‘Kejriwal Coming Out to be a True Disciple of PM Modi’: Delhi RSS
In the run-up to the Delhi Assembly elections, AAP unveiled a new agenda– one that not only promised bijli and paani (electricity and water) but also focused on expressing devotion to Lord Hanuman. Kejriwal’s resounding victory in the elections is being viewed as a success of its development agenda and ‘pro-Hindu’ approach.
There are various instances of AAP invoking Hindu deities and scriptures. After winning the elections, Kejriwal said, "Today is Tuesday, today Hanumanji has blessed Delhi again. I thank Hanumanji from the bottom of my heart.”
Just weeks after coming to power, Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj organised a recital of Ramayana's Sunderkand in his constituency, and most recently, asked for a Hanuman idol to be placed inside the Ram Mandir to be built in Ayodhya.
‘Senior AAP Leaders Removed Bharat Mata Photo in 2011’
Rajiv Tuli, executive member of Delhi Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), told The Quint that Kejriwal's devotion to Hanuman and Bhardwaj's decision to hold readings of the Ramayana, show how, "Arvind Kejriwal is coming out to be a true disciple of Prime Minister Narendra Modi".
Tuli, however, added, “One should not forget that the top leadership of AAP, which was part of India Against Corruption movement in April 2011, removed the picture of Bharat Mata.”
"They also stopped reciting ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘vande matram’, do not forget that," he said.
Ratan Sharda, an author who has written four books on the RSS, and a fifth one with the working title ‘Evolution of the RSS’ in the pipeline – said Hindus are not gullible. "Kejriwal offers Rs 12,000 -18,000 salary to over 15,000 mosques, muezzins and moulvis from the taxes we pay. Now, his MLA gives a toy in the form of free recitations of Ramayana's Sunderkand. Are Hindus so gullible?
When asked about how AAP's new political strategy would impact the BJP, Sharda said, "BJP has suffered massive defeats and won elections on these issues. For it, this is an article of faith, and commitment. Opportunist people who help ‘Maoists’ like Kanhaiya by delaying their prosecution and those whose MLA run riots against Citizenship (Amendment) Act can't be compared to the BJP. Some people may be misguided for some time, but not everyone will be misguided all the time."
"RSS swayamsevaks gave their wholehearted support to India Against Corruption, till Kejriwal removed the ‘Bharat Mata’ poster and tried to avoid them, and formed his own political party. I have met ex-AAP and current members who have an RSS background. RSS members are free to join any party. The Gujarat Congress appointed a former-RSS person as its chief for many years.”
Talking about Kejriwal's plans for political expansion ahead of elections in Bihar in 2020 and in UP in 2022, Sharda said, "India needs a principled Opposition party. Kejriwal has belied all expectations by becoming a megolomaniac, opportunist and setting himself into a hypocritical mould. He threw away the best brains and honest people and now works with a coterie. How thin can he spread? That works against him. If he is able to break away from his image of a self-serving, ready to lie and hypocrite, then he can emerge as an alternative Opposition party in the long run. Till then, Bihar dreams may turn sour like Punjab. In UP, I see no chance for him. It is too crowded. He may create some ripples around Noida, remember how media had nearly got him elected in Varanasi.”
Political Analysts on AAP’s New Strategy
While the Sangh may have nothing against Kejriwal’s attempt to appease the sentiments of the Hindu electorate, political analysts are divided over how this could play out for AAP.
Referring to Arvind Kejriwal's victory speech on 11 February, in which he thanked Lord Hanuman for blessing Delhi, Mukhopadhyay said that religion, as long as it is limited to the personal sphere, is not a problem. However, the moment it "leaps out in the public domain from the personal, it signals the beginning of communal politics," he said.
Mukhopadhyay, adds that he would have been happier if Chief Minister Kejriwal, in his victory speech, had thanked 'a divine power' for his party's spectacular win.
However, political commentator Arati R Jerath, feels that the AAP is only trying to offer a counter narrative to the BJP's definition of Hindutva. She notes that since 2014, the “BJP has been fighting elections on three planks – Hindutva, development and nationalism.”
“But AAP, in its new avatar, is trying to challenge the BJP on all three fronts by combining inclusive development as the basis of nation building and by hailing Hanuman as its symbol of inclusivity.”
Jerath further said that leaders like Indira Gandhi had, for long, worn religion on their sleeves, and that Kejriwal's model, too, is to highlight the inclusive nature of Hinduism,
Meanwhile, AAP's former MLA from Ghonda, Shridutt Sharma, has mooted the idea of Aam Aadmi Bajrang Dal. He also said that he has been conducting recitals of Sunderkand for years in his constituency and that it is for the goodwill of all. When asked if this new outfit will have any links with the right-wing group, the Bajrang Dal, Sharma said there was no connection between the two and he only suggested its creation for conducting recitals.
AAP's Greater Kailash MLA and chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj – who spoke of Sunderkand recitals and asked for a Hanuman idol at the proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya – did not respond to repeated calls and texts.