shaheen Bagh! We may just hope that this does not get reflected within 48 hours of the announcement of mandate in the form of a brutal crackdown.
(Abhishek Srivastava is the Executive Editor of Mediavigil.com, he has written a book for Juggernaut Publishers on the journey of anti-corruption movement from IAC to AAP that is yet to be published)
Views are personal