Kejriwal plagiarized from Modi’s Hindutva book in hopes of outsmarting the BJP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to be careful. Arvind Kejriwal, party leader of Aam Aadmi and Prime Minister of Delhi, is ready to oust the BJP of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He clones all of his electoral strategies. With many states going to have their general election before the 2024 general election, which will determine whether Modi gets a third term, one can only wonder how effective the Kejriwal cloning operation will be.
When I was at school decades ago, an often discussed question was: Who after Nehru? The answer was often heard that his most likely successor was Lal Bahadur Shastri. When it was reported that Nehru Shastri had loaned his coat for one of his critical visits to Nepal, it was quickly interpreted as the proverbial straw in the wind.
However, my youthful curiosity went in a different direction. Wouldn’t the coat be too big for tiny Shastri, I wondered? Notwithstanding the oversized coats, Shastri actually succeeded in succeeding Nehru.
Who after modes?
Nowadays it is downright blasphemous to make such speculative caricatures today. But whisper softly, we have to. Who after modes? Although some polls speak of his dwindling charisma and, accordingly, the growing popularity of the Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, I feel that Modi’s position remains unassailable both within his party and across India.
If not the man, then what about the party? Is there any other political party or coalition of parties that can oust the BJP from power in 2024? India’s great old party, the Indian National Congress, along with its allies, is arguably the most likely candidate for this, regardless of its current weaknesses. It may well be that 2024 will be a repeat of 2004. Just as Atal Behari Vajpayee’s slogan “India Shining” failed miserably at the time, Modi’s slogan “New India” could also fail in three years.
In addition to the congress, there are a handful of regional heavyweights – the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar – who could do justice to this opportunity. Many of them have started negotiations from time to time to establish a common Third Front against the BJP. It remains to be seen whether their efforts alone will pay off in time.
However, the party that perhaps deserves the most attention does not govern at either national or regional level. Much like the unfortunate Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, the rule of the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal only extends to Palam (the suburb of Delhi International Airport).
Although Delhi is the capital of the country and has well over 2 million inhabitants, it remains a semi-state within the federal structure of India. It is therefore not surprising that the political base of the Aam Aadmi party is still very small. His attempts to expand into other states, above all Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab, have so far been with mixed success and in any case protracted projects.
The whole life of Lord Rama carries the message of brotherhood. To spread the slogan of the same brotherhood, people gathered today in the tricolor yatra organized in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Sri Ram.
UP people now want Ram Rajya not goondaraj. # Tiranga_Sankalp_Yatra pic.twitter.com/J7RLST8eO9
– Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) September 14, 2021
New political strategy
Put simply, it is the Aam Aadmi Party’s new political strategy. Watch their recent actions and it is perfectly clear that they are out to break in using BJP’s time-tested formula, Hindutva, which is evidenced by an emphasis on nationalism, Hindu history, the glorification of the military, and most importantly, cult ( ie modes) is expressed. Kejriwal wants to pursue exactly the same strategy.
The transformation began at least three years ago. In November 2018, Kejriwal left the Shri Ramayana Express to transport Hindu pilgrims from Delhi to many Ram-related pilgrimage sites such as Sitamarhi, Janakpur (Nepal), Varanasi, Prayag, Chitrakoot, Hampi, Nasik and Rameshwaram.
In order not to reveal his secular credentials, which (fortunately) remain important in Indian politics, Kejriwal also started a program called Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra within a month of the Shri Ramayana Express. Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra was intended for seniors only and offered participants the opportunity to visit a number of sites important to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.
These included the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Indian-Pakistani border at Wagah, Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara, Vaishnodevi, Mathura, Vrindavan, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Nilkanth, Pushkar and Ajmer Sharif. (As an aside, even Modi understands the value of projecting his image as an inclusive leader. Recall how he promised after his 2019 election victory: sab ka sath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas, that is, together with all, with progress for all and with the trust of all.)
