“Press the lotus button so hard that the current reaches Shaheen Bagh (the anti-CAA protest site in Delhi)”, thundered Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the run-up to the Delhi elections. The electorate did press the button hard, but a different button. And the BJP got one of its biggest shock treatments. The party could manage to win just 8 seats while the AAP romped home with 62 seats in 70-member Assembly. “T he care of human life and happiness and not their destruction should be the first and only legitimate object of a good government," said Thomas Jefferson. The Delhiites voted for a government that boosted their happiness through welfare schemes; they gave a befitting reply to the party that focused on Hindu-Muslim divide and saw the election as India-Pakistan match.
It is a crushing defeat for the proponents of polarization; and a majestic victory for a party that led a pro-people government. Delhi saw one of the most vicious elections in which the Bhartiya Janata Party pulled out all stops to come back to power which it had lost 21 years ago. Instead of discussing the local issues, it played communal card to touch the sentiments of the majority community. The saffron party’s election strategy stooped to a level in which one of its leaders called Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a terrorist. Its leaders portrayed the anti-CAA-NPR-NRC agitators as anti-nationals. BJP undertook a vitriolic campaign spitting communal venom unlike in any other previous elections.
The AAP fought the elections on people’s issues. It focused on its ‘good governance’ tag. It promised to continue the welfare schemes like free water up to 20,000 litre per family per month, free/concessional electricity, free ride for women in buses, mohalla clinics which have brought healthcare to people’s neighbourhood, better infrastructure and teaching in government schools, and many more such people-oriented programmes and schemes. Adding to these steps was the presence of Kejriwal as the party’s Chief Ministerial face, leading it from the front.
However, we cannot close our eyes to a stark reality. As many as 38 per cent voters subscribed to the saffron party’s divisive and polarizing politics. The party, in fact, increased its votes by 6 per cent compared to last Assembly elections. According to reports, the party is planning to take its Hindutva agenda forward more aggressively. Some of the party leaders let the cat out of the bag when they repeatedly called Kejriwal a “terrorist” even after the election results were out. They are in no mood to back out on their hyper-nationalism which they hope will bear better fruits in the coming days.
The Congress’s dismal show is a matter of worry. The only party in the Opposition with a pan-India presence was nowhere in the picture during the Delhi elections, and it ended up scoring no seats. AAP may be an answer to BJP in Delhi. But, it has hardly any presence in most States. The grand old party, along with regional parties, has to chalk out strategies if the nation is to be saved from those who hail the killer of Mahatma Gandhi and incite people to ‘shoot at’ those whom they unilaterally brand ‘anti-nationals’.(Published on 17th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 08)