Progressive voices in India are alive and are set to deliver a huge blow to the fascist BJP government in the crucial Delhi state elections. Exit polls suggest that the Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by maverick anti-corruption campaigner Arwind Kejriwal is set to return for the third time.
The Indian capital has been facing ongoing protests since the past one month over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which opponents say discriminates against Muslims and erodes the secular nature of the Indian constitution. This displeasure was witnessed on the ballots as residents lined up in long queues across the city to cast their votes.
The voter turnout was recorded at 57 percent which is high for the Indian federal capital. The AAP who rose to power over an anti-corruption campaign is expected to win 50 of the 70 seats. The BJP has not governed the capital territory for over two decades, and neither the Modi wave nor the rise of Hindutva could sway over the people who are increasingly realising BJP’s divisive policies.
In the past two years, the BJP has been losing power in key state elections including Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madya Pradesh, considered to be the Hindu heartland. Modi’s popularity and the BJP’s test of endurance were tested in Delhi where thousands of people have taken to the streets daily since the past month.
The BJP ran a hate-filled campaign focusing on the passage of the CAA. Many party leaders threatened to shoot protestors while some were even banned from campaigning after comparing the protestors to murders, saying that they wanted to turn India into a Muslim country. The BJP has appealed to the Hindu base ever since it came to power, annexed Kashmir, and passed controversial laws. This was in sharp contrast to the AAP’s pro-poor policies which focused on fixing public schools, providing free healthcare and lower bus fares for women.
Modi’s defeat in the state elections will dent his popularity and send a message that there are elements within India who oppose such policies. This will also embolden Pakistan’s narrative that India is committing human rights violations in Kashmir and passing anti-Muslim laws. The jolt in the Delhi state elections will create immense difficulties for the BJP.
The BJP realises that it is facing an imminent defeat and has threatened to strike back. A party candidate likened the elections as that between India and Pakistan, while a local party chapter threatened to attack the protestors in retaliation. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that despite the obstacles and threats, voices of dissent are slowly rising in India to give a message that they will defend the constitution and basic human rights.