‘If AAP Fails To Deliver, Punjabis Will Never Forgive It’

Jashan Gill, a Punjab voter who defied family loyalties to pick AAP over Akali Dal and Congress, says the party stands at a juncture from where it can make or break its future

In 2014 General Election, it was for the first time that I voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Punjab has been enthusiastic about the party since its inception. And this was the reason, four AAP candidates were elected to the Lok Sabha on their debut contest from the state.

In the assembly election of 2017, the AAP emerged as the main opposition with 20 seats. And now, in 2022, eight years since its journey began in Punjab, the party has been able to form government in the state with a clear mandate. Punjab’s voters found them as a viable alternative to the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

This change was impending for long. Both the SAD and the Congress had been unable to fulfil the expectations of the people of Punjab. The border regions of the state have been infested with drugs menace and there is widespread belief that the SAD has a vested interest in it. During their rule, the corruption in the state also reached at its zenith.

Punjabis therefore rooted out the Badal government in 2017 in favour of the Congress. But the Congress didn’t fulfil its promises either. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh became too complacent after the win and forgot about his poll promises of development.

The situation at the party further deteriorated when inside scuffle broke out in the open, making it a laughing stock. The chaos was too much to bear. Even during election people didn’t know who would be the chief minister of the state if the Congress came to the power.

Gill (left) says Punjab has high expectations from Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal

This clearly turned people’s attention towards the AAP leadership. The party projected Bhagwant Mann as the chief ministerial candidate in the state election and the decision found favour with the voters. For, in the past eight years, since 2014 general election, Mann has done commendable work in his constituency and showed his commitment towards the people. It was no surprise that Punjab gave him a chance to work for the entire state.

ALSO READ: Punjab Will Reclaim It Glory Under AAP Leadership

We have already started witnessing the change since AAP came to power in the state. The first priority of the party, which was about stopping corruption has already been enforced. The government employees, who would brazenly ask for bribes earlier, are now scared of making such demands from people. They are afraid of stern actions now.

The conditions of hospitals and schools in the state is already showing improvement. You can visit a hospital and feel the change in the atmosphere. We believe that Mann government will also address the issue of drugs soon. Farmers too have a lot of expectations from this new government. They believe that the AAP leadership will find a solution to receding water table and provide minimum support price for all their crops.

If the party successfully fulfils its promise in the state, it will pave a path for the party to emerge as an alternative to the BJP in other states and eventually at the Centre. As an AAP supporter I hope that it emerges as a challenger in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana where elections are likely to happen late this year.

AAP is standing at a crucial juncture in Punjab from where it can write its own future. Punjabis have put their faith in AAP and if they fail to keep their promises, the people will never forgive them. It will be uprooted from the state once and for all. The people of Punjab have voted for development and they will not settle for anything except development.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

Weekly Update: Rise And Rise Of Kejriwal & What Makes Nations Happy

At 53, by the standards of Indian politics, Arvind Kejriwal has a lifetime ahead of him for his political career. But already he has made impressive strides. Currently serving his third term as chief minister of Delhi, Kejriwal and his party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recently swept the elections in Punjab, recording a historic event in Indian politics by a relatively small regional party, long confined to only Delhi, to spread its wings to another much bigger state.

Under Kejriwal’s leadership, AAP’s trajectory in Indian politics has been controversial. A civil servant with an engineering degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kejriwal turned to political activism and then joined a nationwide movement against corruption. Then, in 2012 he formed the AAP to contest elections in Delhi. AAP won the Delhi elections three times and Kejriwal has since then established his party’s dominance in that state.

The victory in Punjab, however, marks his party’s move to other states and can be considered as a stepping stone to establish the party on the map of national politics. What works for AAP is the party’s demonstrated commitment to clean politics and accountability. Unlike other national parties that have traditionally formed governments in the state of Delhi–the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)–AAP has provided citizens with tangible results. Delhi’s schools, mohalla clinics, water and electricity supplies, especially for the poorest, have all significantly improved during AAP’s tenure.

