Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | File photo: T. Narayan | Bloomberg
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | Photo: T. Narayan | Bloomberg
Text Size:

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s noxious Shaheen Bagh comments underscore how Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party wants to convert the Delhi assembly election into a ‘nationalists versus tukde tukde gang’ narrative and reduce it to nothing more than an overtly polarised contest.

Considering this is the national capital, the election conversation should have been around larger national issues of development, jobs, government schemes, and the economy, among others. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite being in power at the Centre, has chosen to ensure the dominant theme of its campaign remains around Shaheen Bagh, ‘tukde tukde’ gang, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, nationals versus ‘anti-nationals’ and more such convenient rhetoric. This, even as its main rival — Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — has based its entire campaign on its five-year governance and promises for the future.

Modi-Shah’s approach towards the Delhi election, however, fits into their larger disdain towards the national capital, the desire to make it a sum of binaries and project it as ‘a hub of nation-unfriendly activities’. The duo has long declared war on Delhi, given the city — particularly the elite Lutyens’ zone, campuses like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jamia Millia Islamia as well as the tentacled sphere of influencers visiting Khan Market — is often critical of the BJP and its leadership. The segment critical of the BJP in Delhi is influential, has platforms where it can ensure it is heard, and more damningly, can reach out to an international audience.


Also read: The people’s occupation of Shaheen Bagh speaks truth to power


BJP’s ‘Shaheen Bagh’ election

It is almost as if the anti-CAA protests in Shaheen Bagh and what they represent gave the BJP exactly what it was looking for — a polarising point to keep harping on.

Therefore, Amit Shah feels Delhi should “vote to get rid of Shaheen Bagh”. He also wants Shaheen Bagh to “feel the current” when people press the button on the EVM on 8 February. Then again, the former BJP president claims Kejriwal is not giving permission to “prosecute the tukde tukde gang”.

Amit Shah isn’t the only one spewing such rubbish. Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad Monday said the “true face” of Shaheen Bagh protesters had to be exposed and questioned why the AAP and the Congress were silent.

And minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur urged the election crowd in Delhi to chant “shoot down the traitors (Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko)”.

The BJP and its campaigners do talk about other issues, but Shaheen Bagh and communal polarisation (like its leader Kapil Mishra calling the election a contest between India and Pakistan) has become the dominant theme for the BJP. Essentially, the Delhi election is now simply about the Shaheen Baghs of the world, while Modi’s favourite vikas (development) and jan kalyan (welfare) talks have been relegated to some dark corner.

The BJP is used to playing this dangerous, polarising game ahead of elections. Its entire politics is built on a toxic mix of communal and nationalistic agenda. But even then, and especially under the ‘pro-vikas’ Modi, the party has raised development initiatives just as much as it has temples and ‘termite’-like infiltrators. And yet, Delhi election is jarring because of the number of times people have been made to hear Shaheen Bagh and tukde tukde gang, but rarely the BJP’s plans to improve Delhi residents’ quality of life if it is voted to power.


Also read: Amit Shah raises Shaheen Bagh in Delhi election: BJP’s desperation or trump card?


The Delhi discomfort

Reducing the Delhi election to a ‘Shaheen Bagh versus India’ contest gives away Modi-Shah’s larger discomfort with the national capital.

Both have looked at themselves as ‘outsiders’, and Delhi’s elite, its media and all its intellectuals and influencers as enemies. The war on Delhi, therefore, has been a long one.

It flared up in February 2016, when one of India’s premier institutes Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was first dubbed as “a hub of anti-national activities”, while its student leaders were arrested and slapped with sedition charges. The university has remained in the eye of storm ever since, with the recent attack by masked goons only taking that tale forward. The ‘urban Naxals’, the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang, the unpatriotic elements — all live in Delhi, and the BJP’s purpose in life is to teach them all a lesson.

Modi’s ‘Khan Market gang’ jibe in May 2019 further highlighted this contempt and dislike for Delhi’s influential sections. That grouse is now coming out in the form of this Shaheen Bagh-obsession ahead of the Delhi election.

