By Shahid Jamal
The landslide victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi assembly election has caused a major political setback to the Bhartiya Janata party. After Jharkhand, Delhi has further managed to stop the BJP in acquiring political power and space in India. Political analysts believe that the entire political campaign of Delhi assembly election was bipolar in nature, i.e. performance versus polarization. On one hand, the leaders of the AAP campaigned and advertised about the developmental work that they have done in the last 5 years in the health and education sector. On the other hand, the leaders of the BJP tried to win the Delhi election by polarizing and dividing the votes. The speeches of the BJP leaders started and ended with Shaheen Bagh. The ugly utterances of the ministers and politicians of the BJP have left no room for ethics and morality in electoral politics.
Majority of the exit polls predicted on the evening of the polling day that the AAP was going to win with a huge margin. The final election results matched the prediction of exit polls and psephologists. Delhi voters chose performance over polarization. They acknowledged the developmental work of the AAP by bringing it back into power. They rejected the polarization and divisive politics of the BJP by giving it a shock through the EVM button.
The BJP leaders including Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the newly elected party president JP Nadda, along with many other ministers and members of parliament, left no stone unturned to build support and draw votes for the saffron party candidates contesting the elections. But they failed miserably.
After seeing the trend of exit polls, a pro-BJP journalist, Sudhir Chaudhary, shamed Delhi voters on his prime time show. In his dejected and sarcastic tone, he said that “to the people of Delhi, the issues of free electricity, free water and free rides matter more than the issues such as nationalism, article 370 and Ram Mandir. The people of Delhi are Muftkhor (spongers).” It is important to mention here that Chaudhary is one of those fortunate journalists to whom the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has given a personal interview. One should not be surprised with Chaudhary’s dejection and frustration. But he forgot to mention the promise of freebies of the political party whose ideology he subscribes to. In its manifesto, the BJP too had promised free bicycles and e-scooters for girls and women in schools and colleges. Such blatant airing of prejudiced views happens only when the journalist deliberately acts as a Public Relations Officer of a political party.
I fail to understand the problem with the freebies. Every government gives freebies and subsidies. In fact, it is a process through which the taxpayers’ money is used to give direct benefits. So where is the problem? Those who are criticizing the AAP for freebies should know that despite its freebies Delhi is a surplus Union Territory as per the report of the CAG.
The reader should not think that I am a die-hard fan of the Aam Aadmi Party. Becoming a staunch fan of a cricketer or a Bollywood celebrity is something which is normal. But becoming a strident fan of a politician is dangerous and unhealthy for a person living in a democracy. Like Dr. Ambedkar, I too don’t advocate for hero-worship in politics. Ambedkar said, “Hero worship is endemic in our country and personality cult flourishes. There is nothing wrong in admiring our leaders as heroes, but the risk is that in the process, the tendency is to entrust such persons with vast powers and uncritically accept the exercise of these powers, without insisting on accountability, which is a sine qua non of any genuine democracy.”
I appreciate the AAP for inserting a new narrative of development into Indian politics as it has initiated a discussion on fighting an election on the sole agenda of development. In fact, it is a good sign for a democracy. My appreciation for the AAP is not to claim that it is a party without flaws. Like any other party in India, the AAP too is a flawed party.
The AAP has gradually become personality-centric in its nature as the entire political campaign revolved around one face, i.e. Arvind Kejriwal. Unfortunately, the AAP follows the same pattern as the BJP where everything revolves around Narendra Modi. Like Modi, Kejriwal has also sidelined many important faces such as Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the party. Is it possible for a party to counter its rival by following the same strategies of the rival? Absolutely not.
Though Kejriwal has defeated the BJP in a political battle, would he be able to defeat the same in an ideological battle, too? In the last couple of months, the AAP has not taken a strong stand vis-à-vis the Hindutva ideology of the RSS and the BJP.
In a recent published article, Monobina Gupta corroborate this when she writes: “Where does this electoral tactic place Kejriwal on the ideological and political spectrum? His invocation of Hanuman, visit to a Hanuman temple, and recitation of the Hanuman Chalisa have all been made out to be the markers of BJP-like politics. Kejriwal, his critics have said, did not fight the good ideological fight. In other words, what they seem to suggest is he should have fought that very fight that would have pulled him down and brought the BJP to power in Delhi. Put differently, according to this confounding logic, Kejriwal should have virtually campaigned to ensure a BJP victory.”
Even Yogendra Yadav criticizes Kejriwal for imitating the BJP style of politics. He writes “The Delhi elections also underscore how the popular imagination of a good CM candidate (or for that matter a good political leader) is being shaped. By reciting Hanuman Chalisa, Kejriwal didn’t just exhibit his piety, he opened up new tests for future politicians.” Yadav further adds, “This insistence of holding your faith on your shirtsleeves characterises the BJP’s Hindutva.”
To stop the politics of hatred and polarization, ideological defeat is far more important than the political defeat of the BJParty. The AAP is celebrating the number of seats it has managed to secure, while the BJP is celebrating the percentage of increased vote share in the election. It is only a political defeat for the BJP not an ideological one.
In his book, Communalism, noted historian Bipin Chandra writes, “Unfortunately, in India the secular forces have not realised this truth sufficiently. They have opposed communal forces and parties politically but not exposed and opposed communal ideology. They have become complacent every time communist parties have suffered political setback. For example, even though BJP was defeated electorally in 2004, yet communalism remains as strong as it was before 2004.”
It is true that the victory of the AAP is spectacular. Hence the leaders of the party have every right to celebrate it but they should not pretend that they have uprooted the politics of hate and polarization from the capital. The continuous ideological attack along with political setback are the need of hour to eliminate the toxic polarization of the RSS and the BJP. The AAP must understand that it will never pose a challenge to the BJP and the RSS as long as it follows the same path.
The politically dying Congress in Delhi should also understand that it cannot hope to revive itself by providing easy passage to the AAP. In democracy we cannot rely on a single party. A party once having political mandate for three consecutive terms is now happy without opening its account. This is a dismal political scenario for the Congress and it should seriously introspect its political position in Delhi.
I want to appeal to all the voters of the Aam Aadmi Party to stop following it blindly. As a voter we must not celebrate the political victory of any party naively because our mandate and trust is at stake for next five years. It is our responsibility to make the newly elected government more accountable, transparent and welfare-oriented. It is also important to continuously put a check on it whether it lives up to our expectation or not.
Shahid Jamal is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia. Currently he is teaching PGT History in Crescent School, Ansari Road, New Delhi. He regularly presents papers in national and International seminars and writes for Urdu Newspapers and online portals.
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