Home Minister Amit Shah said that voting for BJP in Delhi election will prevent Shaheen Bagh-like protests and asked people to push the EVM button on 8 February with such force that protesters feel the current. As pre-poll surveys, including by IANS-CVoter, show a clear edge for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, BJP is pitching Shaheen Bagh as a campaign issue.
ThePrint asks: Amit Shah raises Shaheen Bagh in Delhi election: BJP’s desperation or trump card?
Modi-Shah would have communally polarised Delhi election in any case. But their vehemence is out of desperation
Professor and author
The BJP considers communal polarisation as its ultimate weapon. The whole CAA business is directed towards that end. In spite of all the bravado, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah dispensation is concerned about the unexpected fallout. The resentment against the CAA has so far not taken a communal colour and this has rattled the BJP. The people seem to have realised its real agenda and come out of fear psychosis. At the same time, the so-called chankaya neeti has totally failed in Maharashtra. In Jharkhand also, the BJP has had to suffer a defeat. In such a situation, Delhi has become a personal prestige issue for the architect of the CAA.
In Delhi, the AAP can’t be faulted on the governance plank. It also has its own cyber warrior force. Kejriwal connects with the people instantaneously. The BJP just doesn’t have any CM face. So what is it left with? This deliberate and calculated move to polarise Hindus against Muslims.
A trump card implies that this is the last weapon and in the case of Modi and Shah, communal polarisation is the gist of their politics. They would have done it in any case, albeit in a low-key manner. Desperation has made them do it so vehemently. Shah’s “current” call is only a logical elaboration of Kapil Mishra’s Hindustan-Pakistan tweet.
BJP is unable to corner AAP on governance issues. So it’s appealing to a section that is against Shaheen Bagh
Professor, CSDS and political analyst
Amit Shah raising Shaheen Bagh in Delhi assembly election campaign does not necessarily show the BJP’s desperation, but it does seem that the BJP is trying to use it as its trump card.
The AAP’s popularity among common people of Delhi is due to the approval for the work the Arvind Kejriwal government has done in the last five years. The BJP is therefore finding it difficult to corner the AAP on the issue of governance in Delhi.
The only way the BJP could take the lead is if it succeeds in shifting the focus to issues of national importance like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act but there is a limitation. Those who support the CAA are already supporters of the BJP and so going aggressive on the CAA issue may not help the BJP electorally.
A large number of Delhi’s urban-educated middle-class generally support the CAA and are the ones who vote for the BJP in large numbers. What the BJP needs is a narrative of nationalism beyond the CAA to muster additional vote.
A section of middle-class voters has expressed its unhappiness with the Shaheen Bagh protest over issues related to traffic. The matter even reached the Delhi High court and later the Supreme court. There is clearly a sense of unrest among this section. The BJP is trying to appeal to this section and broaden the anger against the Shaheen Bagh protest. The greater the anger of people against Shaheen Bagh, the bigger could be the electoral gains for the BJP.
Whether this works for BJP will depend on how Kejriwal positions himself. Expect him to remain ambiguous
Shaheen Bagh is an election campaign issue but not a dominant one on the ground at the moment. Whether it’s a trump card for the BJP will only be known on 11 February. Unless of course, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal makes the mistake of taking a firm pro-Shaheen Bagh stance and risks falling into the BJP’s trap of polarising the assembly election.
So far, Kejriwal has been diplomatic. When Manish Sisodia recently said he will “stand with the protesters”, Kejriwal responded by saying that people have a right to protest but not at the cost of other people. Also, Kejriwal has not visited Shaheen Bagh nor did he go to JNU where students and teachers were attacked by masked goons. On Monday, he accused the BJP of doing “dirty politics” and also put the ball in its court by saying BJP leaders should visit Shaheen Bagh. This way, the AAP’s strategy remains Delhi-centric with focus on “bijli-paani”. I expect Kejriwal to remain ambiguous on his stance on Shaheen Bagh until 8 February.
If the BJP’s strategy of using Shaheen Bagh to polarise voters works, it will work everywhere and not just among a handful of constituencies.
There is a strong pro-CAA and an anti-Shaheen Bagh sentiment among the majority of Delhi’s communities – Purvanchalis from Bihar/UP, Sikhs or Jats. Whether this translates into votes for the BJP will depend on how Kejriwal positions himself. It’s the ultimate game of chess where everything depends on your opponent’s moves.
Political aspirants ‘created’ Shaheen Bagh as symbol of resistance. BJP is trying to set the record straight
Assistant professor, Delhi University
The BJP leadership is raising Shaheen Bagh because Delhi elections are due in about 10 days.
There are people from across India joining the protest at Shaheen Bagh near Jamia Milia Islamia. While they seem to be protesting against a lot of things, the most recent issues are the CAA-NRC and Delhi Police’s action on Jamia students.
The area has turned into the central anti-CAA protest site and local roads remain blocked for more than a month, affecting the daily lives of other people.
Inflammatory speeches delivered at the protest site are being widely shared on social media, revealing the protesters’ real intent. Women are being portrayed as frontrunners but the face of the protests’ organising committee is still not clear. Despite the Delhi High Court’s directive to remove the protesters, the police has been unable to do so due to fierce resistance.
The administration and law and order has been brought to a halt in Delhi. As a city that aims to be a world-class metropolis, Delhi cannot afford protests like Shaheen Bagh. The role of opposition leaders like Amanatullah Khan and Asif Khan, who instigated violent protests, also cannot be denied.
Some political aspirants ‘created’ Shaheen Bagh as a symbol of resistance and now the BJP is trying to set the record straight. Its message is loud and clear, especially to those facing real civic crisis. Surely, they too deserve to be heard.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint