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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 8, February 14, 2015

morning after delhi poll outcome: so what really happened? Facing the Anger of the Sane and the Just

Monday 16 February 2015, by John Dayal

The Aam Admi Party won, the Bharatiya Janata Party got the drubbing of its life, the Indian National Congress drew a blank, as did the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Indian National Lok Dal. And Mr Arvind Kejriwal won hearts embracing his Income Tax official wife, Sunita, in a public display of affection not seen since the first figurines were made in Vrindavan-Mathura many a yug ago.

Delhi, as the National Capital Territory, sends seven members to the Lok Sabha and three to the Rajya Sabha. That makes it bigger than 20 of the States and Union Territories in India. Its 70-member Assembly makes it bigger than 10 other States which have legislatures. And even though its finances, land, higher education and police force are controlled by the Union Government, it generates bigger political and media sound-bytes than perhaps most of them put together.

And therefore there is so much buzz about what really was it that put a road-bump in the path of the juggernaut that Mr Narendra Modi and his omnipotent sarathi, Mr Amit Shah, were riding? The media seems unanimous it was Mr Kejriwal. Or at least Mr Kejriwal, assisted ably by his team of volunteer NRIs, social scientists, management gurus, social media specialists and street-level workers, who revived the AAP after its drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and took it to a mind-boggling 67-3 victory over the BJP in the Assembly elections in February 2015. In the process they overcame the disgrace of running away last time, the election fatigue, the BJP’s media-spend, and the mighty army of the Sangh Parivar that was so very active in the last week of the campaign.

The BJP has, however, hovered more or less at around the 32 per cent vote-share it had in the 2013 Assembly elections. It mopped up 46 per cent of the vote in the Lok Sabha elections, but that was a different game altogether. The linkages between the three elections do not add lustre to the image either of Mr Modi or Mr Kejriwal. But of that, in a moment. Any talk of consolidation of the anti-BJP votes to explain the landslide victory of the AAP would not be entirely correct, for it would imply a pre-poll arrangement between political parties and coordinated transfer of vote-banks, even if there were no formal arrangements for common candidates and joint campaigns. None of this took place.

Forgotten in the statistics, strategies, war-chests and mobilisation of the elections—which otherwise covers cadres, loyalists and the converted—is what could be called the Real Common Man who makes Delhi far more cosmopolitan than Mumbai-Bombay or Bengaluru which was once Bangalore. It was his and her anger than any charisma Mr Kejriwal could possess that generated the tsunami which swept away the new myth that Mr Modi was as invincible as he had led the world to believe.

It needs to be remembered that the current political situation is exactly what both the BJP and AAP had envisioned in the 2013 Assembly elections when the campaign against corruption led by Mr Anna Hazare morphed into a political apparatus promising to rid the country of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government of Dr Manmohan Singh smudged with the dirt of bribes in coal, communication and Commonwealth Games deals. The slogan “Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM”, a dream then, is the reality now for the people of Delhi.

But there is a difference, and a crucial one.

The anger, then against the Congress Government of Dr Manmohan Singh, is now against Mr Modi. There is no getting away from it much as the spin doctors would try in TV studios and party offices. The Congress was invisible this time around, the object of pity rather than of censure. And ignored, getting a mere 10 per cent of the vote, down 15 per cent from 2013 and even the 15 per cent in the 2014 parliamentary elections when it again scored a zero.

As the analysis of the results shows, the core strength of the BJP remains as it was. The rich, the upper middle class and a section of the trading and business classes remained with the BJP. In fact, of the three seats the party won, it even wrested one from the AAP and a second from the Congress.

The rest of the two-thirds decided, spontane-ously it would seem, but certainly over a period of just about three months, that it was time to speak against the silence of Mr Modi on threats that were so obvious to them, threats to the very idea of a secular, socialist, peaceful India.

These were not Muslims, or Christians, religious minorities who could be expected to abhor the image of Mr Modi who they saw as involved somehow in the massacres in Gujarat in 2002. These were people who had liked the idea of development which would generate jobs, improve city facilities, perhaps even improve the security of women in the national Capital.

But this was not happening.

Within months of the Mr Modi being sworn in with the picturesque dusk setting of the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt, they saw Mr Amit Shah being “exonerated” in court of criminal charges of involvement in serious crimes in Gujarat. So were police officers, earlier indicted and incarcerated while facing trial in cases of extrajudicial killings, freed, reinstated and prom-oted. Crony capitalism just changed loyalties. Political and judicial deals from Tamil Nadu to Punjab made a mockery of the fight against corruption.

