Between February 24 and 26, notheast Delhi witnessed its worst ever communal violence since 1984. Over 50 people were killed, hundreds of houses & shops gutted and several places of worship vandalized. One common refrain of most witnesses was that police either failed to respond to their distress calls or remained a mute spectator. LokMarg speaks to the victims from Ground Zero:
The humiliating defeat suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi assembly election has not proved to be an auspicious beginning for the party’s month-old president JP Nadda. Though it is true that it was Union Home Minister Amit Shah who led the party’s high-decibel campaign in Delhi, history books will record the result as BJP’s first electoral drubbing under Nadda’s stewardship.
Out of power for over two decades, the BJP was predictably desperate to take control in Delhi. But the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party proved to be a formidable opponent and the BJP fell by the wayside once again.
Well before Nadda took over as the BJP’s 11th president, it was widely acknowledged that he will not enjoy the same powers as his predecessor Amit Shah did but, nevertheless, would be called to take responsibility for the party’s poll defeats as well as organisational matters.
Nadda began his tenure with a disadvantage as it is difficult to live up to Shah’s larger-than-life image. Amit Shah, who served as BJP president for five years has easily been the most powerful party head in recent times. Known for his supreme organisational skills, Shah is chiefly responsible for the BJP’s nation-wide expansion, having built a vast network of party workers and put in place formidable election machinery. No doubt Modi’s personality, charisma and famed oratory drew in the crowds but there is no denying that Shah contributed equally to the string of electoral victories notched by the BJP over the last five years.
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Given that Shah has revamped the party organisation from scratch and placed his loyalists in key positions, there are serious doubts that the affable, low-key and smiling Nadda will be allowed functional autonomy. Will he be able to take independent decisions, will he constantly be looking over his shoulder, will he be allowed to appoint his own team or will he be a lame-duck party president? These are the questions doing the rounds in the BJP as there is all-round agreement that Shah will not relinquish his grip over the party organisation. This was evident in the run-up to the Delhi assembly polls as it was Shah and not Nadda who planned and led the party’s election campaign.
In fact, it is acknowledged that Nadda was chosen to head the BJP precisely because he is willing to play the second fiddle to Shah. Party leaders maintain that the new president is unlikely to make any major changes in the near future and that he will be consulting Shah before taking key decisions. For the moment, state party chiefs appointed by Shah have been re-elected, ensuring that the outgoing party president remains omnipresent.
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Though Nadda has inherited a far stronger party organisation as compared to his earlier predecessors, the new BJP president also faces a fair share of challenges. He has taken over as party chief at a time when the BJP scraped through in the Haryana assembly polls, failed to form a government in Maharashtra and was roundly defeated in Jharkhand. The party’s relations with its allies have come under strain while the ongoing protests against the new citizenship law, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register have blotted the BJP’s copybook.
These developments have predictably came as a rude shock to the BJP leadership and its cadres who were convinced that the party was invincible, especially after it came to power for a second consecutive term last May with a massive mandate.
Nadda’s first task has been to boost the morale of party workers and make them believe that the recent assembly poll results were a flash in the pan and that the BJP’s expansion plans are on course.
After Delhi, the Bihar election poses the next big challenge this year. The party’s ally, the Janata Dal (U), has upped the ante, meant primarily to mount pressure on the BJP for a larger share of seats in this year’s assembly elections. Realising that the BJP cannot afford to alienate its allies at this juncture, Amit Shah has already declared Nitish Kumar as the coalition’s chief ministerial candidate, which effectively puts the Janata Dal (U) in the driver’s seat. This has upset the BJP’s Bihar unit which has been pressing for a senior role in the state and is even demanding that the next chief minister should be from their party.
The BJP has to necessarily treat its allies with kid gloves as they have been complaining about the saffron party’s “big brother” attitude and that they are being taken for granted. While Shiv Sena has already parted company with the BJP, other alliance partners like the Lok Janshakti Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal have also questioned the BJP’s style of functioning.
The crucial West Bengal assembly election next year will also be held during Nadda’s tenure. The BJP has been working methodically on the ground in this state for the past several years now and has staked its prestige on dethroning Mamata Banerjee.
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But the Trinamool Congress chief is putting up a spirited fight, sending out a clear message to the BJP that it will not be so easy to oust her. Banerjee has declared war against the Modi government on the issues pertaining to the CAA-NRC-NPR and also activated her party cadres who have spread across the state to explain the implications of the Centre’s decision to the poor and illiterate. The BJP, on the other hand, is struggling to get across its message.
As in the case of Delhi, Shah can be expected to take charge of the Bihar and West Bengal assembly polls while Nadda will, at best, be a marginal player. Again it will be left to Shah to mollify the party’s allies as it is too sensitive and important a task to be handled by Nadda.
Like all political parties led by strong leaders, a BJP defeat will be seen as Nadda’s failure while a victory will be credited to Modi and Shah.
Aqsa Khursheed, a 19-year-old Political Science student, says the protest at Shaheen Bagh will not peter out because it is run by mothers who are battling for their children’s well-being
The demonstration at Shaheen Bagh started on December 15 and there are no signs of the protest wearing off. It is amazing to see the sheer number of people and their steely strength to stay put for the cause. People from all religions have been registering their presence at the protest site. The protest site at Shaheen Bagh is a five minute walk from my place, so I have been witnessing it from the start.
While the women sit and sleep near the main stage, men form a circle or sort of human chain around the women to keep them safe. From 3-month-old babies to 12- year-old kids, the kids accompanying their mothers don’t know that history is being created. We are working on Gandhian principles and you can call our protest as Satyagraha.
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If you were to ask me what is giving the women of Shaheen Bagh the strength to carry on in this severe cold of Delhi, I would say it is maa ka jazba (a mother’s passion). There is no power bigger or stronger than the love that a mother feels for her child.
Most women want a safer country for their children, and that is why they are here. Also, many women felt sad about the fact that they couldn’t do much when the students at Jamia were being beaten up last month. They say that if their children (Jamia students) can stand fearlessly, they too can. Maaon ko thand nahi lagti (A mother knows not what cold weather is).
Shaheen Bagh in Delhi has become the epicentre of protests against Citizenship Act and NRC (National Register of Citizens) and we have assembled here to save the Constitution as well as our constitutional rights.
We are very well organised and connected. Several days back, there were reports that the police were trying to remove the protestors from the site, after a heavy police presence was seen in the area. Around 4 pm on Sunday (January 5) many police vans, buses etc had gathered up near the site. The word spread and in less than an hour, swarm of people began pouring in at Shaheen Bagh to show their solidarity with the protesters.
Shaheen Bagh has shown to what lengths people can go if they are determined about what they want. Menfolk aren’t complaining about women being at the protest site day in and day out. It is heartening to see that my father, who till a few days ago didn’t know how to cook, keeps on telling my mother, “You be comfortable and go to the protest site, I will take care of myself. I will make my own tea or the food that I want to eat.” He thinks there is nothing more important for my mother than saving the Constitution.
The residents of Shaheen Bagh have opened their doors to anyone who comes to the protest site. The level of trust people have in each other is a beautiful experience. People from far off are coming to Shaheen Bagh. We are here to safeguard our fundamental rights as citizens of this country (Articles 14- 32 of the Constitution) and we hope the government will listen to us soon. We have faith that the situation will change, now that the people have woken up to both their rights and duties as citizens.