First: The "Centre" has shifted decisively to the Right;
Second: Hindus are angry with any public support of Shaheen Bagh;
Third: The Muslims of Delhi have radicalised and
Fourth: The BJP's messaging was severely confused, talking muscular nationalism while displaying utter impotence in dealing with a "liberated zone" emerging in the capital of an ostensible nuclear power.
Why do I say this?
The election strategies of AAP and BJP were clear from the first day. The AAP completely dissociated from national issues and focussed on local tangibles like mohalla clinics and schools, where the party was strongest. The BJP, for its part, decided that it would sweep under the carpet its atrocious performance at the local council-level.
Instead it focussed on "national issues". The problem was that even there, its electoral message was severely confused. On one hand it said, "Look at these awful people at Shaheen Bagh." On the other, given Delhi law and order is controlled by the BJP, it looked weak and unable/willing to dismantle a veritable "liberal zone" in the heart of the National Capital. After all, how do you appear "tough on security" when you demonstrate incompetence in the very heart of Delhi?
On the other hand, the AAP played it smart. It recognised that it wasn't going to win an election based on esoteric issues like national versus anti-national. Consequently it focussed on governance and gave up its anarchist tag, refused to institutionally support the Shaheen Bagh protests and decided to do some Hindu appeasement by going to temples and reciting Hanuman Chalisa. In short, it completed its transition from a non-governmental organisation, to an actual functioning government.
There is a huge subtext here: That opposing CAA/NRC/NPR and the abrogation off Article 370 is no longer acceptable to a vast majority of Delhi voters. As a simple example, the one party that virulently supported all these "anti-national" platforms, the Congress, was wiped out.
However, even here one needs nuance.
Two AAP leaders broke party lines — Amanatullah Khan who represents Shaheen Bagh and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The former seems to be winning his Muslim-majority constituency by a huge margin. The latter is riding a wafer-thin nail-biter in the Hindu-majority constituency of Patparganj.
What do we make of this? First, that the Muslims of Shaheen Bagh, who have radicalised, have doubled down in support of an extremist, who it seems has some links with Sharjeel Imam. On the other hand, despite being an excellent administrator, Sisodia gets very mixed results because even his lukewarm support for Shaheen Bagh turned a large number of his voters against him.
At the same time, we should not ignore that the BJP vote share went up by 10 percent, but of this, only three percent was from the AAP with the rest entirely from the Congress and others. What this shift means isn't very clear yet.
All of this represents a resounding defeat for the BJP: For being weak in law and order, for allowing protesters too much room and mocking its own campaign platform. It is equally a validation for AAP, rewarding not just performance but also rewarding its refusal to go looney Left and adopt fashionable anti-Hindu positions.
Make no mistake, while it does show that nationalism isn't a BJP monopoly, it also shows that the vast majority of Indians are fundamentally nationalist at their core and there are limits to what they will tolerate. The message is clear: To the BJP, the Delhi voters said, "Perform and make good on your tall claims of being tough on security"; to the AAP, they said stick to local issues and tone down your anarchism and Hinduphobia. The less said about what voters said to the Congress, the better.
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Updated Date: Feb 11, 2020 14:25:55 IST