In the most common parlance, like every election in a democracy, the current election of Delhi legislative assembly seems that it has triggered the battle between major parties – Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) – to got requisite electoral mandate of people in order to claim the throne of the national capital territory of Delhi (also known as State Legislative Assembly of Delhi). But, according to me, this election carries much more than the most simplistic view of contention of power for five years of incumbency and compels us to make a flash on the unseen battles. In this manner, this election has arguably been converted into two prominent ideological battles. One of the ideological battles set by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) with the latest Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and its subsequent plan of National Register of Citizens (NRC) that has been triggered a countrywide protests and people’s assemblies for discussing and denouncing obnoxious citizenship project in India on the ground of lack of constitutional credibility. On the other hand, by instigated people’s welfare governance in last five years, the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has prepared the alternative ideological battleground which I perceive as the battle between “Minimal State” and ‘Welfare State’. Each one of them I will try to decode according to the prevailing circumstances in the following;

BJP led Ideological Battle in the Election

The beginning of this battle can be traced from December 2019, when the BJP led central government passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the national parliament of India for restructuring the norms of granting citizenship in India. However, the CAA has been challenged by the enormous number of petitions filed by a number of individuals, organizations etc. in the Supreme Court of India. The essence of those petitions for challenging the act is that the act is unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental rights mentioned in the part 3rd of the Constitution of India. Delhi, as one of the union territories of India, is the first part to having assembly election after the implementation of CAA and mapping road for implement countrywide NRC. Interestingly, Delhi is the place where about half of its population belongs to different parts of the country. So, the battle arises in the argument that whether the people of India are in favour or against the divisive politics of BJP that has manifested in the form of CAA and NRC. The CAA propels to grant the status of the national citizen to the ‘persecuted minorities’ of the three neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the provisions of CAA, Muslims have been deliberately excluded with one of the supporting arguments that the mentioned neighbouring countries are of the Muslim majority. So, they (immigrant Muslims) have to follow the normal procedure as other foreigners seek to citizenship and those who fail to get or sustain the citizenship will send to the country they belong or will be sustained in the detention centres. In spite of all odds, the nature of CAA has embroiled by the subsequent action of plans – particularly the National Register Citizenships (NRC) – of the national government in which all country’s citizens will have to reconfirm their citizenship status by providing sufficient authentic documents, including the information of their ancestors unless people (only Muslims) will be treated as ‘illegal migrants’ and entitled to a further course of actions.

The dissent of this controversial legislation has been undergoing in forms of protests, strike, assemblies of people since the day of the proposal of the bill in the parliament. A great number of a massive level of public gatherings, irrespective of religions, have been seen in the last two months for securing the constitutional and democratic values of the constitution which allegedly being eroded by the national government. The women at Shaheen Bagh (Delhi) have been tried to propose a consolidated voice for opposing citizenship legislation of the government by CAA and NRC and decided to defend the democratic and constitutional values of the country. This protest has also been symbolized as one of the massive protests of post-independence India and, in return, BJP has picked out the same protest for election campaign in Delhi and induce people to show their solidarity with the CAA and NRC by casting vote to the BJP in such a manner that would nullify the protesters in Delhi.

AAP led ideological battle in the election

Another interesting wrestle lies in the ideological ground of the ‘welfare state’ vs. ‘minimal state’, which I think has wrapped up and flippant in midst of the legislation on national citizenship contestation instigated by the current central government. This ideological battle is particularly designed by AAP that can be observed when Arvind Kejriwal – The Supremo of AAP – decides to defend his five years led government in the legislative assembly of Delhi on the basis of ‘local issues’ and promoting the people’ welfarism to which his party claims to be successful in the last five years. As per the ‘AAP report card’, the prominent facilities including cheap electricity, free water supply, health benefits (by opening hundreds of Mohalla Clinics and other ensuring facilities in government hospitals), education (by renovating the infrastructure of government schools and improved the quality education) women security, and showing the intense sincerity to deal with the problem of pollution in the city. Moreover, he further assures the people of Delhi for the continuance his welfare project under his “Guarantee Card” if his party wins again. In the nutshell, the AAP has been made efforts to produce as a “guardian state” supported by promises to the fulfilment of basic needs of Delhiites.

On the other side, since BJP has not yet declared the Chief Minister candidate for Delhi’s Assembly election and decided to fight election with the national dynamic face of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his central government achievements, so BJP leaders interpret the national achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in order to counter aloud flatter of accomplishment bustling into the election campaign by Arvind Kejriwal and his party leaders. Instead of enlisting and propagating the availability and socio-economic outcomes, the central government has made in almost six years, the leaders of BJP, particularly Amit Shah – the central Home Minister and the former president of BJP – has decided overwhelmingly ‘Nationalism’ and under its parlance recently passed CAA and its implicit proposal of NRC.

Since 1991, with the decision of Congress regime, India has been on the path of liberalization and privatization for which BJP itself criticized the government policies for a reduction in public welfare measures and increasing inflation in the country. However, since 2014, BJP regime is seemingly on the same path of liberalization and privatization. For example, the government has abolished the national five years plan strategy that was basically created for promoting public welfare under the Planning Commission. Government has reconfigurated this socialist oriented public institution by name (NITI Aayog) and objectives. Moreover, the government’s Social Welfare schemes have arguably not been properly implemented and soundly reported, particularly in the areas of agricultural practices, poverty eradication and reducing unemployment. The public sector enterprises and companies have been facing profound crises and unable to reduce the liabilities and reasserting the assets for the government. Due to these circumstances, these governmental business types of machinery are at stake and ready for auctions that would lead to a further increase in the privatization in our country.

summing up

Incontestably, the electoral behaviour in one part of the country may not be considered as the ultimate stance of all people on national issues like citizenship. But when the assertion of democratic values becomes challenging and people are being labelled as ‘anti-national’ and threatened if they oppose the inappropriate policies and legislation of the regime. Then the electoral behaviour seemingly the best available means to the people to influence the rulers for revaluating their ‘governmentality’. The ideological battle ushered by AAP is equally important in this scenario. Because it would full of curiosity to get know the remarks of the people over the credibility of the welfare governance in the times when national politics of every corner of the world is being dominated by the neoliberal ideologues.

Mohd Shahwaiz is a Research Scholar at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh and he can be contacted at mdshahwaiz2012@gmail.com


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