Reality check for Modi’s toxic politics

AAP wins 62 of 70 seats in New Delhi state assembly handing humiliating defeat to BJP

Kamran Yousaf February 12, 2020
A file photo of Narendra Modi. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is all set to return to power for the third consecutive term after his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the state polls, defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a massive margin in a bitterly contested elections.

AAP won 62 of the 70 seats of New Delhi state assembly handing humiliating defeat to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.

The end results were not surprising but observers believe Modi’s hubris must have received a serious blow as he himself had led the campaign, while BJP President and Home Minister Amit Shah was micromanaging the affairs.

Although the BJP improved its tally by 5 seats compared to the last state elections in 2015, the AAP still managed to sweep the polls.

“Another state election defeat for the BJP and resounding message from voters in Delhi that the toxic and divisive rhetoric deployed by the BJP in the election campaign won’t work. A different story from what we saw in national election last year,” Michael Kugelman, an expert of South Asian affairs at the Washington-based Wilson Centre commented.

The issue was not only a hot debate in India but also outside as it was seen as a referendum on the divisive policies of Modi’s BJP.

While Kejriwal, the 51-year-old former bureaucrat and anti-corruption activist, focused his election campaign on his government’s five-year performance, the BJP relied on national issues and the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Many BJP leaders had launched personal attacks against Kejriwal, calling him “traitor” and “sympathiser” of terrorists.

In fact, one local BJP leader even called the Delhi CM a “terrorist” and said he had evidence to back his claims. The allegations stemmed from the ongoing protests in Delhi against the CAA.

The BJP centered its campaign on “Shaheen Bagh,” a Muslim majority area in Delhi, where thousands of protesters have been holding peaceful protests against the Modi government for its anti-Muslim citizenship law. The BJP accused Kejriwal for backing the Muslim protesters.

Some BJP leaders even called the Delhi elections a “Pakistan versus India” contest, implying that those who were supporting Kejirwal were Pakistan sympathisers.

One known TV anchor, deploring the BJP defeat, castigated the Delhi voters for preferring division of India by opting to elect the AAP again.

Since, Modi’s landslide victory in last year’s general elections, India has increasingly been becoming a majoritarian democracy with minorities, particularly Muslims, feeling insecure as never before.

On the one hand, the Modi government has revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region, locking over eight million Kashmiris for over six months, while on the other enacted a controversial citizenship act that many observers believe is meant to outlaw Muslims in India.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who prior to Modi’s re-election thought the BJP returning to power could help rekindle hope of peace, has repeatedly equated the Indian prime minister with Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

But are the Delhi election results a reality check for Modi and his RSS ideology?

Former Ambassador to India Abdul Basit, who was in New Delhi when Modi first rose to the national scene in 2014, said the election results were surprising to an extent given how much the BJP had invested in those polls.

“The BJP has been able to increase its vote share from 32% to over 38% as well as the seat count from 3 to 7,” Basit said. “There is no doubt the BJP is under pressure on the CAA but it has not affected Modi’s popularity yet as it looks,” he added.

Observers are also of the view that Delhi voters, who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the BJP in the national elections last year, preferred AAP because of Kejriwal’s performance on improving their lives.

Kejriwal was credited with improving public education and health sector and initiated many other projects that directly benefited the people of Delhi.

Analyst Mosharraf Zaidi does not see any change at the national level as a result of AAP’s victory against the BJP.

“Hindutva is ingrained in Indian society and one election here or there doesn’t alter the trajectory of India: a wonderful people whose society has been hijacked by RSS fascists,” Mosharraf lamented.

He also believes that despite losing the Delhi elections, the BJP is facing no serious challenge within India.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