Schools, hospitals, electricity and water supply – these have been the key pitches of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the run-up to the 2020 Delhi assembly elections. But ahead of the polls, Chief Minister Kejriwal is not shying away from expressing support for the Ram Mandir trust or declaring himself a 'Hanuman Bhakt'.
While many argue that these moves are mere appeasement tactics ahead of the polls, a careful observation reveals a new experiment which could shape the outcome of the Delhi elections.
Kejriwal's Hindu Assertion
As the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal is trying to establish an ideological alternative to the dominant right and left. He is seen as a pro-development figure and has deftly avoided the BJP's 'Opposition is With Pakistan' narrative.
This is evident from his support to the Balakot airstrikes, tacit silence on Shaheen Bagh and anti-CAA protests despite his party voting against the amendment in the Parliament and his occasional jibes aimed at Pakistan asking Imran Khan to stay away from India’s internal affairs.
It is pertinent to note that while Kejriwal remained tight-lipped about anti-CAA protests, the Aam Aadmi Party played a balancing act with Manish Sisodia and other party leaders frequently voicing their support for the protesters.
In his campaign for Delhi, Kejriwal tried to project himself as an ‘ideal Hindu’ by embarking on temple visits, reciting Hanuman Chalisa and calling BJP leaders 'Nakli Hindus'.
This without alienating the Muslim voters by roping in five-time MLA from Matia Mahal Shoaib Iqbal and fielding sitting MLAs like Imran Hussain and Amantullah Khan from their seats.
How Will This Impact BJP's Hindu Vote Base?
BJP in its attempt to reclaim Delhi after being out of power for 22 years is going all out. From big leaders like Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath, Anurag Thakur targeting Shaheen Bagh protests, to the party rewarding the likes of Kapil Mishra and Tajinder Bagga – repeat offenders known for peddling fake news and hate speech – the party has worked towards consolidating their core Hindu vote bank. Notably, the EC had imposed campaign bans on two BJP MPs for hate speech in poll-bound Delhi.
In light of this, Kejriwal’s Hindu assertion might resonate well with an average Hindu voter who falls somewhere at the centre of the ideological spectrum. With some BJP leaders going on a Hindutva overdrive ahead of the Delhi polls, Kejriwal’s image as a pro-development chief minister who doesn’t shy away from asserting his Hindu identity in public, can help AAP win the Modi voter who sees no alternative at the state level.
According to a Lokniti-CSDS survey for November-December 2019, a large number of voters in Delhi actually prefer Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi.
Polling day is around the corner and Delhi is being viewed as a battle between Chief Minister Kejriwal and Prime Minister Modi. The results in the national capital, which will be declared on 11 February, will determine if the ‘Arvind Kejriwal model’ can sustain itself in Indian politics, which is riddled in the polarising left versus right narrative.