Kejriwal knew he had wholehearted Muslim support - GulfToday

Kejriwal knew he had wholehearted Muslim support

DC Pathak

The writer is a former director of the Intelligence Bureau in India.

Kejriwal knew he had wholehearted Muslim support

Arvind Kejriwal

The poll verdict in Delhi has become a major event in the country’s politics — the AAP victory looks extraordinary in the face of a determined bid of the BJP to capture the national capital. On a closer look, however, it can be seen that a fairly even spread of support for the AAP, a substantive increase in the vote share of BJP and a precipitous decline of the Congress because of the transfer of its votes — particularly those of Muslims — to AAP, were the basic determinants of the results in the Assembly election.

The capital of a large democracy like India responds to national issues of economy and security differently from people in other parts of the country and does not get easily swayed by high decibel conflict-ridden campaigns — voters of Delhi showed equanimity about distinguishing between national level responsibilities and accountability for what was happening locally. And in terms of visibility of the leader who would govern Delhi, the field was left totally devoid of any contest for Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi, it seems, might compel some course corrections in the strategy of major parties and induce a fresh incentive for consolidating coalition politics on both sides of the fence — the ruling camp as well as the opposition.  A distinct demographic feature of an overpopulated Delhi is that more than half of its population comprises migrants who, broadly speaking, came under the umbrella of the ‘poor and the weak’ engaged in the issues of livelihood and looking for whatever benefits the local government could bestow on them. The rest include urban middle and upper classes, the community of ‘liberals’ and educated youth who would either be looking for answers to their economic aspirations or, if already in jobs, responding more easily to calls for national consolidation and unity.  The voting pattern of Delhi did not leave room for surprises. AAP retained its connectivity with Delhi’s common man — the bulk of the ‘poor and the weak’ particularly their womenfolk, supported it notwithstanding the efforts of the Bhojpuri idol, Manoj Tiwari, while the Congress vote got largely transferred to AAP making it a direct contest between BJP and AAP.

A known development was the decisive opposition to the BJP put up by Muslims of Delhi — the anti-CAA agitation using the ghost of NRC, put a seal on it. This agitation produced a Hindu backlash that was uneven — though it was strong enough to turn many Delhiites in favour of BJP. The scare of having to ‘produce documents’ lingered on amongst the poor pushing them further towards AAP in Delhi. On the whole, the numbers favoured AAP but BJP gave it a fight — victory margins for AAP were small in a large number of seats. Unsurprisingly, the Congress candidates lost their deposits in most places.

The BJP leadership swung in a massive number of campaigners but it was like an army operating without a General in the field — Delhi should never have been a contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Kejriwal and it is good that the BJP leadership did not opt for that strategy. The polarising impact of anti-CAA stir did show up but it benefited AAP more — by way of a pronounced minority support — in comparison to BJP that added non-Muslim votes to its kitty but only in a limited manner, largely because of the diverse profile of Delhi electorate. AAP continued talking of electricity, water and health — also highlighting the free bus travel it had ordered for women — and remained cushioned against criticism on issues of law & order and environment because these were recognised more as the areas of responsibility for the Centre in the context of Delhi.

The BJP took to a total criticism of the AAP claims and the fierceness of its campaign started making Kejriwal look like an underdog. The AAP leader knew the Muslims were firmly behind him and he also tried to soften the fallout from the fierce attack of the BJP on the opponents of CAA, by taking to Hindu symbolism and refraining from discounting the national security argument on the question of Shaheen Bagh protests or the wider issue of illegal migration. Finally, what also helped AAP was the image of Kejriwal and his colleagues as people who might be using tactical ploys but who were not corrupt themselves in the sense this word had got associated with Indian polity.

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