With the Delhi Elections ending in a crushing defeat for BJP and a thumping victory for AAP, which is much in line with the Exit-polls, a definite sense of despondency has descended on the supporters of BJP, and I am not speaking about the workers of BJP. I am referring to those who worked on the ground to make the party win in spite of admittedly late seriousness of the party towards the polls in Delhi. Delhi, being a half-municipality and a half-state, never seemed to be too high on the priority list of BJP central leadership, if one goes by the lack of attention the Delhi unit receives looking at the kind of leadership it is provided with. Here is a look at the reasons and implications, of this debacle of BJP from a mugwump’s perspective.
The Role of Media in Delhi Elections
The media is particularly excited, well, Rajdeep Sardesai broke into a dance gig on the channel. The predictions of the media have come under question so many time and this is one time that media is having the last laugh. No more are they bothered about the masks of neutrality. After the massive win of Narendra Modi in 2019 Assembly Elections, Shekhar Gupta, who runs digital news channel “The Print” and claimed the defeat of the opposition in 2019 election as his personal defeat.
There is some obvious dishonesty which one finds when one channel had their representative acting like an AAP representative as she went around asking people as to how would they feel voting for a party whose leader has come out with –Desh ke Gaddaron ko. What I noticed that she never for once asked people about how they would feel about voting for a party having blatantly communal MLAs, who stand with rioters, who arrange bail for rioters and mischief-makers. I have not seen any media channel travelling door to door asking a mother how they feel that Arvind Kejriwal is offering free buses, but that would mean no new buses for the want of resources, and by implication shortened lives of our next generation.
Whenever opposition leaders were handed over the microphone to talk about CAA and as they would go back to rumour-mongering, nobody asked them to show the clause in CAA which impacts citizenship to Indian citizens. With craftiness and connivance, the narrative was driven. Even Economy is in a mess was a media campaign. The Britannia fake story from where it started, to the Rupa undergarments’ fake story- all ended with these named entities posting better profits than ever before. Even the new Channel which went to the broadcast, day after day, lamenting economy, posted profits for the first time in a long time.
The counter to these narrative-building efforts from the end of BJP was slow, incoherent, delayed and half-hearted. Democracy is about communication and the party in question needs to undertake it. When you have master communicators like Narendra Modi or Amit Shah on the podium, they cover up for the breakdown in conventional communication of the party with the people. In UP, Yogi is able to do that and in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis is able to do the same (Even if it makes many happy to believe that BJP lost Maharashtra, I do not agree with it, nor do I agree with a similar assessment about MP or Karnataka). In all these places, we had a strong local leader who could hold a conversation with the people of the state. When there is a campaign of miscommunication, the conversation is key. You cannot build it in twenty days. A strident BJP supporter was very annoyed that his friends decided to vote for AAP because the economy was bad. He argued with them on what the Government should do to support good economic growth- Make in India, Inflation control, control NPA and bad debt, laws against the defaulters- and they had no answer.
But the point is about the lack of communication on these matters. In the absence of a media which would carry your point of view, BJP ought to have cultivated opinion-makers. It needs to step up the media cell, get in Op-ed in all leading newspapers, being limited to digital platforms will not help. If MJ Akbar can write a novel, why can’t he write a weekly column?
Ideology is Critical
A mob may say whatever, but Hindus are essentially pacifist people. Islam was founded by a Military General who wanted to establish an Empire, and Christianity was promoted by men who went out to build Christian empires. Hinduism is a philosophical religion. It does not require followers of the religion to one, surrender their sense of reason, two, pick up arms. You cannot change the basic nature of Hinduism. It is unfortunate when Hinduism tries to emulate Islam or Christianity. It fails. It fails on belligerence, it fails on fanaticism. If we look at the past, Kamlesh Tiwari was punished initially by legal means. Unfortunately, he was also punished by the laws of savagery. Did it push Hindus over the edge? No. Did it push Hindus on the streets to riot? No.
There is something called a Hindu thought. It works on the basic principle on which civilized society works. That principle is letting the law take its course. Whether it is Hauz Qazi temple desecration or the case of the savage murder of Kamlesh Tiwari (in reality, this murder was in the same way Swami Shraddhanand was murdered, in 1926), Hindus were always seen struggling helplessly to get the lawful authorities to work, never trying to take law in their hands. Yes, Godse did take law in his hand and left Hindus with uncalled for shame, deliberately and deviously pinned by Leftist- Congressi media on hapless, law-abiding Hindus.
