New Delhi: Invocations of Ram Rajya, a ‘deshbhakti (patriotism) budget’, promises of a free pilgrimage to the Ram temple in Ayodhya once it is ready — the Aam Aam Party (AAP), which emerged on the scene as a “party of change”, appears to be making a distinct shift to the political Right.
Statements made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia during the budget session this week follow instances where party leaders have sought to attach communal overtones to the murder of Delhi youth Rinku Sharma, whose killing by a group of Muslim neighbours is being investigated by Delhi Police as a result of business rivalry.
Even in the run-up to the 2020 assembly election in Delhi, the AAP was seen making overtures crafted on religious lines, catering to different communities. However, its recent turn seems to have been made keeping in Hindus in mind.
ThePrint reached AAP’s Jasmin Shah, party spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj, and MP Sanjay Singh for a comment on this report, by texts and calls, but hadn’t received a response by the time of publishing their report.
Analysts see the AAP’s shift as an attempt to appease Hindus, and a form of vote-bank politics. The Opposition is dismissive of this shift. While the BJP alleges hypocrisy in the AAP’s actions, the Congress says Kejriwal’s party is doing “anything and everything to ensure the BJP isn’t a threat to them”.
Also Read: How Kejriwal’s AAP moved from ‘politics of change’ to counting on religion to win voters
A change in tone
The Delhi Chief Minister Wednesday announced a free pilgrimage for senior citizens to the under-construction Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, once it is ready.
“Now, the grand Ram temple is being built in Ayodhya. Once the temple is ready, the Delhi government will include Ayodhya’s Ram temple to its free pilgrimage scheme for senior citizens,” Kejriwal said.
Addressing the assembly, Kejriwal described himself as a devotee of Lord Hanuman and Lord Ram. He said his government follows 10 principles, inspired by Ram Rajya, to service Delhi.
The Delhi budget this year has been titled the ‘Deshbhakti Budget’. In the speech Sisodia gave while announcing the budget Tuesday, he repeatedly mentioned “deshbhakti” and “national pride”. He referred to the national flag as the “greatest symbol of national identity”, and said the government will hoist 500 national flags all over Delhi to mark the 75th year of Independence.
Citizens across different Delhi colonies, he added, will be provided with meditation and yoga instructors.
Before presenting the budget, he visited a Hanuman temple.
When Delhi youth Rinku Sharma, a volunteer collecting donations for Ram temple construction, was killed last month, the murder immediately took on communal overtones as the accused arrested are Muslim. Sharma was known to greet people with “Jai Shri Ram” and it was subsequently alleged that he was killed for wearing his religion on his sleeve.
Questions soon arose over why the CM had not visited the Sharma residence, when he was among the first to go to the residence of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in 2015 by a mob in Dadri over allegations of cattle smuggling.
While police deny a communal motive to the Rinku Sharma murder, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha seemed to perpetuate the theory when he said, “Is raising Jai Shri Ram slogans not safe now?
“The family of Rinku Sharma is saying that he was killed because of raising Jai Shri Ram slogans. It should be thoroughly investigated and the culprits should be punished…” he added.
Sisodia made a similar statement when he visited Gujarat ahead of the civic elections in the state last month.
“If we cannot chant Jai Shri Ram in India, will it be chanted in Pakistan?” he said.
Manish Sisodia in Gujarat
" Jai Shree Ram ka naara hindustan me nahi lagega to kya pakistan me lagega."@msisodia
— Rohit Saini (@Rohit245_) February 14, 2021
Amid the controversy that erupted over the demolition of the decades-old Hanuman temple in Chandni Chowk, by the BJP-led NDMC, in January, AAP leaders were at pains to dissociate the party’s government from the move.
MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, for example, tweeted a video expressing discontentment over the issue.
After a makeshift structure emerged at the site last month, AAP leader Durgesh Pathak said he would visit it and pray for world peace.
During the 2019 Shaheen Bagh protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Kejriwal stayed away from visiting the agitation site, even as the party’s Okhla MLA, Amanatullah Khan, supported the campaign.
At Diwali last year, the AAP spent Rs 6 crore on a Laxmi Puja event at Akshardham Temple and its television coverage. This mega event was attended by Kejriwal and his colleagues along with their spouses.
Also Read: Kejriwal is not BJP’s alternative in Delhi. He has let Muslims down who voted AAP en masse
Academician Apoorvanand sees the AAP’s move as a tactic to appease Hindus, saying it has nothing to do with religion.
“They are merely using religion as a tool. This trend has been quite consistent and we shouldn’t be shocked any longer at AAP’s communal undertones or appeasement of Hindus,” he told ThePrint.
“The party’s changing narrative has only become transparent with some of their decisions over the past one year and the recent ‘Deshbhakti budget’. We shouldn’t forget that whether it is Manish Sisodia’s comment in Gujarat or Raghav Chadha’s allegation in the Rinku Sharma murder case, the party is ultimately helping the RSS,” he added.
Former AAP member Ashutosh said the AAP is pursuing vote-bank politics. “Arvind reciting the Hanuman Chalisa ahead of the assembly elections still made sense as they knew where they stood. However, to continue with this narrative even long after is uncalled for. Instead, it should focus on secularism and promote Hindu-Muslin harmony,” he added.
A former member of the party, requesting anonymity, said “it is convenient for Kejriwal and his team to use patriotism and deshbhakti references in speeches as a tried-and-tested module to secure his place in BJP’s politics as a party and Modi’s politics as a leader”.
BJP spokesperson Naveen Gupta said no one from the AAP has “even donated a rupee towards the Ram Mandir fund”. “Now he talks about taking senior citizens there. So, the irony is visible,” he added.
Congress leader Alka Lamba, a former AAP member, said a “party that started with such strong values based on anti-corruption is now behaving like a strong political party where mandir takes precedence over other things”.
“The focus on the demolition of Hanuman Temple in Chandni Chowk and this narrative around ensuring deshbhakti in schools is testimony. This will collapse even before the 2022 elections (assembly polls in states including Punjab, Goa), which is what they are trying to secure since they know that the vote will go to the BJP otherwise,” she added.
Also Read: Muslims voting for AAP shows they are desperate and Congress is too passive, apologetic
I think its excellent! RSS had once said that no political party is their enemy, if they are not anti Hindu & anti India. If staunch jholawallah commies like kejru have become ‘Hanuman Bhakts’, its a great moral victory for the 100 crore + Hindus of this great nation. Ideology is supreme. If one surrenders and leaves one’s ideology, and becomes a patriot & a Hindu well wisher, whats the harm? Political battles can be fought on other issues, and thats excellent. I absolutely dislike AAP, and I know kejru is a chameleon, but still I welcome his surrender! Rahul Gandhi ko to ‘janeu dhaari’ bana hi diya tha, ab kejriwal ko ‘hanuman bhakt’ bana diya hai…..Truly there will never be another leader like Modi.
Turn right with economics, not politics.
Truly, modi hain to mumkin hain. Party like AAP is trying appease Hindus.
Never forget the role of councillor Tahir Hussain and incumbent MLA Amanullah Khan in Delhi riots
Inspite of massive Sikh appeasement , the Sikhs ditched him in Punjab urban polls recently . Now he is testing waters with Hindus.
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