Three days before the 2020 Delhi assembly elections, when the Modi government announced the establishment of a trust to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Kejriwal commented, “There is no right time to do good work.” By talking to the Ram -Temple project, he neutralized all possible critics. They could no longer point to his attitude towards the temple in order to declare him an anti-Hindu, which in today’s India is equivalent to calling someone a traitor.
As part of an attempt to expand his constituency in Gujarat, Kejriwal opened the Aam Aadmi Party’s entry into the state by deftly seeking the blessing of Lord Krishna in an Ahmedabad temple. Lord Krishna is the most popular deity in the state. Shortly afterwards, in late August, he added Deshbhakti (patriotism / nationalism) to his Hindutva cat when he elected retired Colonel Ajay Kothiyal as his party’s prime minister in Uttarakhand.
By giving the colonel the compliment “brave heart” who had “two bullets in his body”, Kejriwal promised the nation that it was “Bhole Ka Fauji” (warrior of Lord Shiva) and “Deshbhakt fauji”. (patriotic warrior) who alone would “bring change in Uttarakhand”. “When the politicians were busy looting the people of Uttarakhand, Retd Col Ajay Kothiyal was faced with bullets at the border to protect the people of Uttarakhand,” thundered Kejriwal.
“The Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana will help promote communal harmony and brotherhood in society” – @msisodia pic.twitter.com/CrkSvYBQbH
– Aam Aadmi Party Delhi (@AAPDelhi) December 5, 2018
Having made clear the connection between patriotism and Hindu religiosity among the people of Uttarakhand, Kejriwal quickly set about selling the same patriotic tale in Uttar Pradesh.
Led by Manish Sisodia, Deputy Prime Minister of Delhi, and Sanjay Singh, a Rajya Sabha member of the party, the party re-initiated the Tiranga Yatra (the three-color march) with a focus on Deshbhakti. It should be noted that the march is set to culminate in the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, although this decision has been put on hold for the time being.
True to his style of combining religion and politics into an irresistible brew without giving up secularism entirely, Kejriwal said among other things: “But labor policy must be peppered with our definition of nationalism and religiosity that do not hurt or hate anyone.” Experience the decision of the government of the Aam Aadmi Party to install 500 high mast tricolors across Delhi at a cost of 85 rupees.
The latest Kejriwal-style Hindutva propaganda is the Deshbhakti curriculum for government-funded schools in Delhi. On September 28th, on the occasion of Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s birthday, the Delhi government published a full-page advertisement in the Delhi edition of all leading English and Hindi daily newspapers to announce the curriculum with immediate effect. In the ad, a glowing photo of Kejriwal explains, “Now every child will learn patriotism. Now every child becomes a true patriot. “
A closer look reveals that there is nothing groundbreaking about the curriculum. It contains what we have learned in civics class since childhood – that our constitution is the source of our civic values. Have we not been told all along that our duty to the nation does not end with the hoisting of the national flag on the days of independence and republic, but is a lifelong obligation?
Is there a need for a specific curriculum, including informal and self-esteem, to tell everyone to behave well in society? If we have sunk so deep as a society that these fundamentals of life must now be taught through a structured curriculum, then perhaps – to invoke a Hindu framework – it is time for Vishnu to descend into his next avatar and join us all save.
BJP’s B team?
Through this exercise in cynical plagiarism, the Aam Aadmi Party can be a challenge for the BJP for a short time. But when human wisdom is a guide, the counterfeit gold market is seldom sustainable. If the original metal is available, why should anyone desire the imitation?
In order to defeat the BJP, the voters must be presented with a clear alternative. Only then will they be ready to switch loyalty, as they have done many times in the past. Arvind Kejriwal’s antics so far testify to an imagination that is deprived of offering a viable alternative. If the Aam Aadmi Party continues down this path under him, they will end up as the BJP’s B-Team.
Partha S Ghosh is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Social Sciences, New Delhi.
This article first appeared in the Dhaka Tribune.