Not surprisingly, such focus on the “aam aadmi” or common man has ensured that his party gets the mass support that it has consistently in Delhi and now in Punjab. AAP contests elections by talking about promising improvements on basic local issues. Its rivals such as the Congress and the BJP, on the other hand, either push personality-driven campaigns or ones that are less granular when it comes to improving people’s lives. 

As the AAP victory in Punjab shows, the ordinary voter is tired and sometimes even fed up with so-called career politicians that lead the older, national parties. To many of them, AAP represents a breath of fresh air–a political party that identifies with their real needs. The question, however, is whether Kejriwal and his party can leverage this image to make a mark on national politics. Could Kejriwal become an alternative to, say, a national leader such as Narendra Modi?

You could say it is too early to pitch Kejriwal as an alternative to Modi but in Indian politics, nothing is impossible. Nothing can be ruled out. AAP’s storming of Punjab bears testimony to that. The next parliamentary elections are due in May 2024, which is barely two years away. Before that, later this year there will be elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Next year, there will be many other states where elections will be held, notably Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (but also in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka, Mizoram, and Telangana).

If AAP has a gameplan to spread its wings wider, it could, at least in theory, surely focus on states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. These are in a manner of speaking low hanging fruit that the party could focus on. All three are states where the majority of the population is poor and under-privileged, which is quite clearly the groups that AAP targets not only in its campaigns, but also by way of the policies that it adopts–its achievements in Delhi are evidence of that. If AAP can make inroads in these three states (and it already has Delhi and Punjab), could it not be a force to reckon with when the parliamentary elections are held?

You could call it wishful thinking but consider this: on the horizon of national politics in India, there is a dearth of alternatives to the BJP and to the towering image of Modi. The Congress is a faltering shadow of its past, unable to win elections, either in the states or nationally. The other regional parties, be it those that run states in the south such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, or in the east such as the Trinamool Congress, may have charismatic leaders such as M.K. Stalin and Mamata Banerjee, respectively, but till date they have not demonstrated the prowess required to spread their electoral wins beyond their regional fiefs. Against that background, could Kejriwal and his party stand apart as a future alternative to the BJP at the Centre? It could be a point to ponder.

Happiest Nations Of The World

For five years, a popular survey has ranked the tiny Nordic country of Finland (population 5.5 million) as the happiest country in the world. Finland, along with other Nordic countries are at the top of that ranking list consistently. What makes people in nations such as that feel “happy” is a bunch of things but mainly these: a robust social welfare system, low crime rates, an abundance of natural beauty, an emphasis on community and co-operation, universal health care, and very few people living in poverty. These factors are taken so much for granted in, say, Finland that people living in that country are often bewildered why their nation is ranked as being the happiest! 

At the other end of the ranking, the picture is grim. Afghanistan ranked the lowest among the 149 countries surveyed. Ravaged by wars and the recent return of the Taliban regime, its performance in the survey should not come as a surprise. 

But it is India’s performance that should be of grave concern. India hasn’t fared much better than Afghanistan. It ranks at 136 among the 149 countries. China with which India likes to compare itself ranks at 82. The USA is at 19. And even Pakistan at 103, and Bangladesh at 99 are higher than India. 

Surveys come with caveats such as small sample sizes, biases, and other inaccuracies, but if the people of a country perceive themselves as being so unhappy, isn’t it time for the government to take note and address the problem?

‘Punjab Will Rise And Flourish Again’

Tejinder Singh, 60, district president (Jalandhar) of Aam Aadmi Party, says party office is flooded with calls from people to act as volunteers

I have been associated with the Aam Aadmi Party since 2016 and I feel very elated that the people of Punjab have given us such an overwhelming majority in state Assembly. It will help us to bring about required changes in the state now easily. People are super happy too because everyone wanted change, logon ko azadi mil gayi hai.

Earlier governance was moving at a snail’s pace and the common man’s work would languish. But people have put their faith in AAP because they know we care, after all our candidates are all ordinary folks, people who understands concerns of the common man.

Our whole office was abuzz with extraordinary energy on the day the results were declared. Sweets were distributed among the party workers and we met up and congratulated each other. We had expected a good performance but we had not expected such a humongous response to our efforts. I feel satisfied that we were able to convince people to give us a chance to genuinely serve them, especially in the area of education, healthcare etc.

