By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) “Be it Seelampur, Jamia or Shaheen Bagh, protests were held over the past several days regarding the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his first of the two election rallies in Delhi.
Just over a week ago, addressing a rally in east Delhi’s Karkardooma, Modi said: “Is this performance just a coincidence? No. This is a conspiracy. There is a design of politics behind it, which is going to ruin the harmony of the nation.”
As the Delhi poll results came out on Tuesday, a revamped Arvind Kejriwal emerged, invoking ‘Hanumanji’ to counter BJP’s Hindutva politics.
A day before election results, the Delhi Chief Minister had already announced his intention to visit the Hanuman temple at Connaught Place.
This is Kejriwal 3.0.
After the stupendous victory as he trounced the BJP, Kejriwal literally took out a grand rally to the famous temple in the heart of the capital city.
During his victory speech, he sought “blessings” from the Hindu God, to run Delhi effectively. Kejriwal is mindful that Shaheen Bagh politics may not have dented his electoral chances, but it has polarised Delhi.
The nearly two month long 13A road blockade over the Citizenship Amendment Act did not just capture the imagination of many in the city, but across cities through out the nation.
BJP though with its imageries, choice of words — sometimes not very subtle, had made it look like a blockade of Muslims, by Muslims and for Muslims.
Words like ‘Biryani’, ‘Mughal’, ‘Burqa’ were used intermittently by BJP leaders including its firebrand UP CM Yogi Adityanatha to drive home one point “either you are with Shaheen Bagh or against Shaheen Bagh”.
The BJP, which sought to benefit from this polarisation by hoping for a majority consolidation, instead ended up with just a handful.
Till 7 p.m., eight seats in the 70 member Delhi Assembly had gone to the BJP, while the Aam Aadmi Party scored an impressive 62.
Whether Delhi rejected the polarisation: An answer in clear black and white would be impossible.
Naresh Arora, political strategist and Director of DesignBoxed told IANS, “Sghaheen Bagh did play a pretty evident role in Delhi election.”
He sights the space ceded to this agitation driven discourse is a proof of its significance.
BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma had this to say, when asked about BJP’s endeavours falling flat: “All I can say at this point is there was an attempt, an effort by the party. The effort did not succeed. It is okay.” He added, “Things didn’t turn out the way we expected it to be.”
Many of these Kejriwal voters though had voted in the name of Narendra Modi in May, 2019 during the Lok Sabha polls.
So, Kejriwal is not naive to think that Delhi “rejected hate”. BJP had won all seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi. Even performers like Atishi Merlena were outperformed by newbies like Gautam Gambhir.
On April 25 2019, AAP released its manifesto promising 85 per cent reservations in the Delhi-based colleges and jobs for the voters of Delhi. Yet, the AAP lost.
Kejriwal is mindful that if he needs to make AAP a national player, it needs to eat into BJP’s space of Hindutva driven politics. And what better day than a “Tuesday” to kickstart that process.
“Tuesday is Hanumanji’s day”, he said earlier, amid rousing applause.
However, AAP’s election strategist and former former JDU leader Prashant Kishor tweeted as the results started to show up: “Thank you Delhi for standing up to protect the soul of india!”
Did the Delhiites vote to “protect the soul of India” or give priority to municipal freebies? Zafar Islam, a Muslim face of the BJP concedes some statements by some leaders “may have been seen in a wrong way by the community or presented in a wrong way”.
Kapil Mishra, Kejriwal’s former lieutenant, though stands by every word he said about Shaheen Bagh.
Having worked with Kejriwal, probably Mishra is more aware of this brand rejig.
A cursory look at your Twitter timeline will tell you how confident the BJP sympathisers or right leaning social media influencers are about “winning back Delhites in 2024”.
Actually, their confidence stems from the social fault lines Delhi has gone through in the last few weeks.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])