New Delhi: As the situation in Northeast Delhi remains grim, BJP leader Kapil Mishra finds himself in the eye of the storm.
During the rally, he gave a “three-day” ultimatum to the Delhi Police to get the roads cleared of anti-CAA protesters. He then issued a call through microblogging site Twitter urging people to gather and “prevent another Shaheen Bagh” protest from taking place near the Jaffrabad metro station. The tweet has since been taken down by Twitter for violating its policies.
This latest provocation is far removed for a man who once described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “an ISI agent”.
A graduate from the Delhi School of Social Work who was part of activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, Mishra has courted one controversy after another in recent months — from starting the chants of ‘Desh Ke Gaddaron Ko’ at a pro-CAA rally in December to leading an agitation against the Shaheen Bagh protests.
These statements came less than two years after he was sacked from the AAP government, before he jumped to the Modi-led BJP. He fought (and lost) the Delhi assembly elections on a BJP ticket.
Such manoeuvres, however, have always characterised Mishra’s career.
Kapil Mishra, 39, was exposed to politics at a young age. He is known to have actively worked in Northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar where his mother and former mayor from the BJP, Annapurna Mishra, was a leader.
Initially, Mishra reportedly worked as a public policy campaigner with international non-profits Greenpeace and Amnesty. He also co-founded the New Delhi-based group ‘Youth for Justice’.
His activist streak then took him to the Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. During the campaign, he raised the issue of 2010 Commonwealth Games over environmental concerns as well as violation of labour laws in a pamphlet titled Common Vs Wealth.
A Kejriwal protégé back then, the activist joined the Aam Aadmi Party that came out of the IAC. He fit the bill too — he was young, articulate, associated with the founding members, a social activist, and social media savvy, too.
He contested the 2013 Delhi assembly elections on an AAP ticket, but lost. In 2015, he won the Karawal Nagar assembly seat with a margin of more than 44,000 votes.
The roundabout turn
After the AAP government was formed in Delhi, Kapil Mishra was given the water portfolio, along with the charge of tourism, Gurudwara elections, and art, culture and languages. He was among the few ministers who took the oath in Sanskrit in the state assembly.
During this stint, he actively took up the cause of cleaning the Yamuna. He also prepared a report against former Delhi chief minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit over the alleged water tanker scam.
In 2017, Mishra had a public falling out with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after he publicly accused the CM of accepting a Rs 2-crore bribe, and of intentionally delaying the probe into the Rs 400-crore tanker scam. Kejriwal was given a clean chit by the CBI and Lokayukta in the bribery case.
Mishra was fired from the state cabinet before being suspended from the party membership.
The AAP MLA then proceeded to start a campaign, ‘My PM, My Pride’, to fight the “negative campaign” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media and the ground. The move came barely two years after he had described the PM as an “ISI agent”.
Mishra was disqualified as an MLA under the anti-defection law after he campaigned for the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He joined the Modi-led party in August last year.
Controversies since then
Kapil Mishra’s stint with the BJP has been eventful to say the least.
The first major controversy around him came in December last year when he took out a march in Delhi in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act. From the march, a video of him surfaced on social media in which he could be heard shouting the inflammatory slogan — “desh ke gaddaron ko”.
Though the Delhi BJP distanced itself from Mishra’s march, several party leaders, including junior finance minister Anurag Thakur, were later seen on camera mouthing the same slogan.
On 25 January, in the run-up to the Delhi assembly elections, the Election Commission banned Mishra from campaigning for 48 hours after he posted communal tweets on Twitter.
In his tweets, Mishra wrote, “Pakistan has entered Shaheen Bagh. Mini-Pakistans are being created in the city. The law of the land is not being followed in Shaheen Bagh, Chand Bagh and Indralok. Pakistani rioters are occupying Delhi roads,” Mishra tweeted.
In another tweet, he said, “India Vs Pakistan. There will a contest on Delhi Roads between India and Pakistan on February 8 (poll date).” For this statement, the Delhi Police registered an FIR against him.
He also sparked a row during the poll campaign when he said that AAP should be renamed to “Muslim League”.
Mishra, however, lost from the Model Town constituency in the 8 February elections by over 11,000 votes.
Pressure on BJP for action
As the law and order situation in the national capital worsens, calls against Kapil Mishra have started to emerge from within the BJP too.
On Tuesday, BJP MP from East Delhi Gautam Gambhir hit out at his party colleague, saying strict action must be taken against those responsible irrespective of their allegiance.
“This is unfortunate. Whoever has done this, strict action must be taken-whether from BJP, Congress or AAP. Kapil Mishra’s speech is not acceptable. This is about Delhi not any political party,” he said.
Delhi BJP unit chief Manoj Tiwari has also said politicians who give hate speeches should be barred from contesting elections.
Several victims of the riots too blamed Mishra for the events that have unfolded.
Mishra, however, took to Twitter to say that he stands by his statements and won’t give in to pressure.
ओवैसी मुझे गाली दे रहा हैं,
बरखा, राजदीप, अभिसार, कापड़ी, जावेद अख्तर सब कपिल मिश्रा को गाली दे रहे हैं
मुझे हत्या की धमकियां दी जा रही हैं
मेरा गुनाह हैं कि मैंने आतंक की आंखों में आंख डालकर सच बोलने का साहस किया
आतंकियों से सुहानुभूति रखने वाले मुझसे नफरत कर रहे हैं pic.twitter.com/s4tIpF8dxz
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) February 25, 2020