Tejinder Singh (in yellow turban) celebrates party win in Assembly elections

We started door to door campaigning nearly 2.5 years ago and actively listened to the concerns of the people from every section of society. People have voted beyond caste and community lines for good governance. After all at the end of the day everyone wants to feel secure about basic facilities, which we are determined to provide. Be it rural or urban areas, we reached out and people responded.

ALSO READ: ‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP’

Every day hundreds of calls are pouring in and people want to volunteer for us; people love the idea of being a part of governance. The good work done in Delhi served as a point of reference for most voters, however it wouldn’t be wise to say that the socio-economic concerns of the two states are the same. Issues like drug menace will take longer to uproot and lots of local leaders will need to step up.  

We are determined to help Punjab flourish once again. When the farmers protests were going on we didn’t lose sight of many other concerns that were equally important and I am glad that we have got the votes of farmers as well. People were determined to vote for change this time no matter what and iss bar sabnein ankhein khol ke vote diya.

One of the reasons people also trusted the AAP was because of our groundwork during the pandemic as well as during the vaccination stage. We got ourselves vaccinated first so that people could see it was safe and that it worked. We hope to continue with the same leadership style; we will face the problems first head on so that they don’t reach common people.

The BJP, Akali Dal, Congress will now understand how important it is to connect with people at an emotional level. We believe the Aam Aadmi Party government led by Bhagwant Mann will usher Punjab towards a golden future.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP Leadership’

Anu Mann, an AAP supporter in Chandigarh, says the party leaders are grounded and have a connect with the people, unlike its erstwhile rulers

At 54 years of age, my generation has grown up with Punjab. I have witnessed Punjab at its peak during the Green Revolution and then at its lowest during the turbulent 80s. Things started looking somewhat bright during the 1990s but by mid-2000s they took a turn for the worse again.

From being the breadbasket of the country, we the Punjabis gradually began losing our identity as a prosperous state to ‘Udta Punjab’. Drug abuse began taking hold in almost every family. Villages after village lost their youth and men to the drug menace with women left behind to pick up the pieces, industries slowed down, corruption rose up, education took a hit, and Punjabis began leaving for greener pastures like Canada.

With Aam Aadmi Party’s electoral sweep, a hope has been rekindled that we have turned the corner. Punjab will reclaim its glory; we shall flourish again.

Personally, I feel liberated. I have travelled and lived around the country, but one always wants to come back to the roots. I used to feel sad at the sheer level of corruption, lack of jobs and good education, the lazy leadership, especially that of Captain Amarinder Singh who never mingled much with people. Sidhu has been and remains a crass leader.

Mann says she has grown up with Punjab and seen both its low point and high point

I had given up all hopes of a good leadership taking root in Punjab until AAP brought in its refreshing governance style. Of course the road for the Bhagwant Mann-led government is going to be long and difficult but given how they have managed Delhi, I have high hopes for Punjab in the coming years. I have myself worked at a summer teaching programme of AAP in Delhi government schools and I was impressed how AAP involves ordinary people in their governance apparatus.

ALSO READ: Now, Punjab Has A Future

This election result saw seasoned political personalities humiliated by common, first-time contestants (like mobile shop owner Labh Singh who defeated Channi). I feel the happiest about the victory of Jeevan Jyot Kaur who defeated Majithia and Navjot Sidhu because women’s issues will now get the spotlight. There are 13 doctors who have been elected as MLAs; they will definitely feel the pulse of the people, both literally and metaphorically.

Bhagwant Mann’s passionate involvement, unlike Amarinder Singh’s ivory tower life, in everyday matters of the state is a refreshing change. AAP ke sare candidates dharti se jude hue log hain, samaj se jude hue log hain (AAP leaders have an ear to the ground, they have a connect with the masses).

All in all, the victory of AAP in Punjab is truly the victory of ordinary people. AAP’s campaigning was also totally fuss-free, they neither disturbed nor bribed voters, maybe other parties would do well to learn from them.

Mann in a celebratory mood after AAP victory

I was so happy and excited on the day of election results that I distributed mithais, made a celebratory dance video and sent it to my loved ones. And I couldn’t stop talking to my friends about how happy I was. Mann needs a lot of cooperation from people and I hope the janta will give it to him.

