By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: It has remained no secret now that Aam Adami Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is a ‘Hindutva practitioner in secular clothing’. Since returning to power in February 2020 for the second consecutive term, he started unveiling his communal trappings one by one. His actions and utterances make it clear that Kejriwal is trying to step into the BJP’s shoes. Like his BJP counterparts in states, Kejriwal is also playing “communal card” to the hilt without appearing as ‘communal’.
In an article, noted journalist Bharat Bhushan has dissected Kejriwal’s communal politics saying ‘he must be the best student that Prime Minister Narendra Modi never had.’ whose communal politics comes packaged with rounded edges.
He writes that “Kejriwal’s demonstrations of routine religiosity become more and more public before elections, whether it is his assertions to being a Hanuman bhakt and recitations of the Hanuman Chalisa or his Diwali tamashas over the last two years. It is a clever position that allows him to appear less strident than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and it plays on the message that one can be a good Hindu without being communal. However, his political practice shows that being a devout Hindu does not make Kejriwal secular”.
Writing in Deccan Herald, Bhushan recalled that “Last year, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kejriwal organised a televised Lakshmi Puja (worship) at Delhi’s Akshardham Temple with family and cabinet in tow. This year taxpayers’ money was spent raising a 60-feet tall and 110-feet wide Thermocol and plywood model of a Ram temple at the Thyagaraj Stadium in the national capital. The saffron-roofed temple representing the Ram Mandir under construction in Ayodhya became the site of a televised Lakshmi Puja, performed by Delhi’s chief minister …
with cabinet members and their families. It was accompanied by a glitzy sound and light show with LED displays of scenes from the Ramayana, dances and devotional songs”.
The Kejriwal government bought ad spots on the radio where he urged residents of Delhi to join him in the state-sponsored worship of Lakshmi and to receive the blessing of “Lord Ram”. Stealing what has become the BJP’s battle cry, he signed off with a “Jai Shri Ram”.
It is straining credulity to separate Kejriwal’s Diwali tamasha from political strategy to use the religious polarisation among voters created by the BJP for himself. It is manifest in his underwriting religious pilgrimage to voters in election-going states, he adds.
“Kejriwal’s interpretation of secularism is to promote religiosity in public life – with an eye on the vote of the majority community – through state patronage. In his early days as the chief minister of Delhi, he used to say: “Communalism is a bigger problem than corruption. Corruption only results in loss of money, but due to communalism, people lose their lives and families are shattered.” However, his politics and governance have since both failed the test of secularism.
As chief minister, he refused to visit the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters at the iconic Shaheen Bagh. He refused to intervene or even make a statement of support when students were beaten up inside the campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Defending his inaction, he said, “Law and order in Delhi come under the Union government, and it was the primary responsibility of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. I could not have done anything by physically going there.” Kejriwal’s refusal to intervene in the religiously polarised riots in Northeast Delhi in February-March 2020 or the rehabilitation of the riot-affected, however, was the worst form of acquiescence with majoritarian aggression”.
The author further pointed out that “Kejriwal has openly colluded with the Centre’s machinations to marginalise and criminalise secular voices. His government gave permission to try Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Das for charges of sedition, which were entirely political. He did this apparently against the advice of the legal officers in his government. His party also maintained strategic silence when videos surfaced of stridently anti-Muslim slogans being chanted at a Jantar Mantar protest, which even an embarrassed BJP had to distance itself from.
What then is the game plan that Kejriwal is working on? He consciously toasts Hinduism, identifies with it and puts his state machinery behind organising mega-pujas and worship of Hindu festivals. His pandering to the majority is given the veneer of secular politics by throwing a few crumbs to the minorities. While it helps him draw away a voter base created by the majoritarian policies of the BJP, his Hindu communalism comes packaged as religious devotion.
Kejriwal’s “stealth communalism” is thus able to fly under the communal radar with state organised religious festivals providing him with the “cloud cover” (to quote another Great Leader) to undertake a political strike.”
Besides this, his government is also undermining minority-related institutions such as Delhi Urdu Academy, Delhi Minorities commissions and others by appointing people of no-standing or caliber. A person who doesn’t know Urdu was made vice chairman of Delhi Urdu academy’s governing body. Same is the case of Delhi minority panel. Though Muslims have voted en masse to his party in the assembly election but Kejriwal has till date never uttered a word on their issues or incidents of violent attacks carried out by the Hindutva mobs. When northeast Delhi was burning, he was virtually playing the flute. Instead of visiting the troubled areas, he was sitting at the Gandhi Samadhi (Raj Ghat) for calm and peace. Such was his disdain towards the minority community that he still did not visit riots-affected parts of Delhi.