The disgust was audibly articulated as Mr Modi was making his first address to the nation after unfurling the Tricolour at Red Fort. Standing at the spot from which Jawaharlal Nehru had first rejoiced with the common people on the promise of the first dawn of independent India, Mr Modi called for a “ten-year moratorium” on communal and religious violence. He did not speak of his government’s resolve to have zero tolerance against targeted violence. He offered no solace to the victims. Just a ten-year hiatus in the continuum of violence targeted against religious minorities, Dalits, tribals, and, increasingly, against women.

That really was the clue for the RSS and its Parivar. They had already laid claim of propelling Mr Modi and the BJP to power. They had claimed, and got, important Ministries in the Union Council of Ministers and the party. Now they claimed the run of the land. And seemed to have got it.

The people watched in disbelief as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal organised brazen ghar wapsi programmes in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh even in distant Kerala, always ensuring an adequate number of mediapersons and TV cameras. The police looked on. Even State governments not controlled by the BJP seemed helpless as the sadhus and the cadres held forth.

The Lok Sabha debate initialed by Adityanath, the Gorakhpur Mahant, would have sent him to prison if it had been made elsewhere, so vitriolic was it in its anti-Muslim rhetoric and abuse. The campaign against love-Jihad followed. But even that seemed to pale in comparison with Swami Sakshi Maharaj, his colleague in the Lok Sabha, and the wonderful Sadhvi Prachi, a Central Minister no less, as they encouraged faithful women to produce from four to ten children to save Hinduism from the onslaught of a Muslim population explosion. The language coined new political phraseology—Ramzaada and Haramzaada. It may be possible to translate the words into English, but not their flavour, so to speak, and imputations on the citizenship of a pretty large section of the population.

For the civilised section of the Indian people, and that is the overwhelming majority, the anger rose as they saw the persecution of Christians, from Bastar in Chhattisgarh to Jhabua where two little girls, one a bare three months old, were locked up in jail over Christmas with their Tamil parents arrested on charges of converting local people to Christianity. The minorities urged Mr Modi to speak against this terror. He point-blank refused to do so.

The desecration of Churches in the national Capital, and the brutal arrest and detention of human rights activists, nuns and priests who were demonstrating against the attacks on Churches, was covered by the media across the globe.

President Pranab Mukherjee cautioned of such intolerance when he addressed the nation on Independence Day. US President Barak Obama too spoke of the linkage between harmony and development just before he left India after a high-profile Republic Day visit. The government advertisements—excising the words “Secular”, “Socialist” from the calligraphic artwork of the Constitution’s Preamble—seemed to confirm the fears of an assault on the Idea if India conceived by the founding fathers of the Republic.

And if a last straw was needed, the media focused on the golden stripes on the suit that Mr Modi wore as he met Mr Obama. The suit, with his own name emblazoned in letters of gold, had cost a reported Rs 15 lakhs.

That was perhaps the flashpoint.

Without political party leaders meeting behind closed doors to decide electoral strategies, the people decided they had had enough of this combination of communalism, hate, impunity and megalomania.

Not because they loved the AAP. Mr Kejriwal and his party had always been very iffy about the issue of secularism. Almost as part of their strategy, they had decided to focus on corruption, women’s security and the twins of wager and power, rather than on communal harmony or reining in the fringe elements of religious communities. Perhaps they did not want to alienate the majority group, or be accused of minority appeasement. They had won over the middle classes by asserting that “gifts” to the poor were not at the cost of the aspirations of the middle class and the youth. It was enough that it (the AAP) was opposing the BJP. And he (Kejriwal) could win.

On February 7, this silent mass came to the polling stations and voted for whoever was the AAP candidate in their constituency.

This was a mass “transfer” of votes by the people who had kept silent hoping Mr Modi would speak against the lunatics of his party and his Parivar.

They did not realise till the day of the results how powerfully they had spoken through the electronic voting machines.

But this is just an election to the Assembly of a class C State. Mr Modi still remains silent at the ghar wapsi that continues, and the hate speeches that blare over loudspeakers, from Jammu to Bangalore. And the statement that the RSS chief, Mr Mohan Bhagwat, makes every second day, saying India is a Hindu Nation, with one culture, one relgion, one god. The next election is quite far away.

The author is a senior journalist, human rights activist and member of the National Integration Council.