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Slanging matches

AAP is trying to keep the focus on the party’s track record while in power while BJP is milking bigger issues like nationalism. What will work?

With Delhi elections just around the corner and all nominations filed, it is the last leg of polls that is most crucial for all the parties as they go all-out in their final rounds of campaigns, rallies — and most importantly, deliver speeches.

From Amit Shah to Arvind Kejriwal, almost all heavyweights from the three major parties have been campaigning all over Delhi as they try to catch the fancy of the voters. So, what is the drift of these speeches? Are parties raising issues or is it just political jousting? Let’s analyse some of the top speeches

EC is watching

“Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). People of Delhi will have to think and take a decision. They’ll enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them. There’s time today, Modi-ji and Amit Shah won’t come to save you tomorrow…” This is what West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma had to say about the protestors sitting in at Shaheen Bagh for the last six weeks against the CAA and the NRC.

Not just Verma but all leaders who have been campaigning for the BJP seem to have made Shaheen Bagh their main talking point for the Delhi elections. The area, which seem to have become a national icon for the anti-CAA protests across the country, with thousands of women leading the line – is now a hub of so-called anti-nationals branded by the BJP. 

They are going all out in their aggressive statements, and like previous elections and what we have seen with the saffron party, the war of words, is now taking an ugly turn

MoS for Finance, Anurag Thakur in a speech in North East Delhi, shouted the slogan “Desh ke dalalo ko goli maaro saalo ko” (Shoot those who are against the country) aimed towards the Shaheen Bagh protestors.

But the Election Commission is not taking things lightly this time around. The EC has sent notices specifically to Verma and now Thakur, banning them from campaigning for the elections for the next 72 and 96 hours respectively.

Thakur and Verma have been booked under the Sections 123 (3A) and 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which states that any statement used by a candidate that attempts to promote hatred between people of two classes or religions is strictly prohibited.

The effect of Thakur’s slogan was felt when a man armed with a gun open fired at protestors outside Jamia Milia Islamia, injuring one student. Which just goes to show why leaders need to check themselves.

Like Verma and Thakur, Model Town BJP candidate in a series of tweets in Hindi, Model Town Mishra had also lashed out at the anti-CAA protesters in Shaheen Bagh and other places in the city. “India vs Pakistan 8th February Delhi. There will be a contest on Delhi roads between India and Pakistan on February 8,” he tweeted. 

This too, was taken note by the Election Commission of India, when a 48-hour ban was imposed upon him, keeping in view of Provision 1,3 and 4 of the Model Code of Conduct which states that all parties and candidates are strictly prohibited to delivering speeches or slogans or in Mishra’s case tweets which appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. In fact, section four deems this act of inciting communal hatred as a ‘corrupt practice’

In a leading daily, the BJP issued an advertisement in lieu of the Delhi elections, wherein they asked people to vote for them and not for Congress because of their “15 saal ka loot” (15 years of theft) and not for AAP because of “5 saal ka jhoot” (5 years of lies).

The commission took no time in responding to this advertisement by sending a notice to the BJP because of the violation of clause 2 of the Model Code of Conduct which restricts criticism of other parties based on unverified allegations.  The ECI has gone on to label the BJP’s allegations as “false, frivolous, baseless, unfounded and unsubstantiated”.

What about the others?

Home Minister Amit Shah, who seems to be leading the campaigning for the BJP, is also making Shaheen Bagh the major narrative in the Delhi elections. In doing so, he constantly attacked the Congress and the AAP for supporting the ‘anti-nationals’ of the area.

“Modi ji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has brought out CAA and Rahul baba, Kejriwal & Co. is opposing that. These people incited riots, instigated people, misled them, burnt down buses, burnt down private vehicles,” Shah said in a rally at Babarpur, adding that if they (AAP and Congress) return to power, Delhi will not be safe. “Your vote on February 8 will not only assure the victory of BJP candidate, but it will also prevent incidents like Shaheen Bagh.”

This, like Thakur, Verma and Mishra’s claims are clearly aimed at instigating religious and communal tensions for votes, and like them, the ECI should also then likely send notices to the home minister if 

Shah further went on to say that “Congress and AAP misled the country and instigated riots, made Delhi unsafe. They are still saying that they are with Shaheen Bagh. I want to tell the people of Delhi that they cannot keep Delhi safe because they have been blindfolded with the vote bank politics”. 

Even BJP national party president JP Nadda did not shy away from lethal verbal attacks.

Addressing a rally in Patel Nagar assembly constituency, Nadda said, “Some are sitting in this Bagh, some in that. Can children speak such language? They have been taught by AAP and Congress leaders who deliver speeches there. They’re spreading lies and playing vote bank politics on CAA.”

Both Shah and Nadda, should then like the BJP advertisement, are throwing unverified and baseless allegations at opposition parties, and hence in direct violation of the Clause 2 of the Model Code of Conduct.

Vote for work

Arvind Kejriwal has accused the BJP of making this election a “Hindu vs Muslim” battle, which diverts the narrative from what the real focus should be – which is what the incumbent government has done or not done in the past five years. “If you think we have done work in the past five years, only then vote for us” – this has been the common line in whatever rallies or interviews that the Delhi Chief Minister has done in the run-up to the elections.

“It’s for the first time that a political party (AAP) has come to you to ask for votes on the basis of the work done by it in the field of education in Delhi. In the last five years, we made water free, bus ride free for women and have been providing free electricity up to 200 units, but the emphasis has been on quality education. We want all of you to evaluate our efforts and achievements in the education sector, and vote us to victory,” claimed Dy CM and Patparganj candidate Manish Sisodia in a rally at Chittaranjan Park.

This approach by a ruling party – to not fall into the nationalist debate, but focus on pro-incumbency and what work they have done, is something that is quite different, especially in today’s times. 

“For Delhi to be a model city, we need to provide quality life to every citizen and that can only be achieved by providing quality education to students from all segments of the society. At present only 5-10% of the total student population gets quality and high standard education. Our goal is to extend it to all and we’ve taken various steps to provide a quality education through government-run schools. Today, not only leaders from other political parties, but also from our neighbouring countries have approached us to know about our model of education,” said Sisodia.

“Due to free water and subsidised electricity, the citizens of Delhi saved some money and they utilised it on improving their living. It has increased their purchasing power – quite in line in what economist Abhijit Banerjee said: that if you put money into people’s pocket, it will increase their purchasing power. And this is helping both the consumer and the businessman to keep the cycle moving. This is our approach to improve the existing economy.”

The Congress surprisingly has been conspicuously quiet in all the narratives, and for a party who has dominate the capital for 15 years under Sheila Dixit’s regime — it does not seem to be keeping up with the momentum of the election. This year, it seems to be a two-way battle between the BJP and the AAP

So, will it be BJP’s nationalism or Aam Admi Party’s bijli, paani aur shiksha — in the words of Kejriwal —which will be dominating the elections? We have to wait till February 11 to find out.