Now Punjab Has A Future

For over four decades, Punjab has been used by national parties for electoral strategies. From Congress Party’s Indira Gandhi who tried to break the Akalis in 1978 after they frustrated her ‘infamous Emergency’ to the Akali Dal’s Badals who treated the state as their fiefdom, to Congress’ Amarinder Singh who could not stop playing the Maharajah and the BJP that tried to break the farming sector, Punjab has only seen violence, divisions, underinvestment, frustration, corruption, drugs and brain drain. Can Kejriwal reverse Punjab’s fortunes?

The Punjab state has tremendous potential. It has a very hard working population that made the Green Revolution possible and end food poverty in India during the 1960s. But this community of farmers has come under repeated pressures from Indian policy makers attempting to change small family farms to commercial farming.

Punjab had some leading educational institutions. Many of these have suffered from lack of investment and brain drain. Mostly they have suffered during the period of unrest when many a young Punjabi was either killed in infamous extrajudicial executions or ran to the West seeking sanctuary. A whole generation of educated Punjabis is missing from Punjab. Further, there is lack of job opportunities. The quality of education institutions and the job market feed on each other.

Punjabis are generally straightforward people and deeply passionate about their culture, language and beliefs. But for nearly two decades, the Akali Dal under the Badals managed to divide the population on religion, caste, political ideals and religious sects. There have been numerous incidents of sacrilege, of intracommunal violence and general distrust among people during their rule.

As a border state, Punjabis tried hard to avoid drugs that came from Afghanistan enroute to rest of the world. But a well-developed network of suppliers with patronage from politicians and allegedly the police have plunged many families into chaos as young men and women become addicted. Neither the Badals (Akalis) nor the Congress Amarinder Singh were able to tackle the issue. In fact a few Akali leaders are facing charges of involvement in the narcotic business. Amarinder Singh who took a holy vow to reverse drug business within four weeks if elected, left the CM office with increase in number of addicts in Punjab.

One of the tragedies of Punjab’s recent history is the issue of Foreign Direct Investment. It was a key issue in the Anandpur Sahib resolution put forward by the Akalis, who complained that Punjab is not being allowed to attract investment from its large diaspora. Under Dr Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in 1990s, states were given freedom to go and get FDI. Many states, such as Karnataka, Bengal, Gujrat etc took full advantage and their economies boosted with FDIs.

In the 90s, Punjab had unrest and violence. However after 2000 this was largely absent. The Badals came to power. Many a Punjab patriotic Sikh businessperson settled in the rich West wanted to invest, set up industry, technical institutions, IT companies etc. As the initial wave of enthusiasts tried to invest in Punjab’s future, they soon abandoned their efforts.

They met with corruption, red tape, harassment and demands for free shares, sometimes up to 25 percent of the company. Commercially it simply didn’t make sense to invest in Punjab. Frustrated, some took their money to other states in India. But the vast majority of otherwise successful business Punjabis in the West, decided to abandon their patriotism for Punjab. The people of Punjab were deprived of becoming an economic giant in India.

The 2022 election has swept the cobwebs that kept Punjab back and brought Kejriwal’s AAP as an electoral tsunami. The Punjabis have come together after decades to elect one party together. Until now there was the large Sikh Akali camp and the equally significant Hindu vote bank. Parties nurtured this division as their base but formed coalitions to form Government in Punjab. Year 2022 has changed that. Hindus and Sikhs have voted together for their future.

Akali Dal, the traditional party that gave Sikhs an identity, has been abandoned by Sikhs in their thousands in Punjab. Many suspect the Badals of cynical complicity or at least complacency in the several incidents of sacrilege, abuse of religious institutions and misappropriation of Gurdwara funds. So much was the anger among Sikhs that the father-son duo have even have lost their seats. Their relatives have been rejected by the Sikhs. This party that once gave Punjab a glorious history, only managed to gain four seats out of 117.

ALSO READ: The Tale Of Two Punjabs

The Punjabis are astute people. They want a future. They don’t want communalism, unrest or being taken advantage of by national parties. They had no choice. But one finally came along.

