NEW DELHI: Ravinder, 34, works as a watchman with a personal firm. Born and mentioned during a lower-middle-class colony of south Delhi, he voted for the Aam Aadmi Party in 2015, a bit like many others from his social strata.
Five years later, his support for the AAP has not diminished.
“The party has provided free electricity, free bus rides to women and installed street lights at many places,” he said, revealing the explanations for his faith in Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party.
But within the past one week to 10 days, a replacement element has crept into the discourse in his social circle. From only bijli, paani, schools and mohalla clinics, the success stories the AAP likes to trumpet, Shaheen Bagh, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and therefore the tukde-tukde gang have entered the topics of dialogue .
“When there was violence (during the CAA protests) the AAP didn’t say anything and played safe. (Narendra) Modi may be a good Prime Minister and that’s why people voted for him (in 2019),” Ravinder said.
“Recently people from the AAP came and said the Bharatiya Janata Party is spreading wrong information on CAA. But why would they spread wrong information? thus far whatever Modiji has done, they were for the advantage of the state . I don’t see anything wrong in CAA,” said Kushal Chand, 44, who runs a grocery shop and is an AAP supporter.
Come February 8 when Delhi will cast its vote, both Ravinder and Kushal will presumably vote for the AAP, but they admitted that Shaheen Bagh and CAA also occupied their mindspace.
This wasn't so until even 15 days back, when conversations within the Delhi Metro, salons, roadside eateries, parks and drawing rooms centred mainly around free water and subsidised power.
The AAP was also setting the tone of the campaign till just a fortnight ago, bringing out a report of its tenure and a guarantee card on its promises.
The BJP and therefore the Congress were forced to play catch-up, reacting and debunking every AAP boast of its work.
But ever since Union Home Minister Amit Shah descended on the election track with a shrill and aggressive campaign on Shaheen Bagh, CAA and nationalism, the narrative is not any longer only about bijli, paani.
Such is that the BJP’s pitch that the AAP is now forced to react. as an example , on JNU student Sharjeel Imam, when Shah attacked Kejriwal’s silence, he was forced to reply .
Voters torn between development and nationalism
“Sharjeel talked about isolating Assam from the country. you're the house minister of the country. it's your responsibility to urge him arrested,” Kejriwal tweeted. For many, Shaheen Bagh and nationalism are issues they need “heard about” and are important, but what matters more is figure on the bottom .
“Kejriwal has done the simplest thing by cutting electricity and water charges for us poor people so i will be able to vote for him. I even have heard about Shaheen Bagh but the protest should be such it doesn't hamper routine work,” said Chitranjan, an off-the-cuff labourer.
In agreement is Ram Yadav, a watchman in north-west Delhi.
“Where is that the question of Pakistan within the Delhi elections? Jhadu (AAP’s election symbol) should come as they need provided relief to the poor people,” he said. But Arun Kant, alittle shopkeeper living in south-east Delhi, isn't convinced.
“Modiji cares the country and that we should support him. I voted for the AAP in 2015 but now i'm during a dilemma, so will I decide at the last minute ,” Kant said.
Taxi driver Rajesh Yadav of north Delhi is additionally undecided.
“CAA and NRC are good steps but I even have not made up my mind. Work wiped out schools within the last five years is additionally something that ought to be appreciated,” he said. But there are others who swear by nationalism and see a threat to the ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
Devinder Khanna, who runs a store in East Delhi, said “nationalism is that the very first thing , the remainder are useless. My electricity bill is that the same as before so I don’t care about personal benefits. For me, the party that guarantees the country’s security will get my vote.”
Social activist Sunita Maurya of East Delhi sees a grave threat to the state . “Look at the blunder happening at Shaheen Bagh. we've to save lots of the Hindu Rashtra from the blunder of ours sisters and daughters,” Maurya said. But the AAP claimed it had been not perturbed.
“People of Delhi are smart and can see through this negative campaign of the BJP. Delhi citizens will vote on work done, everyone that we are meeting and therefore the feedback from the bottom is that folks are speaking about vote on work and developmental policies,” said Pankaj Gupta, national secretary of AAP.
However, the BJP said people of Delhi have a right to make a decision if they need a nationalist government.
“Our objective was to form people understand whether or not they need a government that supports ‘Jinnahwali Azadi’ or the ‘tukde-tukde gang’. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said he stands with Shaheen Bagh. What does it mean? His government didn’t give sanction to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar et al. within the JNU sedition case,” said Harish Khurana, spokesperson of the Delhi BJP.
For its part, the Congress dismissed the BJP’s high frequency campaign on nationalism. “We are better placed than the 2 parties and therefore the people of Delhi understand the divisive game being played by the BJP, while the AAP has failed miserably despite a huge mandate,” said Congress in-charge of Delhi P C Chacko.