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Arvind Kejriwal (chief minister of Delhi): We have built schools, hospitals, give free medical care, give free electricity, free water, installed 1,50,000 CCTV cameras, made travel free for women, built roads/flyovers/bridges, reduced pollution
Amit Shah (Minister of Home Affairs): Shaheen Bagh, Shaheen Bagh, Shaheen Bagh, Hindu/Muslim, Pakistan
By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: This was pretty much how the election campaign in Delhi wrapped up yesterday, as Delhites, witnessed the shrillest, most communally charged, divisive, angry campaign ever, from the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and in complete contrast the most positive energetic, song and dance-filled, focused only on work campaign by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Delhi goes to polls on February 8, to decide the future of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which swarmed the capital in February 2015, with a record win of 67 out of 70 seats, the most emphatic win ever by a political party since Independence. AAP is now aiming to better its performance with a clean sweep this election. Even in 2015, prime minister Narendra Modi who was riding a huge wave and winning state after state was halted by AAP in Delhi.
Delhi, which is not even a full state, has become the center of some ugly politics because, after a series of losses, it is very important for BJP to retain Delhi. It is important for AAP’s survival as a fledgling political party to retain Delhi as well.
The contrast in campaigning between the two parties couldn’t have been more obvious, with BJP trying every trick in the book to wean away from the attention from AAP’s extremely successful work model, with its constant reference to Shaheen Bagh, a discussion AAP refused to be swayed by.
Shaheen Bagh is a neighborhood in South Delhi which has become the hub of protests, by women and children against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizen’s (NRC) since December 15, making it the longest-serving agitation against CAA/NRC, throughout the country. For the BJP, this protest has become the focal point of polarization, which it hopes to achieve throughout the country, even if it loses Delhi. A healthy society is being made communally ill by design.
While Arvind Kejriwal leading AAP, is that frontbencher, who is confident of extremely high scores, because he prepared for it throughout his term, Amit Shah, the home minister along with Modi became the veritable class bullies, brutalizing even the school staff, to part with the scores they desire.
The Kejriwal led government in Delhi worked on a war footing to bring in some ease in the life of the common man. At a time when the country is reeling from the disastrous impact of demonetization and GST, a tanking economy, sky-high inflation, the Delhi government in the very first month of power halved the electricity bill, gave free water, got cracking on completely overhauling government schools and primary health centers. It achieved the impossible by increasing the education budget to 26%, to cater to the needs of 16 lakh students enrolled in government schools, increasing the health care budget to 15%, and making health care free for everyone, making bus travel free for women, and introducing several other welfare schemes, all without increasing taxes and still showing a surplus revenue every single year.
After putting in all the hard work, they got cracking to reach their voters with all that they had achieved and talked about what they plan to achieve in the next five years. Their campaign was strengthened by volunteers who offered their time, money and talent, to ensure that the party returns with a thumping majority. Since it believes it 100% clean funding, the party had just Rs 28-30 crores to plan their campaign with, something which BJP would spend in a day!
The congress campaign never really took off, making it a head to head battle between AAP and the BJP. BJP too had a very slow start, waking up just 15-20 days before the elections
Almost all political parties in the country have used caste/religion, or enticements like cash, gifts or alcohol to secure their votes, for which 15 days of the campaign is enough. AAP is the only party that has asked for votes just on work in 70 years. “No government has said we built schools, hospitals, so give us votes”, said Kejriwal at a rally. BJP has seven Member of Parliament from Delhi and is ruling the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) also, for the last 15 years. MCD runs 66 schools and is responsible for keeping Delhi clean and yet BJP never used it to showcase their work. They had nothing to speak about the police either that is under them. Only communal, hateful, divisive statements were made to whip up passions and polarize and shift the narrative from work to nationalism.
Modi who campaigns aggressively in every state that there is an election chose to conduct only two rallies in the capital and even those received a lukewarm response.
It is Amit Shah who decided to become the face of BJP’s ugly, negative campaign, which was often countered by Delhite’s themselves. When Shah at a public rally, sarcastically commented where was the CCTV cameras, the resident association sent him two recordings of the CCTV camera footage, where his rally was held. AAP has installed 1,50,000 CCTV cameras in all their constituencies, to tackle women’s safety and other crimes, with a promise to install as many needed by Delhites. Shah claims that there was no free WiFi by AAP that was met with a similar response. A more positive approach would have been when if Shah had mentioned similar work done by any of the BJP ruled states in the country, besides his own government in the center as a comparison.
Next Amit Shah asked all seven of his MPs to go around Delhi government schools to report on the conditions. And the MP’s, to completely diss AAP’s work in government schools, took visual evidence of those school buildings which were to be demolished, even had notices posted on the school gate that the school had shifted to another location. Videos were posted of eight schools when AAP has overhauled 1094 schools under its control. This time it’s the journalists themselves, even those emboldened to the BJP who decided to expose BJP’s smear campaign.
When nothing seemed to be going their way, Amit shah was even forced to undertake door to door campaigns, which they realized was not having the desired impact either.
