New Delhi, Dec 19: With the state Assembly elections just around the corner, protests around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are heating up the Delhi politics in the winter chill.
The posturing on the contentious legislation leaves an interesting array of political options with the Congress taking up an anti-CAA stance, BJP as the ruling party is pro CAA and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) playing it safe with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal making appeals for peace and calm.
Shedding the neutral stance, Kejriwal on Wednesday changed tack and without taking names blamed the BJP for the trouble in Delhi.
Kejriwal tweeted: ” You have to understand the politics behind the violence which erupted in Delhi. At a time when one party (AAP) is going to contest elections on the work done, then which party is going to gain after riots, the people of Delhi are intelligent enough”.
The rioting and violent protests in some posh parts of the national capital have spooked the citizenry. This fear factor coming into play just before the Delhi elections may help the BJP with its brand of muscular nationalism.
While the traditional AAP voters may be happy with the Delhi government for the welfare measures, AAP does not want to irk the middle-class voters who are upset with the kind of violence seen on the streets of Delhi on Sunday. The AAP and its cadres are lying low and are not at the forefront of protests and even the Okhla MLA has not been seen since Sunday.
While Delhi has preferred the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, in the last Assembly polls, the AAP party won a landslide mandate.
In 2013, the same people voted for AAP in Assembly and then in 2014 election the BJP swept the polls in General Elections while in 2015 again the AAP swept the polls with 67 seats. However, the upcoming elections are becoming politically sensitive in the backdrop of the CAA and abrogation of Article 370.
BJP spokesperson R. P. Singh told IANS: “We don’t look at it from the prism of the election. It has been done only to polarise one particular constituency. We are concerned about its ill effects on the country and its polity” while blaming Okhla MLA Amanatullah of the AAP, for the arson in Jamia and tony neighbourhoods like the New Friends Colony.
With the swelling protests against the CAA in various Muslim-dominated areas being beamed live into TV screens, the BJP might not be perturbed as the narrative around national security and minority appeasement is likely to mark gains for it in Delhi improving upon its score of three seats in the previous Assembly elections.
There are at least 10 Assembly constituencies in Delhi where Muslims comprise more than 30 per cent of the votes. These are Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal, Ballimaran, Seelampur and Okhla which have more than 40 per cent Muslim voters.
Okhla is the segment where the Jamia Millia Islamia is located and has become the epicentre of the protests. The former MLA of Okhla Asif Mohammad Khan of the Congress has been named in the FIR for arson on Sunday, but after surrendering at the police station he was not arrested. Khan said that the peaceful protests would continue “till the people want”.
Seelampur also saw protests on Tuesday where protesters pelted stones and the AAP MLA Ishraaq Khan alleged that former Congress MLA Matin Ahmed was behind the protests. A Congress leader said that the AAP, was apprehensive that the Congress would gain ground in the Muslim pockets because Kejriwal had generally maintained silence on the CAA, and had appealed for peace following violence and police action, while the Congress had clearly stated that it was against the Legislation.
Delhi Congress Chief Subhash Chopra blamed the BJP and AAP for the problems. He said: “The role of the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party behind the violence at Okhla, Jamia University and Seelampur and brutality by Delhi police should be thoroughly investigated.”
The Congress leaders were at the forefront during Sunday’s agitation and party seniors Salman Khurshid and Subhash Chopra were present at the Police Headquarters late in the evening to show solidarity with the protesting students.
Muslims form 14 per cent of the total population in the National Capital. Mustafabad, Babarpur, Seemapuri, Shahdara and Rithala are seats where Muslims comprise a large section of the population. All these seats were won by the AAP in 2015. They had earlier been Congress seats.