Did Delhi voters really reject BJP's divisive campaign?
The Patriot

Did Delhi voters really reject BJP's divisive campaign?

Not quite.

By Sashikala VP and Proma Chakraborty

Published on :

"What will happen to us Hindus when Muslims take over?" These words, uttered by a voter from Rohtas Nagar, one of the eight constituencies which voted for the BJP this Delhi Assembly election tells us that perhaps the divisiveness of the election campaign has had some victims.

While election campaigns have always been colourful, this time, it went a step further with the BJP's relentless communal attacks that led to multiple bans on its leaders by the Election Commission.

West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma was banned not once but twice, within a week of his election rally appearances. His speech calling the Shaheen Bagh protestors rapists and murderers earned him a ban from campaigning for four days. Soon after, on February 5, he was banned again for calling the Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal a "terrorist".

Targeting Shaheen Bagh again, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, chanted "Desh ke gaddaron ko goli maaro saalon ko", at BJP's rally in Rithala. The EC slapped a 72-hour campaign ban on him for the same.

On February 5, Home Minister Amit Shah in a rally in Kondli said that the Assembly poll was "between two ideologies". He said it was the AAP and the Congress which were opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Ram Mandir, and the abrogation of Article 370.

Shaheen Bagh, which the BJP brought up time and again in their campaign, has become the face of resistance and protest against the government's CAA. The Acts' critics believe, the CAA is anti-Muslim and will pave the way for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) which deprives Muslims of citizenship if they don't have their papers.

While many Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters call this win of the politics of development over the politics of hate, people like Vijender Kumar who believed Hindus were in danger, may have their fears stemming from the relentless campaigns.

Kumar, a shopkeeper, selling paintings and pictures in Rohtas Nagar's main market; a constituency with a total of 2,10,832 voters – goes on about his fear as we ask him why he voted for the BJP.

"First Muslims ruled over us," Kumar says, invoking history which saw Muslim dynasties from the 12th century till the 19th century in the Indian subcontinent, a context which the BJP has many times brought up. "If we are Hindus and our parent's grandparents have all lived here, we are from here, where will we go?" he adds.

This is a caution which was recently also used by Karnataka BJP MP Tejasvi Surya in the Lok Sabha. He implored the "majority" to remain vigilant "or else Mughal rule will return to the country". He made the statement in reference to Shaheen Bagh.

On prodding Kumar further about when he decided to vote for BJP candidate Jitender Mahajan, the 67-year-old kept his response brief. "There should be a change. But BJP is not without its faults," he said. He points to what the winning party had accused the BJP of: "lacking a CM face."

He also thought BJP leaders don't mingle with the public, "All leaders have tantrums. Those leaders who can stay with people say Ram Ram, Walaikum Assalam, Sat Sri Akaal--only that person will be successful. They will think yes, he is our person."

He then complains that unemployment and price rise are of big concern. When we ask him who is responsible for this, he answers "If one man marries three to four wives and has 40 children then, of course, this would happen". When we ask how that could be a factor, he does not give any reasoning, instead adds that there are many more reasons, "I could write a book on it."

Another man who invoked this Hindu-Muslim divide and directly pointed to it being the primary reason for the votes garnered in his constituency is Himanshu Jain.

A young man who runs an artificial jewellery shop, Jain, believes this is the same reason Muslim majority areas voted for the AAP.

"The Hindu-Muslim divide happened, especially because of CAA. You see that's why a lot of differences have arisen, (and) that's why most Muslims have voted for the AAP and Hindu areas for the BJP.

Jain, who has been running the shop in Rohtas Nagar for the past two years says that shopkeepers had decided to back the now elected MLA, Jitender Mahajan, "as he has a business of his own, with a showroom of readymade clothes".

Their motive to dethrone AAP's Sarita Singh, who had won in 2015 by a margin of 7,874 votes, was also cemented for Jain because according to him the MLA "did no work. Even when she had come for campaigning, she didn't enter this area".