Arvind Kejriwal has travelled a long road to Punjab. Not being a Punjabi, he had little understanding of the Punjabis. He was rebuffed in the past. However his attitude and demeanour changed over the years as he got to know the Sikhs and the Punjabis in general.

Kejriwal comes with a clean slate. He has improved the schools, hospitals, roads and civic life in Delhi. People are happy with his management and rule. In Delhi, he has no power over the police. He cannot interfere in their appointments or censor their activities. He cannot control law and order in Delhi.

Punjab is the first real state where AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) under Kejriwal now has almost complete power. Expectations are high. Here he will have control over the police through his Chief Minister. Here he has the possibility of bringing changes and set priorities for law and order. He has the scope to rid Punjab of the drug menace, police corruption, brutality and destroy the police-politician nexus.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Maan is also known as an honest person. Under Kejriwal’s direction he can address many of the simmering grievances that have led to protests, unrest and which pushed people to finally reject both Akalis and Congress. If he shows courage, he might put a few of the political leaders engaged in nefarious activities, behind bars. He might start a crackdown on drug barons.

AAP in Punjab also has the possibility of reversing the missing Foreign Direct Investments. With the right incentives and by checking corruption, Maan can make Punjab an attractive place to invest for the many Punjabi patriots around the world. Punjab has the potential to become one of the most advanced economies in India. It just needs a Government with the political will to do that with investments in infrastructure, institutions, making investment streams easier and getting rid of ‘percentages’ for politicians, bureaucrats and police officers.

AAP will also need to address cultural and religious issues that have been exploited by previous politicians. Some of these politicians will be trying to ignite them again to mire AAP governance into communal quicksand.  AAP will need to show political skills to deal with that. Delhi is a metropolis. Punjab isn’t. Identities, beliefs and taboos matter here.

With the right approach and investment, AAP can start a regrowth of Punjab, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and put Punjab back on the path to recovery. It can bring back communal harmony. Punjab is the real test for Kejriwal and the potential to be the stepping stone for AAP to win in other states. It will not be easy as other parties try to trip it, but if he succeeds, AAP can become an alternative force in Indian politics. As usual Punjab is the beacon that leads.

Three Quick Takeaways From Assembly Poll Results

If you distil down the results of the five states that held assembly elections recently, there are three conclusions that could describe them best. These three facts are what will shape the future of politics and governance in India. The same three conclusions will also impact the future of three political parties.

First, it is the unabated surge of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Winning Uttar Pradesh decisively by getting 255 of the 403 seats and, thus, retaining India’s most populous state does two things. It underlines how strong the party is in the northern belt, which in turn could be a pointer to its fortunes when parliamentary elections are held in 2024. It also silences critics who thought that the stock of UP’s hardliner chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, was falling. Already speculation has begun on whether Adityanath, 49, could succeed Narendra Modi, 71, as Prime Minister in the coming years.

There was a time before 2014 that many people ruled out that Modi (whose tenure as chief minister of Gujarat was controversial) could become India’s Prime Minister. As it happened, the doubters were put paid and Modi’s popularity continues to soar. Could Adityanath be waiting in the wings to succeed him? In Indian politics, as they say, anything can happen.

The second conclusion is the spectacular surge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). There is possibly no precedent to what the party, led by Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, has pulled off by winning Punjab. No small regional party such as AAP has done that before. AAP won 92 of the 177 seats in Punjab, thereby reducing the traditional contenders — Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP, and Congress — to mere also rans. This has many ramifications.

ALSO READ: Cong Leadership Will Never Learn: Capt

It establishes that small regional parties, if they play their strategies well, can expand to other regions outside their strongholds and can prove to be formidable opponents to bigger traditional parties in their own bastion. AAP’s victory in Punjab does just that but it also catapults the party and its leader Kejriwal to the central stage. AAP will now be a force to contend with and we ought not to be surprised if prominent leaders from parties such as the Congress leave to join the AAP.

