Delhi Elections, Muslims And The NRC

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Five of 70 assembly segments in Delhi have a Muslim population of 40% or more

The lead-up to the Delhi assembly elections is slowly building up. The manner, in which the ruling BJP has made it a prestige issue to win, is a pointer towards its naked lust for power and to control every state in the country by hook or by crook. Senior functionaries of the party and government ministers are leaving no stone unturned to secure a victory. In their bid to power they are trying to change the narrative for a state election and instead of focussing on local issues like development, they are raking-up national and emotive issues, an old BJP ploy.

In its desperation the BJP is resorting to its old tricks and trying to polarise the electorate on religious lines. It is trying to paint the on-going protests, particularly at Shaheen Bagh (SB) and Jamia, against the CAA-NRC-NPR trio as being led by Muslims alone, and thus anti-national. The abusive language and taunts being used by its senior leaders against the protestors shows their true colours and desperation.

Muslims as usual are going to play a key role in these elections. 11% of Delhi’s population is Muslim; five of 70 assembly segments have a Muslim population of 40% or more. Walled City’s Ballimaran, Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk constituencies, besides Okhla and Seelampur have a considerable Muslim population. Five other constituencies — Rithala, Shahdara, Seemapuri, Babarpur and Mustafabad also have a significant Muslim electorate.

While the analysts say that CAA-NRC-NPR is an important issue for the Muslims, yet the community would go for a “performance-based” decision. Congress may benefit in the constituencies where it has fielded strong Muslim candidates, which might impact the AAP slightly. But overall the community does not seem to mind that the AAP is not aggressively backing the anti-CAA protests.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has not visited the Shaheen Bagh protest site and by doing so he has avoided the trap for him. Kejriwal is contesting the polls on the issue of good governance by his government, which is widely accepted by the public. If he visits Shaheen Bagh, the BJP may accuse him of encouraging communal passions, and also try to implicate him in the recent violent incidents that took place at Jamia. The AAP leader has thus ensured that the BJP’s ploy of establishing this election between Hindus and Muslims does not, in any manner, succeed.

A survey (IANS-CVoter Republic Day SOTN survey), released on Sunday (26 Jan.), has hinted at a positive mood for the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government as 52.3 per cent of respondents said they were ‘very much satisfied’ with its performance, and further 58.8% of the respondents also found Kejriwal’s performance good.

The BJP, is desperately looking for an issue to halt the AAP’s campaign and also rope in factors that are unconnected and not directly related to local matters. Most of the BJP nominees, are finding it markedly difficult to offset the impression that favours AAP, and therefore have sought to introduce emotional components that can arouse passions and probably get the BJP back into the game. It is trying hard to divert the attention from core issues of development and raking up the narratives of Hindutva and nationalism.

At a panel discussion on Delhi elections organised by a newspaper chain, Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra, who has been assigned the task of reviving Congress in Delhi, said the Kejriwal government was responsible for turning Delhi into an unliveable city and asserted that his party would return to power with a majority. But apart from that the Congress leader didn’t had much to say in his party’s favour. In reality the Congress is also trying go encash the SB protests and during the last month several of its local leaders have tried to be seen there giving fiery speeches against the government but with nothing substantial to say. Accusing the Opposition parties—the AAP and Congress—of misleading people over the issues of CAA and the NRC, Union minister and BJP’s poll in-charge for Delhi Prakash Javadekar said that the people of Delhi will teach them a lesson while voting on 8 February. Making a strong pitch against the on-going protests at Shaheen Bagh, Javadekar said that the sit-in protest was illegal and aimed at troubling lakhs of people residing in Noida and South Delhi areas. Breaking its silence on the issue of the Shaheen Bagh protests, Deputy CM of Delhi, Manish Sisodia described it as a failure of the BJP-led Central government as it failed to address the people’s grievances and made no effort to reach out to the protesting citizens in the capital.

Though no party has taken any Muslim-specific stand, which is a rarity even in the national elections, for the Delhi elections, with BJP in complete anti-Muslim mode and the Congress looking completely unsure of itself. In reality the AAP seems to be in complete control of the narrative and has not allowed the focus to shift from Delhi-centric issues like development, free electricity, school modernisation, providing free medical acre to any other emotive or divisive issue. Kejriwal is also aware that the Congress and the BJP have entered the fray with little preparation and thereby is ready to use this to his advantage. On the issue of CAA-NRC-NPR, the AAP leaders have reacted prudently and laid the blame at the centre’s door step though not making a big hue and cry about it, but conveying the message through small local gatherings, a sign of AAP becoming more politically mature and ready to play the game according to its rules.

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