Instead, he compared it to the BJP campaign which had put in a lot of money for the rallies that were held with "a lot of fanfare".

Mahajan who lost in 2015, won this time with one of the biggest margins for the saffron party--13,241 more votes than AAP's Singh.

Division worked

The constituency with the most significant vote share margin that the BJP received was Ghonda in the North East parliamentary constituency. It has a total of 2,22,280 electors.

Here Ajay Mahawar of the BJP won with a margin of 28,370 beating Shri Dutt Sharma of the AAP. Sharma had won in 2015 against BJP's Sahab Singh Chauhan by a margin of 8,093 votes.

We met voters of the area to understand why they voted for the BJP. A few locals from the area told us that BJP workers had gone around campaigning to press the lotus button 'as that would prove how many people are for Pakistan and how many are for Hindustan'.

This was perhaps a direct effect of BJP's Model Town candidate, Kapil Mishra, who in his tweet had said, "India vs Pakistan. India and Pakistan will compete on the streets of Delhi on February 8." While the EC banned him for 48 hours from campaigning, Mishra also lost from Model Town.

There were also a few we met who had voted for the AAP. One of those AAP voters is Sarfaraz Khan who owns a shop selling e-rickshaws in Ghonda. In one of them, we found saffron jackets with faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari, East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, and (late) former finance minister Arun Jaitley.

While Khan himself doesn't supply these jackets, his friend Zaidi who has a shop next door does.

Khan, a resident of Ghonda for the past 25 years, told us he was surprised to see the BJP win from his constituency. "The BJP's Hindu-Muslim divide that they heavily campaigned about has managed to work in this constituency. From the time BJP has come to power Muslims are distressed", he said further accusing that a lot of votes had been bought.

"With the sealing drive by the BJP, I know a lot of people voted for the AAP," says Khan, going on to talk about the works done by AAP, and how he benefitted from them.

"I have four daughters who go to school. The education provided has vastly improved, and the travel that used to cost me Rs 50 each, is now being saved due to free bus service.

Even with free electricity, there is a lot of savings," adds Khan.

But what about those from Ghonda who voted for the BJP. One we met is Zaidi, who is the purveyor of the saffron jackets which first caught our attention. Supplying to wholesalers in Gandhi Nagar, he says he gets bulk orders of,2-3 lakh pieces, each jacket costing Rs 500.

Zaidi says he has been a BJP voter since long and does not understand the big deal about its divisive campaign. "All this happens during elections", he quipped, scrunching up his face to show just how unimportant the hate speech was to him.

"I have a group of a few hundred who voted for the BJP, even my family members did."

When asked why people voted for the BJP, he told us about why people voted for the AAP. "They have voted for AAP for the good work in education. I didn't vote for them because BJP looks at other factors. It wants the progress of the country. They think big. Modi's mind is for the progress of the country, and he can make it America if he wants, but people are unable to understand."

When we ask about what progress has taken place under the BJP-led central government, he points towards the abrogation of Article 370, "which is the number one point". He finds it good because "a person from here can go and start a business in Kashmir, can open factories, which wasn't allowed before. I intend on starting a business".

And the fact that the AAP won in the name of development is something he cannot understand. "People have voted in the name of development they say, but vikas will automatically happen, it's not an important topic".

He does agree though that 'the Hindu-Muslim topic' was a big factor in these elections. "It was good, the abrogation of Article 370, a resolution for Babri Masjid and the triple talaq case being resolved in court, are all good, so people voted".

"So, what if they got only eight seats out of 70. They will get all one day". His advice for making this a reality is offering a pension of Rs 15,000 every month. Then "they (the BJP) would never lose an election".

Another voter from Ghonda we meet is Bharat. He too voted for the BJP but instead of naming any tactics of the BJP working on him, what worked was that the AAP "did nothing here". Adding to this position he calls their work to improve roads in his area as unsuccessful, "First they make the roads, and then they remember that a sewage pipe needs to be put or changed and then they'll open it up again."

