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Security personnel stand guard outside a strong room, a day after national capital went to polls for the Assembly election, at a counting centre in Akshardham, New Delhi, (PTI)
Security personnel stand guard outside a strong room, a day after national capital went to polls for the Assembly election, at a counting centre in Akshardham, New Delhi, (PTI)

Delhi result will leave imprint on Indian democracy

It will be known on Tuesday if Kejriwal government’s performance overshadows Shah’s efforts

The verdict of Delhi will be known today. These election results of this half-state will not only decide its rulers for five years but will also leave a new imprint on the huge canvas of Indian democracy.

The poisoning that took place in full view during the election campaigning must be fresh in your memory. It was campaigning for Delhi state elections but the issues were being determined as if for the entire country. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had in a way fielded the entire brigade of nationalists. In the seven-decade-long history of Indian democracy, it was perhaps for the first time that a party had deputed nearly 250 of its MPs for a contest over 70 assembly seats. During the campaigning, the party’s former president and home minister Amit Shah used all his might. Like a common party worker, he went door to door, addressed all small and big gatherings in support of the party’s candidates and tried to convey his message through rallies. Yogi Adityanath, the firebrand chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, also addressed 12 election rallies. The entire focus of these leaders was to turn the majority of voters in their favour. The BJP always tries to convey that it wants to win numbers for the majority community. Others try to win a majority for numbers.

The BJP made Prime Minister Narendra Modi its face for this election. But this time, he addressed only two public rallies. The meaning is clear —that the BJP was working very carefully. The idea was that if the result is not favourable, then ‘brand Modi’ should not be dented —although the BJP tried to pass this exam riding the historic decisions on triple talaq, Article 370 and Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, taken in the ‘national interest’ by the prime minister.

That is why all its leaders mentioned the dharna at Shaheen Bagh quite a lot. In response, the senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) argued that the people looking after law and order of the city are responsible for clearing the dharna. The law and order machinery of Delhi comes under the Union home ministry, then why is it not doing its work? Now, the election results will only tell which argument went down well with the people of Delhi. But these assembly elections have once again proved that India is chalking out a new definition of secularism. Arvind Kejriwal reciting Hanuman Chalisa only reaffirms that. Later in a public gathering, he was also seen carrying a gadaa (mace). Earlier too, you must have seen political leaders visiting temples, matts and dargahs. Sonia Gandhi had said this too at one point of time —that the Congress was projected as an anti-Hindu party, and that’s why it had to face defeat in elections.

Some may call it a result of an attempt to establish the dominance of the majority, but this is an irrefutable fact—that AAP which started the campaign in the name of development was also forced to change its tune to compete with the BJP. They could sense that for the saffron party, Shaheen Bagh had become an excuse to change the course of winds in the campaign.

The organizers of the protests against CAA at various places in the country along with Shaheen Bagh were not unaware of this fact. They used the Constitution, national anthem, Gandhi and Ambedkar as symbols of resistance to avoid and foil the attempts at communal polarization. There was an attempt to chant religion-specific slogans at some places but the demonstrators stopped it because they did not want their efforts to be identified with a particular section of society.

The assessments made before these elections clearly projected AAP to be in a far better position. That is why the BJP opted for an aggressive strategy right from the beginning. Shah himself was at the helm of this strategy. If you look at his record, you will find that Shah contests every election as if it is his first and last fight.

Kejriwal joined the fight with a long list of work done by his government on issues related to the common man such as education, electricity, water and health. His honesty and administrative intentions and efficiency can’t be doubted. In such a scenario, the BJP needed some extra effort to gain a dignified position in the elections. Will Delhi provide a meaningful result to these efforts by Shah? Or will the Kejriwal government’s performance overshadow him? How much did AAP gain or lose due to the half-hearted fight the Congress gave in this election to make its road to victory easy?

We will get the answers to these questions today. And these answers definitely will have an impact on the present ways and means of Indian politics.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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