The third and least surprising conclusion is the complete rout of the Congress party, a political organisation that once reigned supreme in the country. Indeed, looking at the party’s current state, it is difficult to believe that it had ever been so strong, powerful, and at the top of India’s political pack. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress won just two seats of the 403; in Punjab it managed 18; in Goa 11 (the BJP won 20) of the 40; in Uttarakhand 19 (BJP won 47) out of 70; and in Manipur it got five (BJP won 32) of the 60 seats. The writing on the wall is clear.

The Congress, run by the Gandhi family, is facing a serious leadership crisis. This has not only meant that that the party is rudderless but it has continued to be dynastic — Rahul Gandhi, the reluctant heir to his mother and the party’s current head, Sonia Gandhi, has proved himself to be a failure several times over and yet the party’s leaders do not try to infuse new blood or revamp the way the party is run. By the time 2024 rolls in and the Lok Sabha elections are held, the Congress could get diminished even further. Its fate in the recent five-state assembly polls shows that clearly.

‘I Will Bet On Arvind Kejriwal To Sweep Punjab Polls’

Baneet Sharma, 37, a French teacher in Nabha (Punjab), says Aam Aadmi Party can rid state of its major problems like corruption and drugs menace

In my 37 years of life I have been keenly observing the political landscape of Punjab. As far as my personal understanding of the state is, based on in-depth creditable media reports, Punjab is facing three main challenges: corruption, drugs menace and falling education standards due to mindless privatisation in the sector.

These issues dominate the ongoing state assembly election campaign. As a teacher, I have witnessed first-hand how a whole crop of engineers and other professionals are being churned out without any proper knowledge of the subject matter. In Punjab there are a lot of these private universities that are appealing on the surface but don’t have the tools, faculty and the setup to teach say a subject like Aeronautical Engineering or even lesser niche subjects. This affects the supply of trained human resources. So, any party that cares about the issues of the youth is a winner for me.

Thus, Mr Arvind Kejriwal is a winner for me, for the AAP Government in Delhi has turned around the quality of government school education. Kejriwal is a highly knowledgeable leader who understands the value of formal education. I will support Bhagwant Mann as the chief minister only because he is backed by Mr Kejriwal. The state has tried Akali Dal-BJP combination as well as Congress in government. Their years in power have done little for the state. I think it is high time we gave a new party the chance.

Sharma (right) feels AAP can bring about the desired change in Punjab politics

In these tough times of pandemic, a party in power must care about the middle class. The poor can avail of free ration and other help while the rich have savings. It is the middle class which suffers the most. I am a teacher and in the last three years have seen various educational institutes either folding down or operating erratically during the many lockdowns.

ALSO READ: ‘AAP Will Win Punjab, Kisan Morcha Needs Time’

How are we supposed to earn a living? How are we supposed to feed our families and take care of their immunity, medical and other needs? We have EMIs to pay, loans to repay and other expenses that keep rising. We need a party that can see through the pain of people. People need stability in uncertain times and politicians should step in.

Captain Amarinder Singh toh Raja Sahab hain. He isn’t here to serve, but to relax. Navjot Singh Sidhu on the other hand is hyperactive. He speaks so much and makes little sense. He treats politics like a cricket pitch. He always wants to hit sixers and the audience applause. Politics goes deeper than that. Congress should understand Sidhu isn’t a great leader.

As far as the political party floated by farmers Sanyukt Samaj Morcha is concerned, I feel it will only act as a vote cutter for the Akali Dal, BJP and Congress. Akali Dal has so far asked for votes on the basis of religious identity and have won, but now the Janata is disappointed in them. Farmers are particularly disappointed in them and their votes will now likely go to AAP.

But at the end, I hope whoever leads the state, serves its people well and takes note of the needs of each class, and all major issues faced by the state.

Is Hindutva Hanging By A Thread In Bengal?

Hindutva is no longer the rabble rouser vote bank as it was in the last national election. When the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party won an emphatic victory in the recent Delhi assembly election, opposition leaders were quick to point that the Bharatiya Janata Party will have to recalibrate its strategy of polarisation now that it had been roundly rejected by the electorate of yet another state.

However, it would be extremely difficult for the saffron party to abandon its majoritarian agenda in the forthcoming state elections. For the BJP, hardline Hindutva, strident nationalism and communal talk is an article of faith.