He moves on to the free electricity provision, which he says has been possible due to "Sheila Dikshit (former CM of Delhi) who had privatised electricity…what AAP has done is make it free that too six months before elections". Then it was the pollution crisis that the capital city has been facing especially harder since the winter of 2016, which the AAP has not been able to tackle.

He also talks about the free bus service to women saying the money should have been utilised to buy new buses instead.

In fact, "freebies" have become a point of contention, not just between the opposing parties but even among those who favour BJP. People have been pointing fingers at Delhi voters, saying they voted for AAP because they like freebies. It was perhaps because of this that Sujata, an AAP voter from Ghonda, repeatedly tells us that she didn't vote for the free electricity or the buses but "only for the future of my children".

We meet her while her business partner, Shashi Gupta, fries bread pakoras in their less than a year-old shop. Both admit to being Congress supporters who have now switched over.asd;47kl=asd;47kl=[asd;47kl=

Sujata says she voted for AAP only because they have done "so much good for education" and she had personally benefitted from this as her three children study in government schools.

Gupta, on the other hand, voted for the BJP. She is one of those who have migrated to the BJP from the Congress. "I always used to vote for them, but now with nothing happening, I have voted for BJP." Sujata believes that with a different leader at the helm, the party could have a chance in electoral politics. "Sheila Dikshit did a lot of work. The road here was built by her, even buses started plying, but now they have stopped it". Her friend adds with a disappointed smile that they are left with no choice but to switch.

For the Congress, it has been a steady decline in Delhi, which started in 2013 Assembly polls. Back then they had garnered a total of 24.55% votes. In 2015 it declined drastically to just 9.7%. If it thought it couldn't do any worse, it was wrong. The grand old party managing only 4.2% votes this year.

Win some lose some

While the AAP lost five more seats than last time, it managed to win Mustafabad, a constituency which it had in 2015 lost to the BJP.

Mustafabad, with a total of 2,62,642 electors, is one of the three constituencies that the BJP won in the last assembly elections. Haji Yunus defeated the former MLA of the BJP, Jagdish Pradhan with a massive margin of 20,704 votes. In 2015, Jagdish had a vote count of 58,388 and was ahead of the AAP with 8,597 votes. The Congress, however, has a very dismal performance of only 5,363 votes, as compared to the 52,357 votes it had garnered in 2015.

When Patriot had last visited Mustafabad, during the Lok Sabha elections, many Muslims had admitted that in the previous Assembly elections their votes had been divided which saw the BJP win. This time Congress' dull results show that Muslims were able to consolidate their votes to one party.

And when we met Sharibal from this constituency, she says that AAP was an obvious choice this time. AAP's Yunus' victory with 98,850 votes, means the total vote percentage was 53.2%.

So, what gave AAP the edge over others? It was their work that spoke to the people.

"From electricity, water, to government dispensaries providing us with better treatments, what else could a common man ask for," asks Sharibal. "For so many years what they couldn't do, Kejriwal has done that in the field of education in these last few years." She, however, does add that the road and transport system in the city needs to be worked on.

"People in my constituency had voted for Congress and BJP before, but then we did not see any work done by Kejriwal. This election, we had to vote for the development that we have seen," adds her neighbour.

While stating that they voted on the basis of the development in their area, they said the reason they steered clear from the BJP was because of their divisive campaign. Add to that the implications of the CAA and the NRC. Sharibal pointed out to another resident of her constituency and said this time all the Muslim women in her area made a conscious and collective choice to vote for AAP.

"We have always been living peacefully for so many years. So many different religions have been staying together, and that is what makes our Hindustan. They don't even respect Mahatma Gandhi. And now, there are so many unemployed people, people who cannot even feed themselves, how do they expect them to show their birth certificates?" Sharibal questions.

