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'AAP's victory is the beginning of Hindu appeasement politics'

February 13, 2020 09:00 IST

'Till now, many political parties indulged in Muslim appeasement.'
'This is one experiment, successfully carried out by the AAP, in indulging in Hindu appeasement.'

IMAGE: Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, right, hugs AAP MP Sanjay Singh after the party's victory in the assembly election, February 11, 2020. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo
 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has done what no other leader has done and has 62 assembly seats to show for it.

The Magsaysay awardee and former Indian Revenue Service officer trounced the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi election for the second time. What makes his victory even more emphatic is the fact that just nine months ago, the BJP had swept the parliamentary election in Delhi, relegating AAP to third place.

So, how did Kejriwal achieve the seemingly impossible?

What did he get right to score this victory?

Where did the BJP go wrong?

"Modi turned the 2019 general election into a presidential campaign and Arvind Kejriwal did the same thing in the Delhi 2020 election. The fact is that the BJP has no leader of Kejriwal's stature. No Delhi leader of the BJP can match up to Kejriwal's charisma, his articulation, his political persona," Ashutosh, a founding AAP member who subsequently left the party, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

How do you view AAP's victory?

AAP's victory is perhaps the beginning of Hindu appeasement politics in India.

Till now, many different political parties, including the Congress, indulged in Muslim appeasement. This is one experiment, successfully carried out by the AAP, in indulging in Hindu appeasement.

Firstly, Arvind Kejriwal did not go to Shaheen Bagh.

Secondly, he did not openly criticise the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and thirdly, he deliberately chose to recite the Hanuman Chalisa and visit the Hanuman temple.

He deliberately did not visit any of the Muslim neighbourhoods because he knew if he goes there the Hindus will not like it.

Is this the only way to tackle the BJP if one wants to win elections?

We can go back to 2014 and take inputs from (Narendra Damodardas) Modi's victory.

Modi as a Hindu leader was unquestioned. He was seen as a leader who would protect Hindu rights and Hindu interests. Plus, he successfully projected the Gujarat model of development. He successfully married the development of Gujarat with Hindu politics.

Arvind Kejriwal too projected himself in the 2020 election that he has performed as chief minister and here are the deliverables. He was openly telling people what he did when it came to electricity, water, health and education. He is a Hanuman Bhakt too.

I would not call it as the Modi model of 2014; in that model. Modi's Hindu politics is hatred towards Muslims whereas Kejriwal's politics is development, Hindu politics, minus hatred for Muslims.

Where does this leave Muslim voters? They were intentionally kept at a distance by AAP, even though Muslims voted for the party in large numbers.

It is a sad affair of the Indian political system, but the fact is that Muslim voters have been made irrelevant by Modi.

Modi's brand of politics helped the BJP win 15 state elections -- either on its own or with the support of allies.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 300 plus seats despite the fact that UP has almost 18 per cent of Muslims. They did not give a single ticket to Muslim candidates. Modi and the BJP successfully made Muslim voters irrelevant.

Now the issue is the politics which can be pursued by other political parties -- if they still subscribe to secular politics -- it is division of Hindu votes.

If they can divide Hindu votes as it happened in Delhi and add a further 10 per cent Muslim votes, then they will surely win.

Secular polity was the winner in Delhi despite the BJP getting close to 40 per cent of the votes. The Muslim electorate will not be irrelevant despite Modi's effort in that sense.

But...

In Delhi there is 80 per cent Hindu population. The Muslim population is 14 per cent while the Sikhs make up 2 to 3 per cent of the population.

Now, the BJP got 38 per cent of the Hindu votes in Delhi and the rest of Hindu voters, that is 42 per cent, voted for the AAP.

AAP won because of the 14 per cent of Muslim voters. This way they got 53.5 per cent vote share.

If the Muslims vote tactically for the Opposition, then they can defeat the BJP and make their relevance better.

Do you feel the BJP went into overdrive on the Shaheen Bagh issue?

If you are a neutral observer and if you go by the Constitution, then it is obvious that the BJP went overboard.

The BJP had no other option because from day one it was fighting a losing battle. The BJP had nothing to offer in terms of governance in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi where it rules.

Their MPs from Delhi are horribly incompetent and they have not done anything (for the betterment of the public).

In Delhi, law and order belongs to the central government and it has totally collapsed.

We have the most incompetent police commissioner, Amulya Patnaik, heading the police department. Under him, his own constabulary has revolted.

So, the BJP has no governance model and it is left with no other option but to polarise voters.

Do you feel Kejriwal reciting the Hanuman Chalisa struck a chord among voters and helped turn the tables on the BJP?

His act helped in cutting out any suspicion and insecurities that the BJP had tried to create among Hindu voters.

Hindu voters believed that here is the leader who is a Hindu in his tradition and believes in the Hindu religion and who is a devotee of Lord Hanuman.

It countered the BJP as they were projecting Kejriwal as someone who only works for Muslims and he is not a Hindu leader.

That way Arvind Kejriwal did a brilliant campaign.

The BJP had no face for CM, making it easier for Kejriwal. How far did this matter to the electorate?

Modi turned the 2019 general election into a presidential campaign and Arvind Kejriwal did the same thing in the Delhi 2020 election.

The fact is that the BJP has no leader of Kejriwal's stature. No Delhi leader of the BJP can match up to Kejriwal's charisma, his articulation, his political persona.

Obviously, voters believed in Arvind Kejriwal because his charismatic politics revolves around beliefs.

In Delhi, the same voter who voted for Modi in the 2019 election voted for AAP in the assembly election. This is curious arithmetic.

The BJP got 32 per cent votes in the 2013 Delhi assembly election. In the 2015 Delhi assembly election, it again got 32 per cent of votes. In 2020, they got almost 38 per cent votes.

In the 2014 parliamentary election, the BJP got 48 to 49 per cent of the votes in Delhi and in 2019 they crossed the 50 per cent vote share mark.

So that means if Modi is at stake, the BJP gets an additional 15 to 20 per cent of votes. These are additional votes which Modi gets for the BJP when he is the issue.

But when Modi is not in the picture, the BJP's vote share drops to 32 per cent.

And when Arvind Kejriwal is in the picture, then this additional 15 to 20 per cent of swing vote shifts to him and not the BJP.

This means there is commonality between the voters of Kejriwal and Modi.

Do you think Amit Anilchandra Shah and Modi have failed to encourage strong regional leaders?

The BJP is afflicted by what I call the Indira Gandhi syndrome, which will finally prove to be detrimental to the party.

Mrs Gandhi was so in awe of herself and was such a centralising figure that she did not allow any local leader to emerge. The (Congress) organisation at the state level weakened because there was no strong leader.

Modi-Shah are following the same route by replicating the Indira Gandhi model.

If you go from one state to another of India there is hardly any BJP leader of stature and who can single-handedly swing votes in the party's favour.

Probably, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is the only example left.

You go to states like Uttarakhand or other states you will not find a single BJP leader who can swing voters in the BJP's favour. I will be surprised if Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath too can do that.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF