Six civic bodies in Gujarat went to polls on Sunday: Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Surat. While BJP is comfortably set to clean sweep the polls, what has caught everyone’s attention is how the Aam Aadmi Party, which is notorious for losing even the deposits in most of the elections it contests out of Delhi, has managed to win at least 23 seats in Surat Municipal Corporation.
At the time of writing this report, BJP is headed for a clear win in Surat with lead/victory in 90 out of 120 seats. On the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party has got as many as 27 seats.
People on the ground believe that Aam Aadmi Party winning these many seats is not really BJP’s loss as it is only filling in the void left by Congress as it fades into oblivion. That the Patidar votes, who were angry with the BJP over Patidar agitation, shifted to AAP after Hardik Patel joined the Congress. However, whichever way you see, AAP making inroads in Gujarat should alarm the BJP.
Congress in Gujarat has been the pioneer of caste politics. It was under Congress’ Madhavsinh Solanki rule that Gujarat witnessed one of the worst communal riots in the 80s. Solanki introduced how to divide votes as per his ‘KHAM’ (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) vote bank. That it was under him the likes of don Latif thrived in Gujarat. Did you know Latif won in five municipal wards in local body elections of Ahmedabad in 1986-87? He was in jail at that time. Congress’ Amarsinh Choudhary was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time.
In the mid-80s, when anti-reservation protests (a prelude to anti-Mandal protests that India would see later) erupted in some parts of Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad, it is said that the then Congress government used Latif to target the protesters, which caused the anti-reservation protests to turn into communal riots. Many other communal skirmishes and riots in Ahmedabad saw an active participation of Latif’s gang in this duration. Hindus of Gujarat, especially those in Ahmedabad, started looking for a saviour who would save them from Latif.
It is no wonder that after 1995 state assembly elections, Congress has not managed to form a majority government in Gujarat.
On one hand it is a good sign that the Congress, with all its divisional politics is on its way out in Gujarat. However, the bad part is that AAP is no better.
You see, under Aam Aadmi Party, Delhi has seen months and months of roadblocks under the pretext of protests which have culminated into violent riots. In fact, today will be the first anniversary of the 2020 anti-Hindu riots that rocked the national capital. AAP has made promises in Delhi but always finds others to blame for the lack of fulfilment of those.
However, what is worrying is that the analysts saying that the Patidar vote, which formed a major chunk of Congress vote bank, went to AAP. Gujarat has moved beyond caste politics and now it cannot afford to go back to the ugly mess of divisive caste politics.
Furthermore, despite Gujarat having a sizeable tribal population, it has not fallen into the trap of Naxal and extreme left-wing violence. With AAP, which has a tendency to lean towards the left, one never knows.
One would think how bad could AAP be as against Congress. Short answer: Worse.
You see, AAP is the primary opposition party in Punjab, a border state. Soon after the 2017 Punjab elections, AAP supporter and leader Gul Panag revealed that Kejriwal had flirted with the Khalistani elements during the 2014 elections. She had said that she had warned Kejriwal against courting the separatist elements but his team had paid no heed to her.
Does that mean Kejriwal and his team know the gravity of their associations? That they were warned about the dangerous territory they were playing on, but still went ahead?
Gujarat, too, is a border state. Pakistani province of Sindh is situated on the north-west side of the state. Approximately 506 km of the total border India shares with Pakistan is in Gujarat.
Gujarat has a turbulent history with communal violence. Did you know that before the 1989 Bhagalpur riots that rocked Bihar, the 1969 Gujarat riots were the worst communal riots after the partition? Congress’ Hitendra Desai was the chief minister of the state. There were many subsequent communal in the state, the last one being in 2002 after a train bringing Karsevaks from Ayodhya was set on fire by a Muslim mob in Godhra.
However, since then, the communal riots in Gujarat have been things of history. If one were to draw parallels between Gujarat and Punjab, the separatist Khalistan movement, backed by Pakistan, was also long forgotten in Punjab. Since AAP came into the political landscape, the Khalistan snake has raised its poisonous hood, as can be seen in the recent Republic Day riots.
Communal riots, too, cannot be seen in isolation. Gangsters like Abdul Latif and Dawood have exploited these very communal fault lines to threaten our national security. For example, in retaliation to the 2002 Gujarat riots, Indian Muhajideen had carried out serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad in 2008. But in past few years, Gujarat’s communal violence has also been a thing of the past.
This is why Aam Aadmi Party gaining ground in Gujarat is bad news.