Sunday, March 19, 2023
HomeOpinionThe FactivistHow Kejriwal gamed Modi, Shah's Hindutva-nationalism-welfarism combination to defeat them

How Kejriwal gamed Modi, Shah’s Hindutva-nationalism-welfarism combination to defeat them

While nationalism plus religion and socialism is a killer electoral combination, a tiny party like AAP has shown these aren't beyond the reach of BJP's rivals.

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The history of democracy tells you that nationalism and (majority) religion are an unbeatable combination. What light does the Delhi result throw on this?

Let’s expand the argument. If you can also deftly throw in socialism, it makes for a proposition cast in titanium. Nothing can challenge or hurt it. We’ve been living through this reality since 2014, the Modi-Shah era.

This has awed pundits on all sides. Arun Shourie had famously called the BJP, Congress plus cow. Another eminent friend of mine in Kolkata, who has followed the politics of the Left closely for decades, suggests a rewrite after the latest budget. Now, he says, Narendra Modi is nothing but Prakash Karat plus CAA.

Now you can see why the BJP has a 92 per cent (seats won in May 2019) success record against the Congress and a 23 per cent lead in votes. When Rahul Gandhi goes temple-hopping it looks like a spectacle, unconvincing, and worse, defensive. As if to say, see, I am Hindu too. This is also why the Left died in West Bengal. Then, Congress leaders ask for evidence of surgical strikes and Balakot, are ambivalent on Article 370, triple talaq and Sabarimala and call Modi a ‘chor’.

Mamata Banerjee took away their socio-populism, and unlike them, she is happy to dress in any religion’s colours — even the hijab — on its festivals and be as nationalist as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. India’s older parties are either not getting this change, or are unwilling to accept this reality.

How does a tiny and young party like the AAP then defy these odds to seal its second near-clean sweep in Delhi within nine months of finishing a distant third behind the BJP and the Congress in the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections?

Because, while nationalism plus religion and socialism is a killer combination electorally, none of these is beyond the reach of any of your rivals. No one party has a copyright on Bharat Mata, Lord Ram, Ram Charit Manas or socialism/welfarism/populism. Watch the victory speeches by Kejriwal and his key leaders today. There’s been plenty of Bharat Mata ki jai, Vande Mataram, praise for Lord Hanuman and temple visits without pomp and bandobast.

Also read: Modi-Shah’s BJP govt has failed India’s youth and is now stuck fighting them

For months now, Kejriwal and his party have faced woke condemnation over their silence on JNU (which Rahul Gandhi visited), Jamia Millia, Shaheen Bagh, CAA and other such issues. Also, over their teerth yatra-type schemes. Their success lies in the fact that they held their nerve. If they had succumbed to this pressure even a little, to come up to the standards set for liberalism/secularism on Twitter, Amit Shah would have sent them not just a box of mithais, but the entire halwai shop.

They would then have lost both, the gods and the nation, and let these be the BJP’s monopoly. Not only did they not do it, Kejriwal himself recited the Hanuman Chalisa on TV news, sounded sincere and convincing and a bhakt, of the Hindu gods, rather than that of the two-member ruling pantheon today.

If you are a non-bigoted, god-fearing Hindu, which is a very large majority of Hindus, this is a more convincing expression of religiosity and faith than a ‘Jai Shri Ram’ shouted menacingly or in anger and resentment. Further, it gives no offence to other religions, including the Muslims. Just as a Muslim cannot be ‘judged’ for looking, sounding, praying like a Muslim, this is merely a mirror image of a Hindu publicly expressing his religiosity. None is setting a code of conduct for the other and insisting that it be followed, on the threat of, who knows, even citizenship.

And on nationalism, please do remember that among the first steps the Kejriwal government took was to announce ex-gratia payments to the families of soldiers killed in action at a scale unprecedented in India. It promptly voted with the BJP government on Article 370, welcomed the surgical strikes and Balakot rather than express any scepticism at all about the armed forces’ claims.

On welfare, they devised their own giveaways and, just like Narendra Modi and his Ujjwala scheme etc, ensured efficient and leak-proof delivery. The combination of nationalism-welfarism-religion was, thereby, established. The most important tactical approach lay in not attacking Modi or the BJP on any of these.

The big takeaway from this election is that the larger Modi-Shah method has been, and can be gamed. Nobody can take Modi away from the BJP. No leader seems to be rising anywhere at this point who could conceivably challenge Modi even in 2024. But you can surely deny them the exclusivity over their winning formula and make the contest much less one-sided.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal’s start-up AAP is the political ‘Unicorn’ of the decade


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  1. A tiny party being voted by relatively smart Delhi voters is a different story. Yogi Adityanath is blissfully unaware in his state as relatively dumber UP voters will vote the sanghi no matter what.

  2. Kejriwal released a video, asking proof of surgical strikes. Only in the last two years he came out of the trap of standard of liberals. India is a civilisational state which always have causality between political thought and religious thought. So, in India western imported irreligious politics may never be possible.

  3. A Hindu cannot be blamed for looking and acting like a Hindu. I wonder where was this arguement 10 years ago when the same people used to blame BJP leaders for doing exactly the same.

    It is proof that opposition parties have to atleast adapt some part of ideology. Imitation is greatest form of appreciation.

    You miss the point that if parties actually start treating muslims like any other religion and dont allow them an exclusive VETO like erstwhile governments did. Then we have absolutely no problem voting for them.

    We who have seen time when political leaders used to go pandering at slightest uncomfort of the muslim community while same was not done for any others. Thats what was unfair. If AAP has learnt that this selective secularism doesnt fly with Indian public anymore then kudos to them. We welcome them and encourage all other parties to follow suit.

