A quick glance at some of the election issues the Aam Aadmi Party has chosen for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections is revealing.
New Delhi: Senior Punjab leader H.S. Phoolka couldn’t hide his disenchantment when he quit the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) earlier this month.
“The Aam Aadmi Party is no different from the others,” Phoolka said. “The Anna movement should never have been turned into a political party.”
The party, which projected itself as an alternative in India’s political system upon formation and came to power in the national capital with promises of a participatory democracy, has now chosen to fashion its politics around the same issues other mainstream parties concern themselves with.
A quick glance at some of the election issues — cows, caste and temples — that the AAP has chosen for the coming Lok Sabha elections is revealing.
“We want to expose the hollowness of other parties,” an AAP member told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
“They go asking for votes on these issues, we just want to tell the people what all we have achieved,” he said. “In a sense we want to draw a parallel, but we are not the same.”
As the general elections approach closer, ThePrint takes a look at the three polarising issues the AAP is raising.
The holy cow
On Tuesday, during a visit to a cow shelter in Hansi, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said, “BJP asks for votes in the name of the cow, but won’t spare money for fodder.”
“It saddens me when… people play politics in the name of the cow.”
Two days before that, Kejriwal, while on a visit to a cow shelter in Sonepat’s Saipur, said his party would never ask for votes in the name of “cow”.
“I feel, maybe I am wrong, that it is a sin to seek votes in the name of cows,” Kejriwal had said.
Over the last week, he has visited several cow shelters across Haryana and Delhi. He said the best cow shelter was being run in Bawana.
Kejriwal also continued his attacks on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not being able to take care of the “cow”. From fodder to shelter, the AAP chief left no stone unturned to drive home his love for the animals and the BJP’s callousness towards them.
Speaking to ThePrint, the party member cited above said the Delhi government has worked extensively when it comes to animal welfare. The Delhi government, he claimed, was giving Rs 40 per day per stray cow to those providing shelter to the animal.
“The BJP keeps screaming ‘cow-cow’, but in Haryana their condition is dismal. Why shouldn’t we raise the issue?” asked the party member.
In 2017, Kejriwal tweeted that he wished there would come a day “when elections are fought on the agenda of education n health rather than caste n religion”.
I wish a time comes when elections are fought on the agenda of education n health rather than caste n religion https://t.co/vhGEb7Q2pK
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 7, 2017
Almost a year later, reports suggested that the party’s probable Lok Sabha candidate from East Delhi, Atishi Marlena, was asked to drop her surname because it “sounded Christian”.
In August, party sources told ThePrint that the AAP never felt the need to address the issue in public before, but “times have changed”.
A day after the reports surfaced, former party leader Ashutosh, who quit the AAP for personal reasons, tweeted that he was forced by the party to invoke his caste.
“In 23 years of my journalism, no one asked my caste, surname. Was known by my name. But as I was introduced to party workers as LOKSABHA candidate in 2014 my surname was promptly mentioned despite my protest. Later I was told – how will you win otherwise sir, there are many voters from your caste here,” read Ashutosh’s tweet.
In 23 years of my journalism, no one asked my caste, surname. Was known by my name. But as I was introduced to party workers as LOKSABHA candidate in 2014 my surname was promptly mentioned despite my protest. Later I was told – सर आप जीतोगे कैसे, आपकी जाति के यहाँ काफी वोट हैं ।
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) August 29, 2018
The caste equation again came into focus as the AAP raised the issue of voter deletion in Delhi last year. The party hit out at the BJP for deleting nearly 30 lakh Delhi voters. For its part, the BJP claimed that the AAP was “fooling” people.
The AAP was later accused of playing caste politics to woo “Bania” voters in Delhi by labelling the BJP as “anti-Bania”.
Not to miss out on the other big polarising issue, the party also waded into the controversial Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi conflict.
After largely maintaining silence on the issue, the party courted controversy last month when Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said that a university must be built at the site to solve the problem.
“Let children of Hindus, Muslims and Christians… Indians as well as foreigners come and study there together. Ram Rajya won’t be created through any temple, but through education,” Sisodia told NDTV.
The remark was followed by a comment from the AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh who hit out at the BJP for using the Ram temple to play “vote-bank politics”.
On 12 January, Singh launched a signature campaign in Kashi called “BJP hatao, Mandir bachao”.
The campaign, which aims to tackle the destruction of temples along the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor, seeks to inform the electorate of the BJP’s neglect of temples.
“They have destroyed thousands of temples in the area, even as they claim they will build a temple. Why shouldn’t they be exposed?” said the AAP member quoted above.
For ThePrint's smart analysis of how the rest of the media is doing its job, no holds barred, go to PluggedIn