The Aam Aadmi Party has found itself in a tight corner after its chief spokesperson linked the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh to the BJP.
Although the protest abruptly ended on March 24 because of the pandemic-induced lockdown, the matter reappeared on the political firmament when a man named Shahzad Ali, who proclaimed that he was a “Shaheen Bagh activist”, joined the BJP on Sunday.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which was driven by women, began on December 15 and continued for over three months, becoming the longest and largest stir against the Centre’s new citizenship matrix.
On Sunday, the BJP inducted 50 Muslims into the party, including Ali of the little-known Rashtriya Ulama Council party. After introducing himself as a “Shaheen Bagh activist”, Ali told news agency ANI: “I have joined the BJP to prove wrong those in our community who think that the BJP is our enemy. We’ll sit together with them over the CAA concerns.”
The AAP, which had attributed its defeat in six seats in east Delhi in the February Assembly polls to the communal polarisation due to the anti-CAA protests, was quick to jump at the opportunity.
The AAP’s chief spokesperson and strident pro-Hindu face Saurabh Bharadwaj told a media conference on Monday: “The whole Shaheen Bagh protest was scripted by the BJP. The topmost leadership of the BJP scripted each and every step of the Shaheen Bagh protest. They decided who would say what, who would attack whom and then who would be launching the counter-attack.
“All these things were pre-planned and well-scripted…. I do agree that there were many pro-democratic people who joined this protest. Many people joined this protest with the hope that it was pro-democracy. But they also did not understand that this Shaheen Bagh protest was just a brainchild and a script of the BJP.”
Bharadwaj’s statements created a future online with renewed allegations of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal being a “Nitish Jr” — a reference to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who resurrected an alliance with the BJP after becoming a fulcrum of the Opposition.
AAP’s social media managers unsuccessfully tried to contain the fallout of Bharadwaj’s statements, stressing that only “the section of protesters adamant on continuing to block the street” had joined the BJP.
Shaheen Kausar, one of the organisers of the protest, called Bharadwaj’s statements “heart-breaking”.
She said: “This was a leaderless protest and although Shahzad Ali was one of those who regularly attended, he never had any role in organising the protest. If AAP knew that all that we women were doing was a BJP plot, why did they keep silent for so long? They swept the polls, so what benefit are they claiming the BJP got from our protest?
“One can understand that the BJP wants to induct people associated with the protest in order to create an impression that people have accepted their unjust law. But the people of Shaheen Bagh will ask AAP leaders why they are speaking the language of the BJP.”
In another news conference on Tuesday, Bharadwaj blamed BJP leaders Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath, Anurag Thakur and Giriraj Singh, among others, for the communal riots in Delhi in February. The AAP spokesperson, however, continued his tirade against Shaheen Bagh.