Just about 10 days before elections they brought in their arsenal of 200 MPs, 10 Chief Minister’s (CM) and 70 ministers to the campaign, to take on one Kejriwal.
In a public meeting in which the CM of Gujarat Vijay Rupani was campaigning, accusing Arvind Kejriwal of having done nothing, the people asked him how much did the electricity cost, in his state. When he replied Rs 10 per unit, the crowd cheered and said but electricity up to 200 units, which is enough to take care of a family’s modest needs, was free in Delhi. The Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar also cut a sorry figure, when he was reminded that his government was so incapable of taking care of its schools, that they were inviting other agencies to adopt the schools.
The most communally hateful campaign was probably done by the UP CM Yogi Adityanath, who stated that his government fed bullets to traitors, while Kejriwal fed them biryani, in an obvious reference to the minority community who have metamorphosed as the ‘enemy’ in all of BJP’s hate campaigns.
When it seemed like the campaign was getting away from them, Amit Shah on Republic Day gave his most controversial war cry yet. He stated that the voters should press the voting button so hard, that the current should travel all the way to Shaheen Bagh, making them vacate the spot.
This was followed by BJP’s MP Anurag Thakur, who prompted the crowds to chant goli maaro (shoot them) to his dog whistle Desh Ke gaddaron ko (country’s traitors)
Yet another MP Saheb Singh Verma called Kejriwal a terrorist, blabbering on that “they” (from Shaheen Bagh), would enter their (Hindus) homes to rape their women!
Gunja Kapoor, social media warrior, who has none other than Modi, following her on twitter, decided to wear a burkha and carrying a hidden camera to Shaheen Bagh, to get some incriminating evidence. Like all the BJP ploys failings this election, this one did too, when she was exposed by the women protestors in Shaheen Bagh.
While campaign shrillness dropped in the capital from the BJP camp a day before campaign officially ended, Tejasvi Surya, cut from the same fabric as the rest of the BJP blabbered at a rally that if the majority do not regroup, Mughal rule will be established in the country, forgetting that it is his government in the state and center.
As if this wasn’t enough election drama, a shooter surfaced out of nowhere, and shot at the students of Jamia Millia University, protesting at Shaheen Bagh. The shooter Gopal Sharma was within a couple of hours identified as a Modi follower. The Delhi police received a lot of flak for simply watching while the supposedly underage youth whipped up a country-made pistol to shoot and injure one of the students.
It was followed by two more shooting incidents, in quick succession. The second shooter was caught before he could hurt anyone. The third shooter who shouted that only Hindus should rule the country, before being dragged away by the police, was stated to be a member of AAP, according to the police. Both the police, the media, and the BJP MPs who insisted he was an AAP supporter had to eat crow after his family revealed that there was no connection between the accused and AAP. On the other hand, he was highly influenced by Modi. AAP insisted that arrests should be made immediately irrespective of who it is, and not used to score a political point.
The desperation was now mounting with journalists to instigating that Kejriwal stands with Shaheen Bagh protestors. He was goaded on several tv interviews, to which he only replied that this was an issue concerning the home minister and that he should solve it. He also pointed out that the only party that is benefitting from keeping Shaheen Bagh on an edge is the BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal reciting the Hanuman Chalisa, after being prompted by a TV anchor, probably trying to lay another bait, won the audience applause instead. In yet another interview he said that the BJP was neither a nationalist nor good Hindus.
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Seeing the ugliness gain ground, Kejriwal asked Delhite’s to stay with whatever party they want to but just vote for the broom. “because we worked so hard to improve schools and they need to stay that way.”
The high pitched, unadulterated hate campaign unleashed by the BJP on Dellhite’s, prompted one of them to ask, why was BJP instigating unemployed youth to fall for their false nationalism trap, denying them good education and jobs, but sending their own children abroad.
15 days in the past would be enough for a leading political party to wrap up elections in their favor. After all that’s when money and liquor are distributed, and threats issued. But Kejriwal with his own spirited well-oiled campaign made it difficult for BJP to get away with it. AAP cash strapped as it has to not only start campaigning very early, but has to be innovative as well. They started campaigning in October itself, addressing mohalla sabhas (street corner meetings) launched their campaign song Lage Raho Kejriwal in December, with lyrics centered around their work, written and sung by music composer Vishal Dadlani. BJP’s campaign song had words like goli maaro, tukde tukde, deshdrohi, Shaheen Bagh, etc.
In December, they also launched the publicized report card by the chief minister, listing their achievements which they went door to door with. Several town hall meetings with the chief minister, where the public could ask any question, answering 10,000 such questions, undertaking 70 padayatra, (walks) 700 mohalla sabhas, which resulted in 5 lakh interactions, reaching 35 lakh households, 20,000 letters dispatched to potential supporters, and then the Guarantee Card launched by the CM. The guarantee card had a series of promises to be fulfilled for the next term.
The hard-hitting campaign ended with Kejriwal’s roadshows and some by Vishal Dadlani, leaving Delhites in a positive frame of mind.
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