From Politics of Ideology to Politics of Infrastructure

Date:

The campaign by the BJP satraps in Delhi was centered on Shaheen Bagh while the AAP maintained a distance from it.

Is this shift sufficient to confront the Hindutva forces?

Abhik Bhattacharya | Clarion India

THE DELHI ASSEMBLY results have made it clear that the Indian political discourse is taking a shift on anticipated lines. Rejecting the politics of communal divide and choosing developmental plank over motivated propaganda, the people of Delhi have paved the path for the emergence of a post-ideological state.

Much has already been said about the results. So, instead of focusing on the politics of infrastructure that scripted the third straight victory for Arvind Kejriwal, I will perhaps like to focus on the most controversial term used in this election — Shaheen Bagh. While the campaign by the BJP satraps in Delhi was centered on this crucial word, the AAP had been found to maintain a strategic distance from it. When asked by the media about the AAP stand on Shaheen Bagh, the party’s leaders skirted it and stressed that they have fought the election on the developmental plank, meaning, the work done by the Kejriwal government — instead of “getting trapped into the communal politics of the ruling party.”

So, this distancing from the anti-CAA protests to save the Constitution by a party that was borne out of an organised movement, is something that shouldn’t be left un-interrogated. This is not to say that the victory of the AAP was not the need of the hour; this is not also to undermine the fact that it is crucial to confront the Hindutva propaganda with anything but divisive politics; but the idea here is to pose a simple question: What would have been the situation had the AAP expressed solidarity with the protesters of Shaheen Bagh, fighting for their legitimate constitutional rights?

What would have been the scenario if, in his first appearance after gaining the huge majority support, Kejriwal used the stage to condemn the latest police actions and brutal lathi-charges on students of Jamia Millia Islamia on the eve of the election results? What would have been the discourse if, instead of thanking the Delhi residents generally and Hanuman Ji in particular, Kejriwal stood beside all those dissenting voices of Delhi who have reciprocated favourably with his developmental plank?

These questions together appear to change the character of Shaheen Bagh itself in the political discourse. The transition that could be observed in the political dialogues through the propensity to promote infrastructural politics against hatred and communal divide is definitely a welcoming move. But, in between this transformation from ideological resistance to developmental plank, one idea is trampled over — the idea of democracy, the idea of protest, the idea of fighting against any extreme religionist force.

AAP ON CAA

Since, the CAA has been passed in both houses of the Parliament, the AAP has not made its stand clear. When the Delhi Police brutally resorted to violence in Jamia Millia Islamia on December 15, there were just a few statements of condemnation. It has been more than 50 days that the people in Shaheen Bagh, led by Muslim women, are on a sit-in, confronting all the threats, misrepresentations, fake entries, and ‘provoked shootings’, and also getting themselves caught in the biting cold. It is only a few days back that deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, in a television interview, took a stand in favour of Shaheen Bagh and hence began the political hullabaloo. The BJP utilised the plank immediately and orchestrated an extreme hate campaign, resulting in consecutive shootings in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh.

On the one hand, whereas the BJP was busy using Shaheen Bagh to polarise the voters, the AAP was engaged in an attempt at creating a distance between ‘them’ and the party, so as to not get trapped into this discourse! Their whole focus was on the works they have done. They had no place for any ideologically-driven agenda.

And certainly, what was that agenda? Constitutionally guaranteed Equal Rights for the Citizens!

WHY THE SILENCE?

There was none who was denying the AAP the credit for the works that its government has done in different fields: from health care to education, and free electricity to the better sewage system. But what we do not understand is, what would have been lost for the party had it openly stated that “we are with the people of Shaheen Bagh”, those who have been protesting against the CAA, set against all odds, for saving the Republic and its Constitution from harm?

Perhaps there were limitations for the AAP. The AAP siding with the protests led by mostly Muslim crowds could have antagonised the majority Hindu voters; the BJP could have scripted a political narrative, and Shaheen Bagh could have been a ‘trap’ set for the AAP to fall in. And perhaps here lay the limitation of the post-ideological politics. The AAP may work for the developmental purposes; it may really support the lower economic classes, but it couldn’t fight an ideological propagandist machine that the ruling BJP has rolled out. For that, the party needs a substantive, sustainable power to consolidate and resist; and that power lies in ideological resistance.

WHAT THE LEFT DID

By contrast, though in a different context, we can find Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan refusing to budge, while he kept working for the people, tackling the flood situation, allocating funds for health and education, and holding aloft the development plank. Unlike Kejriwal, he firmly backed the CAA, and faced the adversaries. From the Sabarimala verdict issued by the Supreme Court in 2018 to the anti-CAA protests, the stand of the LDF in the state is clear and firm. Unlike Kejriwal and AAP, Viyayan and the LDF showed a willingness to confront the BJP and its tactics.

It may be possible to argue that the context of Kerala and the tradition of politics the people practised there are totally different from the politics in Delhi. One must not forget the fact that the Communists have their own revolutionary history, but with all its limitations. Lest we forget, Kejriwal and the AAP were born out of the movement called India Against Corruption, which had the support of the RSS and right-wing Hindutva forces, to an extent. They saw in it a political opportunity to take on the Congress. The RSS, per se, never fought or campaigned against corruption. In the 2014 General Elections, the BJP reaped benefits. Also, the shift from ‘Corruption-Mukt Bharat’ to a ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’ was its contribution.

So, before we get swayed by the victory of the AAP, we must think twice about the sustainability and compatibility of the post-ideological politics in India. We can’t afford to be happy with a condition where people would vote for the AAP in state-level polls and would go at all-India level for hard-edged protectionist nationalism of the Modi-Shah type. When Hindutva ideology is the state’s apparatus, an ideology of resistance flowing from the streets must be celebrated with vigour and charm.

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The writer is a Doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi. The views expressed here are of author’s personal.

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