The signs on the ground were contrary, although Mr Modi was the tireless star campaigner.
The electro-charged communal vituperation used by the BJP in the last leg of the Delhi Assembly poll campaign indubitably suggests this is being done under the direction of the party’s top leadership. The CAA and the iconic Shaheen Bagh protest, that has caught the world’s attention, are being turned on their head and being used to traduce the country’s principal minority community and the BJP’s chief opponents - the Congress nationally, and the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, which had given the BJP a sound thrashing in the 2015 Assembly polls.
It is typical that these parties and their top leaders — Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal — are being shown as Pakistan’s parrots, and the electoral battleground as a war between India and Pakistan.
Something similar happened in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. The signs on the ground were contrary, although Mr Modi was the tireless star campaigner. (The BJP just managed to pull through in the end.)
Days before the vote, Mr Modi did the unthinkable. He accused his predecessor Manmohan Singh, former vice-president Hamid Ansari, and a retired Army chief of conspiring with Pakistan to ensure his defeat. The BJP wasn’t running on its government’s performance. It was circulating vile videos on the social media to depict members of the minority community as dangerous and depraved. The stakes were high. A defeat in Gujarat might have had crushing consequences.
Similarly, this time round a rout in the nation’s capital yet again is apt to have unsettling consequences, coming on the back of morale-sapping setbacks in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana, and with the polls in Bihar, a key Hindi heartland state, months away. Thus, all rules of the game are being bent.
The BJP is using its deadliest weapon, and communal vitriol appears to be its brahmastra. The context too must be kept in view. This Assembly election in Delhi is being fought within weeks of the CAA’s passage. Besides, the nation’s capital is in the throes of anti-CAA protests, with Shaheen Bagh as the centrepiece.
The BJP has seized on this since this particular site of people’s discontent emerged spontaneously through the agency of a clutch of poor, unknown Muslim women. The “nationalist” party has seized on this religious aspect. A below-par electoral showing after hubris-filled assertions that the CAA is here to stay could raise questions on not just the legitimacy of the party’s long-term aspirations and its governance model, but also emasculate its organisational elan. More, global criticism could escalate.
First, a minor player from the Delhi BJP speaks of the poll battle as being an India-Pakistan war. The Union home minister then pitches in with: “Press the vote button with intense anger so that Shaheen Bagh feels the electric current!” Then there is no surprise as Union minister Anurag Thakur tops communal vulgarity by leading crowds to chant “Shoot the... traitors!” and a BJP MP says the Shaheen Bagh mobs will tear into people’s homes and rape and kill women. May we expect the Election Commission to do something meaningful for a change?