Imagine, this locality in Delhi, which was unknown before the anti-CAA protest began mid-December, has become the BJP’s prime enemy, almost its raison d’être, in this election. Sources in both AAP and BJP say Arvind Kejriwal has a definite edge in this election. So, perhaps by making Shaheen Bagh and the ‘tukde tukde’ gang their chief rival, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah want to send out an even more dangerous message to their voters — that either they are with the BJP, which espouses the real ‘idea of India’, or with these ‘separatist’ elements who are out to destroy the country.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. BJP is unable to any worthwhile issue to take on AAP led AK. MCD is under BJP and if they have done good in places under corporation, they can win. It looks like they have not done good work to impress voters and therefore non issues are being hyped. There is likely in the up coming Budget, there is likely to be some Delhi centric lollypop and personal tax of individuals. With Central government babus and other MC, the vote can probably tilt in theire favour.

    • Dear Nagarajan, blocking of a major arterial road and putting lakhs of commuters to severe inconvenience may not seem like a ‘worthwhile issue’ to you, but to me its a blot on democratic rights of other citizens. Its sheer lawlessness.

      • If inconvenience is really so severe, and there really isn’t any alternate or parallel route available, then isn’t it severely irresponsible on the part of union home minister that he has till date taken no initiative to clear the bottle neck? Has he asked any representatives of Shaheen Bagh to talk to any government representative, or has he sent any such representative to Shaheen Bagh? Does it reflect a total disregard for the institution of Democracy which fully allows peaceful protests?

        • Are you aware that shaheen bagh ‘peaceful demonstrators’ are not willing to talk to anyone anymore? They are in fact thrashing senior journalists from any channel they find asking uncomfortable questions. When anyone asks them whats the problem with CAA, they reply Modi is hitler and noteban was bad. A group which is not willing to enter into a dialogue because they have nothing to say. Just brainwashed, hate filled zombies.

      • Still time for BJP to win if they remove father ,mother, dada dadi,nana,nami name from NPR ,no body wants see double meaning ,voluntary, not collected document, not asking documents, if you want to place of birth, 50 year back people are backward un educated they not under stand double meaning .BJP can not make fool now. First delete all these question than talk about Shaheen bag

  2. Modi, Amit Shah and BJP are desperate as far as Delhi election is concerned because nothing is working. They’re trying rake up Shaheen Bagh protests as a big election issue, but it seems AAP is not falling into the trap and the public seems to ignore those protests. That’s making Shah and Modi angrier and more and more hopeless.

  3. ThePrint journalists love to accuse BJP and Modi and are employing all possible means to discredit Amit Shah. However, I am not sure if their efforts are worth investing in anti-Modi propaganda.

  4. Shaheen Bagh may be the polarising point BJP was looking for but citizens of Delhi need not decide to vote on that basis. Here is one election where we can vote on the basis of good work done – let us do it!! maybe it will set a good example to others. Imagine all elections being fought on issues of education, health, water, electricity, transport… ideology or no ideology, India will look different!

    • So when bJP wins election was fought on ‘polarising’ issues OR EVM was faulty. When any party that You like wins, its fought on education, water & electricity. Please have some semblance of objectivity. As much as Nationalism, BJP won 2019 with ujjwala, Jan Dhan, Demonetisation, Ayushmann bharat..Your guru shekhar gupta was forced to share his experiences in a post BJP victory video he posted on this website. Go through that video, and for heavens sake – be truthful. You lose some, you win some.

  5. Majority of Hindus are in agreement with the concerns espoused by Shaheen Bagh type of protests. Otherwise, the BJP would have long ago mobilized mammoth pro-CAA rallies in Delhi and other parts of India.

    • Have you done some survey which proves ‘majority of hindus are in agreement with anti CAA protests’? I say majority of Hindus are in agreement with BJP. I am one. By the way BJP has mobilized mammoth rallies and has received tremendous support. Its just that Congress ecosystem media doesnt highlight the same. The PM even made a statement to this effect recently. Anyway, the barometer of public’s happiness or unhappiness with a leader & his policies is a lok sabha election, which will now take place in 2024. Till then You can refer to 2014& 2019 to make more informed statements. Dont shoot from the hip like you have done above.

  6. One is not sure this is a winning strategy. Either in Delhi, with its educated, relatively well off citizens, the nub / hub of national media, or even in other parts of the country. India has a lot of poor or lower middle class people, today household consumption is collapsing. Electoral disappointments are getting baked into the cake.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here