Aam Aadmi Party, the party which ruled the city of Delhi for last five years under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal, is being extensively supported by the civil society groups be it NGOs, writers, media or academia ahead of the 2020 Assembly election. The civil society groups, which still have considerable influence in at least Delhi, have temporarily shunned their earlier favourite, the Nehru-Gandhi led Congress party, to back Kejriwal. Even Congress party has extended its tacit support to AAP.
There are two major reasons behind the support Kejriwal. The first being it is the only party which can defeat BJP in the city of Delhi; and given the civil society’s hatred against BJP, they would like to see BJP defeated at any cost; and the second being that AAP is a political force borne out of a civil society movement.
When AAP entered politics on 26 November 2012, that is, 7 years ago, many civil society groups vehemently criticized that Kejriwal used a novel people-driven movement against corruption for political gains. In 2013 assembly elections, most of these people voted for the Congress party like before. But in 2015 assembly election, when it looked like BJP will sweep the city as it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, most of the members of civil society shifted to AAP as they felt that it is the only force which can defeat BJP- their arch-enemy.
In 2014, after the Modi government came to power at the centre, and Congress looked like a spent force with only 44 seats, the civil society groups switched the side to AAP. In that period, plethora of articles were written, praising politics of Kejriwal, and how he has created a new space for civil society. “While Kejriwal’s actions can be debated… there is no doubt that he has created greater space and role for civil society,” wrote Balaji Chandramouli in Livemint in 2014.
Similarly, in 2015, Richard Mahapatra Managing Editor, Down To Earth- a magazine by the activist, to the activist, for the activist- wrote in the publication that, “his (Kejriwal’s) is an updated phase of civil society’s lesser-known but old tryst with electoral politics.”
“AAP has expanded this experiment not only in scope but also in terms of electoral success. This is a new turn in the civil society’s journey on electoral path,” he argued, with a sense of hope for greater involvement of civil society in electoral politics.
In the last six years, it has become very evident that the Modi government will not give civil society groups, especially those working with foreign capital against the interest of India. Therefore, if the BJP comes to power in the city too, the epicentre of the activities of the civil society will be lost by them, and their activities and activism will be restricted.
The 2020 Delhi Assembly election is fought for the existence for the civil society groups in the city. And therefore, they are fighting tooth and nail to keep BJP away from power in the city.
BJP, which seemed to be nowhere in the political scenario of the city a few weeks ago, has upped the ante for AAP since Amit Shah came into the picture. So, why Delhi, a city which has very limited power vested in the legislative assembly (land and law and order- two most important subjects are under union jurisdiction), has become the prestige battle for BJP.
Almost all the popular leaders of the party, including Prime Minister, have campaigned in the last few weeks. If BJP can win the city of Delhi, the last fort of the civil society groups, whose politics is aligned to the left of centre, will fall. And all the small-time rallies and protests organized in the posh areas of Lutyens Delhi will be put to rest.