Delhi’s Assembly polls campaign has witnessed a major turnaround in the past few days, especially since the Kejriwal government started getting called out for appeasement politics. And the most accurate opinion poll about how the political atmosphere has changed sharply, getting completely tilted towards the BJP has come in the form of Arvind Kejriwal’s one-eighty on his usual political rhetoric and the AAP election manifesto itself.
The party released its poll manifesto yesterday, and the document is largely an exercise in populism characteristic to the Kejriwal led AAP. However, what comes as a real surprise is the party’s promise to introduce “patriotism” as part of the school curriculum in Delhi.
Why would the Delhi CM, Kejriwal want to introduce “patriotism” in Delhi? His past record doesn’t really manifest any patriotic ideology and his government has, in fact, been infamous for blocking sanction to prosecute former JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar in the JNU sedition episode. He has also been under the scanner in the past for other similar controversies such as asking for the proof of surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and even the Balakot airstrikes carried out by the Indian Air Force inside Pakistani territory last year.
Not just patriotism, Kejriwal has been looking to correct his anti-Hindu image too. With four days to go into elections, Kejriwal recited the Hanuman Chalisa during a television interview. This was in response to a question which probed him over whether he visited Hanuman temples or not. He felt the need to be a seasonal Hindu because, of many things, he has not had a good track record when it comes to respecting the Hindu faith.
Someone sent this … pic.twitter.com/IScYDLgwZr
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 20, 2019
To nobody’s surprise, Islamists on Twitter were instantaneously outraged with Kejriwal’s attempted tryst with Hindus, and it thus became clear that the Delhi Chief Minister has abandoned Muslims for Hindu votes. The question that again arises is why the Kejriwal led party carried out such a major, far-reaching strategic shift with Assembly polls around the corner.
Ever since the anti CAA violence came into limelight, the AAP remained at the forefront of appeasement politics in Delhi. In fact, AAP MLA, Amanatullah Khan drew fire in connection with the Jamia violence last month. The protests carried out by Jamia students against the CAA had turned violent in Jamia Nagar, which happens to be in the vicinity of the Shaheen Bagh area, which has been in a state of lockdown after staged anti CAA protests.
Abdur Rehman, who currently faces charges of leading the violent mobs of Seelampur and then provoking violence too has been given an election ticket by the AAP.
Moreover, Delhi Deputy CM, Manish Sisodia recently declared that he stands with the people protesting in Shaheen Bagh and blocking a crucial roadway. While the number 2 in Delhi government has spoken in support of the protests, showing AAP’s intent to cash in on Muslim vote by supporting such vicious protests, Kejriwal remained silent till now.
And now that he has spoken about the Shaheen Bagh protests, he again seems to be making a course correction. He has said, “If Delhi Police was under our jurisdiction, we would have opened the Shaheen Bagh roads in 2 hours.” With the Assembly Elections around the corner, this is yet another desperate measure to correct his anti-Hindu, pro-appeasement image.
"If Delhi Police was under our jurisdiction, we would have opened the Shaheen Bagh roads in 2 hours": #KejriwalToNDTV #DelhiElections2020 #NDTVExclusive pic.twitter.com/K86cG2AmP2
— NDTV (@ndtv) February 4, 2020
Kejriwal has realised that the alleged involvement of its MLA in the anti CAA violence and its markings over the Seelampur violence last month have alienated Hindu voters.
This also explains why Kejriwal this time round has not been trying to desperately woo the Muslim voters, with no visible posters showing him as the ‘messiah’ of the community. He has also been avoiding public meetings and gatherings with the community, and at least, till now there have been no new, viral images of the man donning a skull cap.
Kejriwal has come under severe criticism over his unruly implicit support to Shaheen Bagh protests and failure to condemn anti CAA violence in unambiguous words.
Realising the precarious situation that he finds himself in, Kejriwal is in damage control mode and now even his family has got involved in the Election campaign. Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal’s daughter has spoken up after the Delhi CM came under heavy criticism.
She said, “They say politics is dirty but it’s a new low. Is it terrorism if health facilities are made free and brought to people? Is it terrorism if children are made educated? Is it terrorism if electricity and water supply are improved?”
Apart from drawing fire over the anti CAA violence, Kejriwal has been also battling a mounting public sentiment against him. For the past few months, there was a well-coordinated campaign to project Kejriwal as a Vikas Purush with propaganda about health and education initiatives in Delhi.
However, with the embarrassing shortcomings and possible irregularities in his flagship initiative “Mohalla Clinics” getting exposed, Kejriwal has some tough questions to answer which he would have been desperate to avoid.
Even his claims of having transformed school education in Delhi gets countered with some inconsistent ground realities like a high drop out rate among students of Class IX to XII, that he would hate to admit.
Not just false propaganda about education and health sector initiatives, he has a lot to answer about the supply of contaminated water in Delhi. While Kejriwal wants to come back for a second term on the basis of his populism and the free Bijli Pani narrative, a Bureau of Indian Standardisation (BIS) study had revealed last year that Delhi’s drinking water quality is among the worst in the country.
And above all, the ‘clean image’ that the AAP supremo has carefully crafted since the days of Anna Hazare agitation no longer remains unblemished, as former AAP leader and Dwarka MLA, Adarsh Shastri, had recently accused of flouting all democratic norms and selling election tickets for the upcoming Assembly polls at the price of Rs. 10-20 crore.
Delhi’s electoral dynamics are undergoing a sudden and dramatic shift. This is also the reason why Kejriwal has suddenly become a Hindu Nationalist who recites Hanuman Chalisa and wants to inculcate patriotism in the school curriculum. He knows appeasement and populism are no longer going to serve the purpose and this is why Kejriwal has launched an all-new avatar days before the February 8 polls.
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