Hindutva seems to have worked for BJP in the last election. It probably sees the current run of defeats as aberrations. Besides the Hindutva strategy helps divert attention from bread and butter issues at a time when the economy is tottering. An election is the occasion for the BJP to propagate its ideology.

ALSO READ: Oppn Must Sieze The Moment

In fact, the BJP’s high-decibel poll campaign in Delhi with its focus on the Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was meant not just to consolidate the Hindu vote in the Capital but also to send out a message across the country that this agitation is led by minorities and that the amended citizenship law actually enjoys popular support.

Among the opposition leaders, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee appears most vulnerable in this regard. Determined to add West Bengal to its kitty, the BJP has opted for a brazenly communal narrative to dethrone Banerjee. Having met with remarkable success in the last Lok Sabha election when it surprised everyone by winning 18 seats and increased its vote share to 40 percent, the BJP has every reason to persist with this strategy. It remains undeterred by the fact that its attempts to focus on Article 370 and triple talaq did not cut much ice with the voters in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

It will not be surprising if the BJP’s polarising and divisive rhetoric gets more shrill as it begins preparations for next year’s assembly election in a state which has a 27 percent Muslim population.

The very fact that the BJP has re-elected Dilip Ghosh as president of the party’s West Bengal unit, is a clear message that the saffron party has no intention of going back on its communal agenda. Known for using vitriolic language, Ghosh is constantly stoking controversies with his inciting statements. Ghosh was in the eye of a storm recently when he described the anti-CAA protesters as “illiterate and uneducated” who are being fed biryani and “paid with foreign funds” to continue with their agitation. He constantly refers to the issue of infiltration in his speeches and has, on several occasions, thundered that all Bangladeshi Muslims in the state will be identified and chased out of India!

ALSO READ: ‘NRC Will Be A Disaster In Bengal

Not only has the BJP campaign reopened the old wounds inflicted in the communal riots during the state’s partition of 1905, it has also been helped by the fact that Mamata Banerjee is seen to be appeasing the minorities. The Trinamool Congress chief who is personally leading the prolonged protests against the amended citizenship law as well as the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register, has given the BJP enough fodder to push ahead with its communal agenda.

Undoubtedly the Delhi defeat came as a rude shock for the BJP but, at the same time, its leaders believe the party increased its tally from three to eight seats and improved its vote share from 32 to 38 percent because it made the anti-CAA protests as the centre piece of its campaign.

It’s still too early to say if the BJP’s strategy will succeed but, at present, Mamata Banerjee has the first mover advantage over her political rival. While the saffron party lacks a strong party organisation in West Bengal and has no credible chief ministerial candidate, the Trinamool Congress chief is already in election mode.

ALSO READ: West Bengal Follows AAP Model

Like Kejriwal, she has stopped taking personal potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is instead emphasising her governance record. She has also taken the lead in articulating the dangers of the amended citizenship law, the NPR and NRC. Mamata Banerjee is taking no chances as she realizes she can ill-afford to underestimate the BJP as she had done in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

But before it goes for broke in West Bengal, the BJP will test the waters in Bihar which is headed for polls later this year. Not only does the state have a 17 percent Muslim population, the opposition (the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress) has staunchly opposed the CAA, reason enough for the saffron party to polarise the electorate on religious lines.

Besides, the BJP is banking on its alliance partner, Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (U) president Nitish Kumar to act as a buffer against its strident campaign. Though Nitish Kumar has endorsed the CAA, he has not framed his support for the law on communal lines. Moreover, the Bihar chief minister measures his words carefully and is not known to use extreme language. This, the BJP feels, should help the alliance offset any possible adverse repercussions of the saffron party’s high-pitched tirade against those opposing the CAA.

However, if Mamata Benarjee can repeat AAP’s massive success in Bengal, voices in Bengal may start questioning Hindutva. Hindutva may be hanging by a thread.

Watch – ‘Kejriwal Spoiling Our Generation With Freebies’

Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi feel that Aam Aadmi Party is setting in a culture of muftkhori (freebies) which will prove costly in the long run for sustainable supplies. Besides, the subsidies are only targeted to the owners and not tenants, mostly immigrants from other states, because they do not constitute AAP’s core voter base.