    • Nobody ever blamed anyone for being Hindu other than in your brainwashed dreams. If you man Modi, then murdering people is not the same thing as being a Hindu. Learn the difference.

  4. All parties are doing welfarism and practicing socialism as a competition with each other. Indian voters are happy with some good changes and schemes. They did not question what AAP did in five years and why so many promises of manifestos are unfulfilled. Media also did not question AAP too on it. Media is against BJP for sure. It seems that Media feels that BJP should lose every election. However, BJP can also outsmart others. Now BJP in center will not let AK to work easily. Again we need to wait for MCD elections.

  5. One can buy votes by pre-election handouts or one can but Indian people’s souls by subsidies. I feel sorry that Delhi people are happy with free electricity while they could have questioned why this money was not used to develop electric charging infrastructure, electric car subsidy to increase it’s adaptation or even uninterrupted traffic.

    Well, the same old game of socialism is winning all over again and India is collectively loosing.

  6. Just imagine for sake of argument kejriwal gamed but to whom . Is it voter or hindu voter. kejriwal or anyone can’t game voter.
    I see the result of delhi as victory of hindus. Hindu proved that hindu was liberal and secular,is liberal and secular and shall remain liberal and secular unlike other religious entities muslims , Christians and sikhs who also voted on communal grounds. Let them learn from hindus and drop their agenda of expansion of brotherhood. Only then secular india can survive. Hindu shall not bear the burden of secularism on his shoulder if others didn’t reciprocate.

    • You’re right.. Hindus proved that they are the backbone of this secular nation!

      Every community tries to spread their message, even Hindus – nothing wrong with that! The thing is, it’s easier to notice a negative aspect of one community, over a positive aspect or act. The majority of every community here has a secular mindset. It’s an Indian phenomenon!

      It’s just sad that a person like Kejriwal has to chant the Hanuman Chalisa, or be photographed with a tilak to fight BJP propaganda, even though he’s already a practising Hindu!

  7. ”No leader seems to be rising anywhere at this point who could conceivably challenge Modi even in 2024.” I can hear Shekhar crying. AAP winning is good for BJP since AAp is no challenge to BJP, but Congress is. With these results Congress is going further from the centre and nobody understands it better than Shekhar.

  8. As much left bashing as bjp-rss bashing!!! left is not the problem at this point of time! never forget that Hilter could take over because the socialists and the communists in the Weimer Republic could not get along.

  9. BJP should take a page from the Kejriwal book. Promise freebie everywhere. BJP is too entrenched in the idea that it is the only responsible national party left that needs to make India a first world nation and thus be a realistic, honest and fiscally responsible party. I say ditch India and save your seat. Congress has already adapted. See media also didn’t grill Kejriwal on it as they will love anyone who can defeat BJP. So don’t get defeated again by playing by the rules.

  10. AAP is virtually a regional party belonging to Delhi. Past trends suggests that while BJP can easily defeat Congress, it finds very tough to tackle regional parties from all over India. BJD- Orissa, Shiv Sena-Maharashtra, TRS- Telangana, YSR Congress- Andhra Pradesh, TMC- West Bengal- the list is endless.

    • If a person living hand to mouth can save 500 or 1000 rupees a month, what is wrong with that?! Isn’t it the government’s job to empower every section of society?! When corporates and rich chamchas get something free, there is no problem is there?!

  11. Shekher ji: As you like facts are facts. Please prove me wrong. The Muslims feel Kejriwal’s hanuman chalisa not intimidating as BJP’s Hindusim is very aggressive. If there was no aggressive Hinduism then muslims would object even to Kejriwal Hanuman Chalisa. I agree that BJP ‘s over the top aggressive hindutva is not good for the country…but just saying comforting things to not hurt Muslims is equally bad . The fact remains that Muslims are unsatisfied in every part of the world where Islam is not in majority. Where Islam is in majority they are not happy either. Please please don’t make muslims sound secular. They are most communal of all people on earth.

    I fail to understand why is everyone so scared to speak the truth about muslims?

    • Well, the people of Delhi decided that speaking the truth or whatever else to whichever community is not as important as good governance and basic amenities.

  12. Let me stick my neck out, since no Print reader actually carries a hatchet. Hindutva and the entire medley built around it has run out of steam. It will win no more elections. With each passing day, Kashmir is looking more and more like Demonetisation. A Ram Mandir, kissing the azure sky, is a spent cartridge in electoral terms. At least 200 million Indians will stand calmly and say, Kaagaz nahin Dikhayenge when the NRC inspectors roll by. So if the BJP wishes to rule for an unbroken fifty years, it should start delivering Achhe Din to all Indians.

    • Hmm So who exactly will become the Prime Minister in 2024 ?

      is there a viable alternative. A motley group of All the opposition coming together to form The ultimate Mahagathbandhan will not last and also not be able to govern at all because of pulls in different direction.

      So whats the alternative

      • I hope prashant kishor becomes the PM. Really, he is the only one with the skills to beat modi at advertising and making bluffs convincing enough for people to believe. The only problem is he probably doesnt have enough time for this before 2024. But sadly, this is what politics is about now.

  13. On a lighter note, I find that chanting Hanuman Chalisa got AAP 63 seats. But, Chanting La ilaha illah got Congress nothing.

  14. During the last two years, Arvind Kejriwal has shown some degree of maturity, especially after he lost the defamation cases to Arun Jaitley. Kejriwal’s lows as CM were his sitting in Dharna though a CM in 2016(?) and calling the prime minister a psychopath. I hope that in the new term, he will focus more on good governance, not indulge in theatrics. Wishing him and the Delhi people the best of luck.

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