But a big victory was seen of the anti-CAA protests with the votes garnered by Okhla's AAP MLA, Amanatullah Khan, who was blamed by the BJP as having "begun" the women-led Shaheen Bagh movement.

Khan won by over 70,000 votes beating BJPs Braham Singh.

Gains were actually seen for AAP in all Muslim-dominated constituencies which were once Congress bastions. In Ballimaran, AAPs Imran Hussain defeated Lata Sodhi of BJP by 36,172 votes.

Then in Matia Mahal, five-term MLA Shoaib Iqbal, who is also a former Congress MLA won for the AAP, defeating BJPs Ravinder Gupta by a margin of 50,241. Mirza Javed Ali of the Congress managed to garner only 3,403 and came a distant third.

And in Seelampur, which saw protests turn violent, AAP won with a new MLA candidate Abdul Rehman securing a margin of 36,920 over Kaushal Kumar Mishra of the BJP.

But AAP's win is not just because of Muslim votes as some may believe. Even in the celebrations at AAP's office in Delhi on counting day, February 11, one could see people of diverse backgrounds, young and old joining in the revelry.

In fact, looking at the Census 2011 report makes things clearer. According to that, Hindus accounted for 80.21 % (8,851,355) while Muslims accounted for 12.78 % (1,410,041). AAP managed to win 53.6% of the votes while the BJP secured 38.5% of the votes, which shows that it wasn't just the Muslims who voted for the AAP.

BJP and their margins

BJPs Abhay Verma, from Laxmi Nagar, beat AAPs Nitin Tyagi by a small margin of 880 votes

BJP's Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, did better than Verma with a winning margin of 3,719 votes in Badarpur, against AAPs Ram Singh Netaji

BJPs Anil Kumar Bajpai, from Gandhi Nagar, won against AAPs Naveen Chaudhary with a margin of 6,079 votes.

The best margin won by the BJP was from Ghonda, with Ajay Mahawar beating Shri Dutt Sharma with a margin of 28,370 votes.

This significant margin was followed by Vishwas Nagar, which gave BJPs Om Prakash Sharma a win with a margin of 16,457 votes over AAPs Deepak Singla. Sharma's count has risen from the 2015 elections where he had won with a margin of 10,158 votes.

Rohtas Nagar's BJP candidate Jitender Mahajan won with a margin of 13,241 beating the former MLA Sarita Singh.

Another seat which BJP won again is Rohini with Vijender Kumar securing a margin of 12,648 votes against AAPs Rajesh Nama Bansiwala. Kumar's vote tally also rose this time around from 2015s win margin of 5,367 votes.

Then there's Karawal Nagar where BJPs Mohan Singh Bisht secured a margin of 8,223 beating AAPs Durgesh Pathak.

AAP win by a thin margin

While the AAP managed a big win again, compared to its performance in 2015 a few of its MLAs have lost votes. Here we list out all those who secured a vote margin of less than 3,500:

AAPs Bhupinder Singh Joon won with a thin margin of 753 votes in Bijwasan, against BJP's Sat Prakash Rana. This seat was earlier held by Col Devinder Sehrawat, who left the AAP. He had won in 2015 with a vote margin of 19,536.

Adarsh Nagar's AAP candidate Pawan Sharma won against BJP's Raj Kumar Bhatia with a maargin of 1,589 votes. In 2015, Sharma had won by a margin of 20,741 votes.

AAP's Madal Lal who beat Ravinder Choudhry by margin of 3,165 votes in Kasturba Nagar, had earlier won from here, in 2015 with a margin of 15,896 votes.

A surprisingly low margin was secured by the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. He managed to secure a win from Patparganj with a margin of 3,207 votes against Ravinder Singh Negi. Interestingly the last time, in 2015, he had secured a win margin of 28,791 votes.

Lastly, Shalimar Bagh's Bandana Kumari beat Rekha Gupta of the BJP by a margin of 3,440 votes. She had earlier won by a margin of 10,978 votes.

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