Delhi BJP's opposition to ghat for Chhath puja hands issue on platter to AAP; controversy angers locals

  • Chhath festivities in Delhi concluded peacefully on Sunday, but the celebrations were marred by a miscalculated, ill-timed protest by the BJP's local unit.

  • The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP got into a feud over the creation of a temporary ghat for the Chhath festival at Kalkaji in south Delhi.

  • The Opposition BJP went hammer and tongs to prevent the Delhi government’s move to build the ghat.

  • On Thursday, the SDMC granted permission to construct the ghat.

Chhath festivities in Delhi concluded peacefully on Sunday, but the celebrations were marred by a miscalculated, ill-timed protest by the BJP's local unit. The party appeared to be seeking political mileage out of a non-issue.

On the first day of the festival on 31 October, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP got into a feud over the creation of a temporary ghat for the Chhath festival at Kalkaji in south Delhi. The Opposition BJP went hammer and tongs to prevent the Delhi government’s move to build the ghat. The protests, however, were in vain and only succeeded in leaving a bad taste in the mouth.

With an eye on the Delhi Assembly election to be held early next year, both the BJP and AAP tried to gain mileage even from the festival.

The opening day of the festival turned into a political slugfest, as the local municipal councillor from the BJP opposed a makeshift water body and ghat at Ambedkar Park — a municipal garden at Kalkaji. (A ghat is a bank of a water body that is used to perform rituals). The councillor alleged that the Delhi government did not seek the approval of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). The BJP also claimed that locals did not support the construction of the temporary ghat.

 Delhi BJPs opposition to ghat for Chhath puja hands issue on platter to AAP; controversy angers locals

File image of Chhath pooja celebrations. Image sourced by A Ghose/101Reporters

Subsequently, AAP’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh sat on a dharna on the issue along with Delhi government minister Kailash Gahlot. In response, Manoj Tiwari, the chief of the BJP’s Delhi unit, accused the AAP of politicising the Chhath festival to woo Purvanchali voters.

However, the local AAP MLA (Greater Kailash) Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed that the district administration had already notified the park for Chhath puja. Bharadwaj and councillor Subhash Bhadana had recently got into a scuffle over the issue.

On Thursday, the SDMC granted permission to construct the ghat.

However, the entire episode has angered many Purvanchali residents of Kalkaji.

“We fail to understand why there was so much hue and cry and politicisation over this small incident? Till now, we used to visit designated ghats in the city to perform the Chhath ritual. This time, the Delhi government announced that a temporary ghat would be constructed here for the convenience of Kalkaji residents. There’s nothing bad in it,” said Radha Kamal Das, a Kalkaji resident who hails from Darbhanga in Bihar.

The Delhi BJP does not seem to realise that its stand on the issue made for bad optics. As of now, the saffron party either rules on its own or is part of a ruling alliance in 18 states across the country. However, the party has been struggling for over two decades to gain power in the Delhi Assembly. The party had its government last in 1998, when Sushma Swaraj was the chief minister. Thereafter, the Congress ruled for three terms, followed by the AAP.

In the present context, it is significant to note that the Congress' Sheila Dikshit had also made arrangements for the performance of Chhath puja during her tenure.

After the BJP appointed Tiwari, who hails from Bihar's Kaimur district, as its Delhi president, he gave an impetus to the celebration of the Chhath festival to win over Purvanchalis. But he’s not alone. The AAP, after coming to power by winning 67 seats in the 70-member House in 2015, built more than 1,000 ghats equipped with various amenities across the city for Chhath.

In this era of 24x7 news channels and the internet, the controversy in Kalkaji did not remain restricted to that locality. The BJP failed to realised that by opposing this small initiative of the Delhi government, it has served an issue on a platter to the AAP. The latter party will surely not miss the opportunity to cash in on it.

In a tweet, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said, "Some people in Greater Kailash were not allowing a ghat to be constructed for Chhath for Purvanchalis. The Purvanchali community protested in a united manner and won, while arrogance was defeated. The ghat is being constructed now."

AAP spokesperson and local MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj also said, "Wherever possible, the BJP tries to prevent (construction) of Chhath ghats for Purvanchalis; and their attempt to do so in Greater Kailash Assembly constituency was the latest example.”

The Delhi BJP, instead of focusing on trivial issues, would do well to work on real issues plaguing common people. In large parts of the country, the party enjoys support due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda. It should not appear as a roadblock to development in the National Capital.

Chhath festival and Purvanchalis

Chhath is a major festival celebrated in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Migrants from this region are referred to as "Purvanchalis" and all political parties in Delhi consider them as a vote bank. The community comprises 30 percent of the population of Delhi.

The four-day festival began on 31 October and on the last two days (2 and 3 November), devotees performed rituals and offered ‘arghyas’ (offerings) to the Sun God, while taking a dip in a water body.

During the ritual, the devotees take care not to litter the ghats, as the focus is on cleanliness. They also ensure that the items they use during the ritual do not touch anyone’s feet. Indeed, considering the sanctity of the festival, its politicisation by any party is uncalled for and may backfire.

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Updated Date: Nov 04, 2019 22:39:52 IST