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Delhi Assembly Elections 2020: BJP's aggressive 'hate' campaign did them no good

In their statements, BJP leaders focused more on the increase in their vote share, calling it a win for the party

By Furquan Ameen in New Delhi
  • Published 11.02.20, 6:32 PM
  • Updated 11.02.20, 6:57 PM
  • 3 mins read
AAP supporters celebrate in New Delhi on 11 February 2020. PTI

The BJP Delhi office stood eerily quiet on Tuesday as results for the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections were declared. The party state office didn't receive any prominent BJP leaders until late afternoon, when the trends were almost clear – the Aam Aadmi Party was en route to another victory; the BJP's seat share was limited to single digits.

A few hours earlier, when the counting had started, BJP state chief Manoj Tiwari said "don't be surprised if we win 55 seats". On the polling day (8 February), Tiwari had rejected exit poll predictions of the AAP returning to power, and claimed that the BJP would win more than 48 seats.

The week before, a very confident Amit Shah had tweeted that the BJP will be forming the Delhi government with more than 45 seats.

Alas, all those tall claims fell apart terribly. Aggressive campaigning by Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath enabled the party to gain only a few more than their tally of 3 seats in 2015. BJP's vote share, however, increased.

In their statements, BJP leaders focused more on the increase in their vote share, calling it a win for the party.

"It was a merger of 'Congress and AAP'," said BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain at the party's state office, claiming that the Congress shifted their vote share to AAP. "It is a loss for all of us, of every BJP karyakarta (worker)," he said.

Who to blame?

Naveen Kumar, BJP Delhi spokesperson was reluctant to speak anything about the failure of their star campaigner Amit Shah. "We are like an army of workers. You don't blame the commander when the army loses a fight," said Kumar. He said unlike Congress which is "one family's party", AAP which is "one man's party", BJP is a" parivar (family) party".

BJP's campaign before the elections focused on the Shaheen Bagh protest, with all campaigners attacking the AAP and Congress for supporting the protesters and ‘feeding them biriyani'. In his rallies, Shah made it a point to rake up Shaheen Bagh, in order to elicit a response from Arvind Kejriwal, which AAP leaders tactfully avoided.

The lack of a chief ministerial face might also have worked against the party.

Tiwari, who many considered to be the probable chief ministerial candidate, took responsibility for the loss. State unit BJP workers at the party office seemed unhappy with Tiwari not choosing to visit the party office.

But did the Shaheen Bagh narrative work for the BJP?

"Who raised the Shaheen Bagh issue? Who encouraged the women and children to sit there? It wasn't us. It was Kejriwal's negative politics," said Naveen Kumar, Delhi BJP spokesperson.

Both Hussain and Kumar stressed that they fought on development issues and countered AAP's claims of better schools, pure water supply and CCTV cameras. Kumar also said that it was Kejriwal and other AAP leaders who provoked people against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

"Poora desh dekh raha hai. Shaheen Bagh ka mudda keval chunav ka mudda nahi tha (The country is watching. Shaheen Bagh is not only an election issue)," said Shyam Jaju, BJP national vice-president and Delhi BJP incharge. He said the issue doesn't end with this election.

Hate campaign

BJP was accused by other party leaders of polarising the elections and turning it a into a Hindu-Muslim affair. Their party leaders, including BJP MPs, gave several inflammatory speeches, some even attracting a campaign ban from the Election Commission.

Hate speeches by BJP candidates backfired. Kapil Mishra and Tajinder Bagga lost in their respective constituencies, despite their hate-filled online and offline statements.

Mishra had compared the Delhi elections to a "India-Pakistan match". It was at Mishra's pro-CAA rally that slogans of "Desh ke ghaddaron ko..." were raised and was later repeated by union minister Anurag Thakur at a rally in Rithala, miscreants to wield guns and fire at protesters.

In Vikaspuri assembly constituency, BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma had assured voters that he'll remove all the mosques from his Lok Sabha constituency if BJP won the elections.

Verma had also targeted Shaheen Bagh. He referred to Shaheen Bagh protesters as rapists and murderers. However, BJP is set to lose all the seats that come under Verma's Lok Sabha constituency.

On January 26, Amit Shah had asked supporters at a BJP rally in East Delhi's Babarpur to “press the (voting) button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh.” The constituency preferred AAP candidate Gopal Rai instead.

And in election epicenter Shaheen Bagh, BJP could hardly make a dent. AAP candidate Amanatullah Khan won with a record number of votes. In a constituency with an estimated 40% Muslim voters, he received more than 80% of the votes.