Delhi Election 2020: While on one hand, the BJP has managed to turn Shaheen Bagh into a poll issue, on the other, it is taking the battle to AAP over its biggest poll plank.
Two videos released by the Bharatiya Janata Party seek to target the ruling Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on issues that serve as its biggest plank going into Assembly elections in the national capital. While one ‘sting operation’ by the party’s seven Lok Sabha MPs, released earlier, blew holes in AAP’s claims of transforming Delhi’s schools, the second video released today relates to the condition of Kejriwal’s much-publicised Mohalla Clinics. Both videos specifically target Kejriwal over his tall claims of development and transformation in the health and education sectors. Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party have tried to keep the elections focused on the governance agenda with much of the CM’s own campaign centred around the government building schools and hospitals.
केजरीवाल जी, आपने हर साल 1000 मोहल्ला क्लीनिक खोलने का वादा किया।
1000 क्लीनिक खोलना तो दूर, जो कुछ खुले भी, उनमें न दवाएं हैं, न सुविधाएं।
‘आप’ की ओछी राजनीति ने दिल्ली के गरीबों को सालाना 5 लाख रुपये तक मुफ्त इलाज देने वाली मोदी जी की ‘आयुष्मान भारत योजना’ से भी वंचित रखा। pic.twitter.com/X4YgSIBXvS
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) January 30, 2020
While the first video released by the BJP sought to expose the poor condition of schools run by the Delhi government, the second video is aimed at cornering the government over its much famed Mohalla Clinics or community health centres. The two-minute video tweeted by BJP president JP Nadda first flays Kejriwal for failing to build 1,000 Mohalla Clinics in his tenure, a promise he made every year since coming to power in 2015. The video then goes on to claim that the Mohalla Clinics are poorly maintained, with even basic facilities and medicines not being made available to residents
The BJP, which appeared to be much behind the Aam Aadmi Party as late as when the elections were announced, is making aggressive attempts to catch up. And leading the BJP’s offensive is none other than Home Minister Amit Shah. The BJP has not declared its chief ministerial candidate and the entire election is being fought with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its face and Amit Shah, its most prominent campaigner.
While one part of Amit Shah’s strategy for the BJP is to counter the AAP government over its tall governance claims — something that we see from the videos on the poor condition of schools and Mohalla Clinics — the other side of the BJP’s offensive is to corner the Chief Minister on the continuing protests at Shaheen Bagh. Over the past few days, the BJP has turned the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests at Shaheen Bagh as its most prominent poll plank. On the contrary, the AAP has tried to keep a safe distance from the issue, neither openly endorsing the protests nor speaking against it.
Sensing an opportunity to polarise voters on the lines of religion and nationalism over Shaheen Bagh, the BJP has pressed for answers from Kejriwal over his party’s stand on the matter. It has also equated Kejriwal’s silence on the matter as its tacit support to the movement. Some of the BJP leaders even equated Kejriwal to a “terrorist”. On its part, several of its leaders have made it clear that the protest site will be cleared if the BJP comes to power in Delhi. “The EVM button should be pressed so hard that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh,” Shah said addressing a rally in Delhi earlier this week.
Is BJP’s plan working?
Over the past four days, there has been a concerted effort on part of the BJP to turn the Shaheen Bagh protests into an election issue. It has also tried to exert maximum pressure on Kejriwal to take a clear side. While wayward comments from some BJP leaders have managed to bring the Shaheen Bagh issue to centrestage, Kejriwal has so far managed to duck the BJP’s bouncers on the issue and blamed the Centre of inaction to resolve the ongoing impasse.
Questioned over his stand on Shaheen Bagh protests in view of the over month-long blockade and the inconvenience it is causing to residents, Kejriwal said, “There is a lot of inconvenience that the protests are causing to citizens. The central government, which is busy conducting press conferences, should instead visit them at Shaheen Bagh and speak to protesters. They want the protests to continue and this is why they have done nothing. The blockade will be lifted the day the Delhi elections are over.”
Kejriwal’s thin defence, however, is unlikely to hold long as the campaigning for the Delhi elections reaches its slog overs. With the BJP ramping up the ante against APP on its governance claims as well as the Shaheen Bagh issue, the pressure on Kejriwal is only going to build. Can he sustain the pressure and come out with flying colours? Only February 11 will tell.