For a Vajpayee to re-educate against hate

BJP’s 8 percentage gain in the Delhi vote share translated into just five extra seats, but the damage its leaders have inflicted on the intrinsic fabric of political morality is going to be difficult to assess

For a Vajpayee to re-educate against hate

Julio Ribeiro

The results of the Delhi elections replicated the exit poll predictions. In the first-past-the-post system, which India follows, the BJP’s 8 percentage gain in the overall vote share translated into just five extra seats, but the damage its leaders have inflicted on the intrinsic fabric of political morality is going to be difficult to assess at this point of time.

Smelling defeat, the BJP brought out its top brass from several states across the country. Door-to door canvassing by its MPs and senior leaders made no impression on the electorate. But the ‘gaalis’ and threat of ‘golis’ did! Adversely, as the results show!

It was not expected of a self-proclaimed nationalist party to risk the unity of its citizens to win a small, albeit iconic, election. But so it did — and failed. What it needs to figure out now is the extent of damage it has done to the body politic by its self-centred, narrow-minded campaign of hatred for the ‘other’, consisting majorly of Muslim women but including left-leaning students, ‘tukde-tukde’ gang members and ‘anti-nationals’ who dissent against the politics of polarisation.

The tacit help given to the ruling establishment by the Election Commission by letting off offenders lightly also did not help. On the other hand, stories like the victimisation of children, teachers and parents staging an anti-CAA play in a small town school in Karnataka, a BJP-ruled state, must surely have had an adverse say in the decision-making of knowledgeable voters. I have noticed a marked shift in the pro-Modi inclination of Mumbai’s youth and I see no reason why Delhi’s youth should think differently. The promise of ‘achhe din’ is fading and will fade further if the economy is not restored quickly to health.

The BJP had everything going for it — money, which it had in plenty; the police, which did not hide the preference for the party which decides their transfers and postings; the bigger chunk of the electronic media, which faithfully and raucously parrots what the party wishes to tell the public. Nothing worked, not even the ‘gaalis’ and ‘golis’!

Arvind Kejriwal, who showed a lot of immaturity in his first and even subsequent avatar as Chief Minister, has shed that mantle and worn the cloak of wisdom instead. He refused to be drawn into any trap by BJP stalwarts, who wanted him to spell out his own stand on the CAA and NRC and Shaheen Bagh. That wisdom paid off handsomely, as it turned out.

I remember meeting Arvind Kejriwal when he was still in the Indian Revenue Service. Our NGO, Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), had invited him to speak to us. BG Deshmukh, the former Cabinet Secretary, was the chairman at that time and it was he who had extended the invitation. Kejriwal was younger then and had still not decided on a political career, but you could make out that he was inclined towards working for others.

He told us that he could not eliminate the corruption that he noticed to be rampant in his own service but he was determined to do the little that was possible for a lone officer fighting a collective. He picked on the issue of PAN cards and refund of income tax to those who had overpaid. For both these services, the income tax officials at a junior level demanded a cut from the assessees. Kejriwal placed a small table and a chair outside the income tax office in Delhi and invited the assesses concerned to approach him for relief. Naturally, he became very unpopular among his brother officers who were on the take. But he did not care.

He took long leave and spent the leave period in organising citizens who were not getting what was due to them by the government. This was not an income tax matter but services that different government departments had to provide. He organised processions of the aggrieved and generally delved in matters far removed from his government job, but more common with activists or politicians. The spirit was very evident and we were left positively impressed.

Yet, I am not overly enthused by the BJP’s discomfiture in Delhi. The 40 per cent who voted saffron includes quite a substantial number of ‘converts’ from outside their core support base. If what the party has achieved in Mumbai in converting fence-sitters to its ‘hate’ agenda has been done in Delhi also (and I have no doubt it has), the poison injected in their minds will not be ejected in a hurry despite many electoral defeats. The nation and its residents will be poorer on that account!

It will require many more Kejriwals to re-educate the people. Perhaps an Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be more suitable.


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