How BJP’s hyper-nationalism pitch boomeranged in Delhi

From mentioning Pakistan to chanting ‘shoot traitors,’ BJP campaigns failed to swat voters in its favour

Delhi Assembly elections, AAP, BJP, Amit Shah
The BJP was also blamed for polarizing voters on communal lines and resorting to religious slurs. File photo: PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) improved both its vote share and seat counts in Delhi, according to the latest trends in assembly election results, but were still cornered to a distant second, far behind the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), despite a heated campaign that witnessed veteran leaders and a fresh take on their hyper-nationalism narrative.

The saffron leaders insisted the Delhi elections were fought on the issues like nationalism, and often brought to the fore the Shaheen Bagh protests. They talked about firing bullets, termed dissenters as traitors and resorted to provocative speeches that ended up the Election Commission imposing a ban on a few of their leaders.

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The BJP was also blamed for polarizing voters on communal lines and resorting to religious slurs. However, the heated campaign failed to fuel a decisive victory for the party which was confident of winning the elections even after the exit polls predicted a landslide win for the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP.

Infusing fresh narratives over their idea of nationalism is the favourite game-changer of the BJP, which has indeed found newer expressions over time. The latest in this series were rather provocative than insulting, that resulted in consequences, but still failed to grab the trust of the voters. And the mandate made its stand clear.

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The vast pool of star campaigners for the BJP this elections included Union Minister Anurag Thakur who courted controversy for egging on a crowd to chant the ‘shoot the traitors’ slogan at an election rally. Consequently, he was banned from campaigning for three days and was also issued a notice.

Another BJP MP, Parvesh Verma, too resorted to hate speech during an election rally where he said the anti-citizenship law protesters at Shaheen Bagh would enter houses and rape women. He too was served a four-day campaigning ban. He faced another 24-hour ban for calling Chief Minister Kejriwal a ‘terrorist.’

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, one of the star campaigners of the BJP, alleged Kejriwal was sponsoring the Shaheen Bagh protesters and even distributed biryani among the agitators. He too was issued a notice by the Election Commission for violating the model code of conduct.

Adityanath, known for his outspoken comments on the Hindutva agenda, went on to say that voting for the AAP leader would make Pakistan happy. “Will Pakistan decide who Indians should vote for?” he asked a rally. Bringing in Pakistan has been one of BJP’s favourite ways to churning up its nationalism agenda.

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Kapil Mishra, the BJP candidate from Model Town segment who lost to AAP’s Akhilesh Pati Tripathi, had courted controversy last month for referring to the February 8 elections as an “India vs Pakistan” match. “India and Pakistan will compete on the streets of Delhi,” he tweeted. The tweet was later removed on the direction of the Election Commission.

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