Such events on the part of Hindus are so rare that the Muslim intellectuals and leftist media have to build a narrative around a pellet fired in the air by a crazy person of dubious antecedents even on the backdrop of a heinous murder of Kamlesh Tiwari. Since the time when Vishwamitra had to seek help from King Dashrath as a lawful authority to tackle the Rakshasas, this has been the way Hindus have dealt with every attack on the faith. When the established leadership fails the Hindus, they are lost for direction.
With Ram Mandir, Article 370, on a national level, Hindus have a trust in Modi government which they feel they can reach out to in the case of any injustice. Delhi BJP, on the other hand, has been a story of betrayal, insensitivity and pseudo-secularism. Few utterances of Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma and Anurag Thakur will not make up for the silence of BJP MP from Delhi on the case of desecration of Hindu temple in the heart of Delhi. Hindus seek the protection of the law as the first resort, when their faith, their space is encroached upon. When the lawmakers they have so trustfully voted to power talk the mumbo-jumbo of pseudo-secularism, people are disappointed.
There is a lingering sense of betrayal which Hindus of Delhi still feel when they think about Delhi Police under the BJP and with the tacit support of MP trying to find acceptance in liberal circle arresting Hindus protesting against the desecration of Hindu temples. In UP election, a common Hindu Vishwamitra can go to Yogi as he did during the Noida Mahagun Attack of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, where should Delhi voter place his trust- Harshvardhan who celebrated the end of biggest Hindu festival or Gautam Gambhir who is always ready to jump in fake matters of minority issues, going as far to offer advises to elected CM of a neighbouring state. With the state elections coming up, BJP needs to offer ideological hinges to Hindu voters in those state. The dilly-dallying, Congress-sounding politicians will not do. Local politicians like Shivraj Chauhan, Devendra Fadnavis and Yediyurappa are needed, who can hold a conversation with the people and assure the Hindus of being a lawful protector.
Understanding the Basic Nature of Constituency
Arvind Kejriwal understood his constituency. He split it into two parts. One, the fundamentalist Muslim constituency, and other, the rudderless Hindu constituency groping in dark for the want of an ideological fulcrum. He managed the second one and his team managed the first one where the %age voting in favour of Kejriwal was almost at the level similar to the kind of Muslim league got in 1946 elections. To the second Constituency, Kejriwal cleverly covered secular topics like Economy, state welfare scheme and such. He did not offer any ideological sympathy to them because his opposition too was not offering them any. The late spurt of BJP, possibly after the late realization of ideology dawned on Delhi BJP leadership, in ideological regard went haywire. You cannot create Hindu suicide bombers or get them to sacrifice kids in the line of politics. To expect them to become that by raising the pitch was a mistake. Shaheen Bagh beyond a point stopped making sense to the people.
While the question can be asked as to why Kejriwal as the CM did not ask the Center to clear up Shaheen Bagh, Center too could have written a letter and made it public asking Kejriwal if he needed any help from the centre to clean up the place. People longed to see BJP take action as they cowered in the corners while Delhi crumbled under fire of rioting mobs. All those people are not on Social media or watch TV. They do read a newspaper which is passed along at the tea stall. No BJP leader worth his salt was writing to offer a direction to the narrative.
All in all, central leadership did pitch into the best they could. They could not have replaced the part Delhi BJP had to play. With Article 370, Ram JanmaBhoomi it had provided a framework, but when the local leadership remained silent for five years on the killing of Dr Narang, Ankit Saxena, desecration of the temple, the same constituency which trusted Narendra Modi for watching its back, was clueless as to where to go. You can keep on questioning the narrative builders of the other side, but you have to build your own. One can question Saba Naqvi about why Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder or Ankit Saxena’s murder draws silence from her club, but then questions will be asked about BJP’s silence on the matter. Even when out of power, did they wait for BJP to raise Junaid’s issue even when it was a fake beef case or Rohith Vemula issue, which against turned into a fake Dalit drama? In the process of building a narrative, one needs to go beyond poking holes in other people’s narrative. Politics is about asking the right question.
But politics is also about giving the right answers. Delhi BJP was not offering any answers for a long five years. In the end, people have decided. They should learn from Kirit Somaiyya who went with the man who was shaved by Shiv Sena to file a Police case. That is building a narrative. The leadership in Bihar and Bengal should learn from Shivraj Chauhan who went and stood by the family of a Dalit burned alive in MP. That is building a narrative. BJP must appreciate that Kejriwal is a media creation. Media is a participant in today’s politics. The next battle will be fought on the Editorial pages.
In the end, this quote by Lincoln is the most pertinent, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”