Magical Muffler Man
Has APP changed the connotation of Dilli Ka Laddu?
The Republic of India’s dirtiest, fiercest and therefore ugliest election results came in. Delhi elected its new government. The muffler man, Arvind Kejriwal muffled the BJP’s deafening battle cry of hyper-nationalism with a welfarism and development floor plan. The AAP retained its incumbent position.
The country, except for the BJP (at least in public), foreknew the results. The AAP was a clear winner from the get-go. However, for the first two years, the APP was sliding down with no clear roadmap to run Delhi government. The AAP’s tough journey that began in 2015 became a cakewalk from 2017.
The thin-skinned Kejriwal had been trapped by the BJP for the first two years after its victory in the 2015 election in a one-upmanship game. The belligerent BJP at the Centre used central bureaucracy to repress the APP government. Rookie CM Arvind Kejriwal was pushed to the wall. The hapless and thoroughly bullied AAP seemingly lost all of its hopes to keep its electoral promises. Shouting itself hoarse, demanding the full statehood of Delhi, seemed like a last resort. Delhi became an arena for the BJP and AAP tussle. The more intense the game got, the touchier Kejriwal became. Just when the BJP was celebrating the wasted years of a distracted Delhi CM, he had an epiphany in 2017. The APP lost the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections with a humble 21 seats. The BJP bagged a massive 64 seats.
The muffler man realized that the tu-tu main main with the BJP was self-destructive. Delhi citizens were too mature to ignore the precious time he was wasting over an inconsequential squabble. The rest is history.
He re-scripted his plan with the twin policies of welfarism and development as its centrepiece. He diverted all of his energy into his work. Free water and electricity for the Delhi underclass, the transformation of the school infrastructure (both software and hardware), Mohalla clinics with free medicine, check-ups and 212 tests by empanelled laboratories, free rides for women in DTC buses – to name some of the major ones.
The tables suddenly turned. The BJP knew that Kejriwal was now becoming India’s most followed and talked about welfarist politician. The BJP knew that Delhiites were enamoured with his new avatar as a ‘development man’. The BJP knew that it had no promises up its sleeve that would outclass Kejriwal’s. The only option that was crying to be taken was to dare Kejriwal to take on the BJP on an ideological battle – namely Hindutva, of which Shaheen Bagh was the all-important part.
The weathered muffler man whipped out a muffler of soft Hindutva to keep his AAP warm against the stormy BJP-wala hard Hindutva. His three major moves muffled and baffled the strident BJP. First, he declared himself a devotee of Hanuman. Intriguingly enough, the AAP supporters countered the BJP supporters’ “Jai Shri Ram” with “Jai Bajarangbali”! Childish, one might say – but true. The BJP-AAP supporters even quarrelled about proving the supremacy of their gods. The former would say, “Our Rama is greater than Hanuman” and the latter would respond with, “You know, Hanuman carried Rama on his soldier” etc. Secondly, he launched the Mukhyamantri Tirtha Yatra scheme for senior citizens. The devotees were taken for a free pilgrimage. Thirdly, he had a tough task to keep his Muslim voters intact. Shaheen Bagh, the Muslim dominated area and the famous anti-CAA protest site got undue visibility as a polarizing poll issue. The Union Home Minister Amit Shah went so far as to say, “press a button with such anger that Shaheen Bagh feels the current”. Kejriwal went mute on the issue, thus pleasing BJP supporters, whose support he was openly soliciting. He kept his Muslim supporters happy by regularly attending Iftar events and even wearing a skull cap. He outsmarted, outwitted and outplayed its archrival in every department of the game. He is now Delhi’s Cm for another five years.
Now, finally, the return of the AAP in Delhi raises a few questions.
Are Delhiites barefaced hypocrites – voting AAP into state government for state welfare and internally rooting for BJP to promote its Hindu nationalist agenda?
Have India’s development politics been so lame that marginal development in Delhi can become a national talking point and a burning example of development? Has India become so development-starved?
Can Arvind Kejriwal use his Delhi model as a springboard to pursue his political ambition in the wider periphery of national politics? Will he continue to stick to a development agenda then? Can his style of politics banish religious polarization to redundancy? The answer to these crucial questions has deep implications for India’s future and welfare.
“The weathered muffler man whipped out a muffler of soft Hindutva to keep his AAP warm against the stormy BJP-wala hard Hindutva. His three major moves muffled and baffled the strident BJP.”