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By TIO, Bureau Chief, Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: “Whenever there has been a battle between Hate and Love, Hate has always lost and Love has always won”, reminded former cabinet minister in the Delhi government, Gopal Rai, to gathered supporters, rejoicing the stupendous win by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the third time in a row. In poll results announced on Tuesday, AAP crushed the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) with a 62 seat win, conceding a mere eight seats to them.
Though the overall results come as no surprise, it did have a few scares up in store for AAP, before BJP conceded defeat.
The biggest scare came when after trailing for most rounds of counting, the former deputy chief minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia and the man behind Delhi government’s successful education model, scrapped through with a margin of only 3200 votes, from his constituency Patparganj. This seat which he had won in 2015 with a margin of 30,000 votes should have been a cakewalk for him, simply on the strength of his work, but was severely polarized about ten days before polls.
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Though AAP managed to keep Sisodia’s seat, other dynamic candidates, former MLA’s Nitin Tyagi, Sarita Singh, and Durgesh Pathak, who has played several key roles in the party, choked against the vice-like grip of the Hindu khatre mein hai (Hindu is in danger) and desh khatre mein hain (the country is in danger) rope, which BJP used, to instill fear in the East and North East constituencies. What seemed like easy wins for the work they had done in their constituencies, soon turned into a nightmare on result day. Home Minister Amit Shah’s high octane campaign, in this area, where he made the notorious statement that presses the button so hard, that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh, a local neighborhood and the epicenter of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), did considerable damage.
This pretty much sums up the polarization that happened in Delhi, following a shrill, loud, hate-filled, totally negative campaign by the big wigs of the BJP, lasting about a fortnight which almost derailed AAP’s positive campaign, centered around their phenomenal work in the capital, which has been winning hearts and accolades throughout the country and internationally too.
In the end, love triumphed and AAP romped home to victory, with a vote percentage of 52.5 %, a loss of just 1 %, from their spectacular win in 2015. They managed to retain 62 seats and lost five of the 67 seats that had. Among the bigger states, this is the first time, that an incumbent government has been able to repeat its stellar performance for the third time in a row. The only other time a party facing incumbency still achieved this kind of a vote percentage was in the 2002 state elections, after the Gujarat genocide, which the present prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi encashed on, to sweep the polls, replacing the then BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel. He never repeated the figures again in Gujarat.
The run-up to this election was the ugliest that Delhi has ever seen, with senior ministers, including PM Modi, home minister Amit Shah, chief minister Yogi Adityanath and MP’s Parvesh Varma, Anurag Thakur and MLA aspirant Kapil Mishra, spewed venom, raking up intense hate for Muslims, especially the women protestors against the controversial CAA/NRC, with ugly threats and bad-mouthing galore.
Delhi was already boiling with not just the Shaheen Bagh protests, but also the assault on the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Jaamia Millia University, last month. If this wasn’t enough, female students of Gargi College, Delhi University were sexually assaulted by drunk men who crashed into their college fest, just two days before the elections. The BJP big wigs, as usual, issued no statement to condemn the incidents or directed the police to arrest the culprits immediately. Similar inaction was seen against students of JNU and Jaamia, but then they are not part of BJP’s vote bank and have actually been condemned by this government. The students of Gargi college, on the other hand, are rich, privileged Hindu kids, and most likely BJP’s vote bank and yet even they had to fight to get heard. Justice is still a long way off for them.
One of the most shameful utterances was by Anurag Thakur, who had not only wanted “traitors” to be shot dead but had gone to town saying that the protestors at Shaheen Bagh would enter the homes of Hindus and will rape their women and that Modi and Amit Shah won’t be around to protect them. Yet there was no condemnation from him either and no explanations as to how Gargi college incident happened when Modi is still in power.
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If all this prelection drama wasn’t enough, on the day of results, an AAP volunteer, accompanying the newly elected AAP MLA Naresh Yadav, was shot dead and another one injured. The police is yet to reveal details of the murder. It is however suspected that the bullet was meant for the MLA, who escaped narrowly.
The falling standards in crime prevention in Delhi, under the Modi government, would have been of top concern for Delhites, besides the various welfare schemes offered by the Delhi government in the last few years, then issues like the abrogation of Article 370, Triple Talaq or the CAA/NRC, as they headed to vote.
Not many were swayed by the last-minute attempts by the BJP workers, gathered in clusters to drum up support for their candidate by shouting Jai Shri Ram, in the paths leading to the voting venue. “As they kept shouting Jai Shri Ram loudly to terrorize the voters, and our pleas to the cops around fell on deaf ears, we decided to yell beck Jai Shri Hanuman, to their Jai Shri Ram, which had the desired effect, forcing the cops to finally silence both of us”, said Bharadwaj the re-elected MLA from Greater Kailash, Delhi.
This winning narrative of hardcore Hindutva and fake nationalism, hinging on the “enemy”, Muslim and Pakistan, as the need of the hour maybe, succeeded in polarizing North East Delhi voters, where the home minister Amit Shah got down on the ground to the campaign. His volunteers got into each home to implore them to put their country before their needs, in a blatant attack against AAP’s “freebies” like free water and electricity, besides free education and free health care. Desperate attempts were on to instill fear in the mind of voters, telling them to vote for BJP. ‘If not, then be prepared for “them” breaking into your homes and raping your girls”, they would say. This “nation first” and “Hindutva pride” worked in six of the constituencies, bordering Uttar Pradesh, giving BJP seats they did not deserve.
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While the Modi and Shah combo pulled up every trick in their bag to discredit AAP and its work, this time they were met head-on by former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who after losing successive electoral battles, was fighting one for survival now. He and his men managed to neutralize every one of those tricks, whether it was labeling Kejriwal as a terrorist, or accusing him of being a false Hindu. While he answered the terrorist charge, with an emotional appeal of his own asking voters, if he indeed was a “terrorist”, he decided to visit the Hanuman temple on the eve of the polls, to deflect perceptions of him not being Hindu enough.
Though he had been going to the same temple for years, this became a well-publicized event, with Kejriwal tweeting that Hanuman has blessed them, sending more heartburn to the BJP camp, who suddenly found their narrative appropriated.
Lord Hanuman became AAP’s ally in these elections after a media anchor to check his Hindu quotient, asked Kejriwal to recite Hanuman Chalisa, which he did without a second thought. At the interview, he also said that he was a good Hindu and that the BJP was neither good Hindus nor good nationalists. It hurt the BJP supporters, who saw their poll plank shift, jumped in quickly to label Kejriwal an opportunist, but the damage to BJP had been done. Since then Hanuman became a part of AAP’s campaign strategy.
Hurt from their recent four state losses, Amit Shah made winning Delhi a prestige issue, leaving no stone turned to leave the curse of polarization behind. The possibilities of riots were not far behind either.
By consolidating the Hindu majority votes, the Modi government made Muslim votes irrelevant, which used to be up for grabs earlier, for various political parties. A progressive party like AAP, fighting on a development model had to win the trust of the entire 14.5 million voters of Delhi.
“While most of the women voters had no issues relating to the developmental work of AAP, the older men who had suffered the trauma of partition, which they passed on to the next generation, drifted towards BJP. The younger generation wants to look beyond the hate and move on”, said Bharadwaj, trying to explain the polarization which happened.