- Amit Shah threw everything and the kitchen sink at Delhi.
- Yogi Adityanath, the rabble rousing chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, turned Biryani into an issue to bash minorities.
Most of the media in India is terrified and won’t tell you the truth of the Delhi elections.
The truth is that possibly the most communal and hate-filled campaign fronted by Amit Shah, the powerful Indian Home Minister, was defeated by Arvind Kejriwal, who has just won another term as Delhi chief minister.
Shah addressed a record number of public meetings and even went on the stump, going door to door, to convince people that the Opposition was “anti-national” and in thrall to Pakistan.
He asked people to press the EVM button so hard that it electrified the protestors at the Shaheen Bagh - a road where Muslim women are protesting against the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) dreamt up and piloted by Shah.
Shah threw everything and the kitchen sink at Delhi. Yogi Adityanath, the rabble rousing chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, turned Biryani into an issue to bash minorities. Yogi actually said Kejriwal was feeding Shaheen Bagh Biryani.
Anurag Thakur, junior Minister for Finance in the Modi Cabinet, gave a full throttle endorsement to incitement, asking people to shoot traitors.
Kejriwal was called a “terrorist” and Delhi Police, which is controlled by Shah stood by when two crazed men shot at protestors in Jamia Islamia.
This was the BJP’s dark campaign dreamt up by Shah, who thought he could use the Delhi election campaign to transform himself into a mass leader and the undisputed heir to Modi.
Yes Kejriwal won by a landslide, but only because he refused to get trapped into Shah’s contentious Muslim baiting tropes. The truth is that the electoral grammar has been reset by Shah in absolute majoritarian terms.
All parties fighting elections today are a version of “Hindutva light”. The minorities, especially Muslims, don’t have leaders defending them and the secularism, which is guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.
That is the reason that Kejriwal kept away from standing with the brave women of Shaheen Bagh. Shah kept challenging Kejriwal to come clean on Shaheen Bagh. And, Kejriwal refused to engage. Now that may be clever politics, but is it leadership?
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The Congress, the so-called national party, refused to fight the Delhi elections, losing its deposit in 67 out of 70 seats. Shah knows that Kejriwal is a start-up party, which currently can’t go national and the Congress demonised as an “anti-national” party, seems to have lost the will to power and to fight the BJP on its ideology.
The current health of secularism and democracy in India is sickly and alarming. Delhi elections were a road test of the campaign that Shah will run in the Bihar elections scheduled for December this year and West Bengal next year. The Opposition currently does not have a leader and a plan to take on the BJP’s extreme ideology and decisions such as the CAA and the crackdown in Kashmir. Modi and Shah believe that a polarised polity will ensure that bread and butter issues such as an imploding economy, a giant job crisis will not come back to and hurt them electorally.
Shah may have been humiliated today, but he’s not giving up any time soon to transform India into his own image.
Delhi is a brief burst of sunlight. Be afraid, very afraid for democracy in India.