Real Reasons Why Kejriwal Won A 3rd Term In Delhi

Ever since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Mr Arvind Kejriwal, decisively swept the recent Delhi elections and won 62 of the 70 assembly seats, India’s political analysts have been assigning various reasons for that victory. Mr Kejriwal is back as chief minister of the state for the third term (his first term was a short one, lasting barely a couple of months; but his second tenure as chief minister lasted the full five years) and the post-result analyses in Indian media have attributed his comeback to multiple factors.

Some analysts have said Mr Kejriwal avoided confronting his main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs India’s central government, by largely keeping silent about the widespread protests in his state against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Those protests still continue and recently police action in some of the university campuses in Delhi turned grimly violent. By not forthrightly condemning or supporting the CAA or the protests against it, some analysts have argued, Mr Kejriwal managed to win over the Hindu majority voters who might have otherwise swung towards the BJP. Yet others have said Mr Kejriwal may have adopted a soft form of pro-Hindu campaigning—visits to temples; chanting of scriptures and slogans; and so on—to beat the BJP at its own game.

Some of these “analyses” could be over-wrought and, in some cases, even quite inaccurate. Delhi may be home to some of India’s richest people but the fact remains that almost half (49%) of Delhi’s 14.3 million voters live in the National Capital Territory’s (NCT) slums. These slums are home to Delhi’s poorest. Arguably, the value of a vote for poorer voters is far higher than that of richer, more privileged voters. And when nearly 63% of Delhi’s voters turned up to vote, it is reasonable to believe the larger proportion of them were poor voters rather than their richer counterparts.

So then why did Delhi’s citizens vote unequivocally for Mr Kejriwal and his AAP? An indication of the answer could lie on this very website that you are currently perusing. Shortly after the results were declared and AAP emerged as the unchallenged winner (compared to its 62 seats, its closest rivals fared terribly: the BJP got 8 and the Congress none), Lok Marg’s team sent out reporters to ask people why they voted for Mr Kejriwal’s party. Videos of those interviews may be watched on the site below

WATCH: Why Delhi Voted For Kejriwal

Even a casual perusal of those videos will show why people, particularly poor Delhiites living in the under-privileged colonies of the city-state, opted to click on the AAP’s broom symbol when they turned up to vote. The reasons are basic and pertain to fundamental needs of citizens. In his five-year term as chief minister, Mr Kejriwal and his government have been perceived to have delivered on their promises. The poor have benefited from reduced or highly subsidised supplies of electricity and water. Broken roads, and drainage systems have been repaired; CCTV surveillance and street-lighting in crime-prone areas have been installed; and education, meals, and teachers’ attendance at Delhi state’s government-run schools have improved.

These are just a few of the achievements of the AAP government in the past five years. In a state like Delhi—which is home to more than 20 million people—these are significant factors that determine how its citizens vote. What Mr Kejriwal’s pronouncements are on the CAA or the student protests at various Delhi universities and colleges may matter much less to the average Delhiite than the basic facilities that he or she expects their government to make accessible to them. And on that count, Mr Kejriwal’s return to power could be a people’s referendum on his past performance and their faith in his governance rather than the nuances of his utterances on recent political developments.

Watch: Aam Aadmi Reacts To Kejriwal’s Win

Delhi’s elections are unlike those of other bigger states because Delhi is a unique sort of a state. The Delhi government’s ambit doesn’t extend to law and order (Delhi’s police force reports to the central government). Likewise, the allocation or use of Delhi’s land falls under the central government; central Delhi’s New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) falls under the central government, while the three other municipal corporations report to the state’s Lieutenant-Governor who is an appointee of the central government.

This “special status” of the state of Delhi has meant that its elected government is constrained from acting as a full-fledged government. It has also led to frequent conflict and friction between the state’s government and the central government, factors that get particularly exacerbated when the parties in charge of the state and those in charge of the central government are rivals. Mr Kejriwal’s second tenure, since 2015, has been marked by such tensions. Yet, his achievements have not been insignificant. The people’s verdict that has won him a third term is clear proof of that.