New Delhi: Sensing the Hindutva pitch and the poll gambit behind Arvind Kejriwal’s demand to put photos of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi on currency notes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a frontal attack Wednesday on the Delhi chief minister to accuse him of making a ‘U-turn’ after insulting Ram Mandir and other religious symbols.
From national spokespersons Sambit Patra and R. P. Singh to Harayana minister Anil Vij, BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya and Delhi party in-charge Baijayant Panda, the ruling party fielded its battery of state and central leaders in what is being seen as a change in strategy to keep its core base of Hindu vote intact.
“India is progressing rapidly. Today the growth rate of India is showing a bright future. There is a possibility that the world may be in the grip of recession but due to the blessing of Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi ji on PM Modi, India’s economy will flourish. Arvind Kejriwal needs to stop excessive spending on advertisements,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said at a press conference.
“Kejriwal, who threatened to put people in jail for celebrating Diwali, who insulted Ram Mandir, Swastika and Kashmiri Hindus, is trying to become a devotee today.”
Patra claimed that “blessings of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are and will always be with this country and PM Modi”.
“Arvind Kejriwal’s politics is now taking a U-turn… He’s the same man who declined to ever go to Ayodhya’s Ram Temple, claiming God won’t accept the prayers offered there… he’s the same man who laughed and called the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits a lie, in Parliament.”
BJP national spokesperson R. P. Singh said that people understand the politics behind the move and would not fall for a “poor carbon copy”.
“People can very understand who is the original [BJP] and who is the poor carbon copy when it comes to Hindutva. If he [Kejriwal] has so much feelings for Hindutva, then pujaris [priests] in Delhi should also be given allowance like the imams [clerics] do. They won’t win despite all this too because people trust the BJP. They indulge in all this before elections, thinking it will garner them some support and vote but people are not fools,” he asserted.
On the same lines, Panda advised Kejriwal to “stop insulting Hindu Gods” as people can see through his “desperation and gimmicks”. “…We can’t allow pedestrian politics to take over our Gods,” he tweeted.
Malviya dubbed Kejriwal an “anti-Hindu bigot” whose “promises and pronouncements are meant to distract from governance failure in Delhi and Punjab”. Similarly, Vij denounced the AAP chief saying that his “maya [illusion] was unparalleled.”
Joining the chorus to criticise the proposal, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) termed it as ‘absurd’ and ‘illogical’. It is “absolutely wrong to put pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses on Indian currency notes because the notes are used in a very wrong way in India, and hence by putting photos of Maa Lakshmi and Shri Ganesha we will disrespect the most important Gods of our religion,” CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwa said.
Khandelwal said people use currency notes in a very casual manner and this would be an insult to Hindu gods and goddesses. “They keep currency notes in their pockets, touch them with dirty hands….some use spit while counting. So by putting it on the currency notes, we will not only insult them but also humiliate Sanatan Dharma,” he said, adding that the statement was an attempt to serve “selfish political motivation”.
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Strategy to counter AAP
However, wary of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) “aggressive” use of Hindutva to increase its footprints in the country, the BJP leaders feel a clear cut strategy should be in place to “expose” Kejriwal. Many say that the strategy should also factor in the rise of AAP and the impact they could have not only in Gujarat polls and Delhi civic polls but also in 2024 and 2029.
Another leader told ThePrint that the central leadership is aware of AAP’s growing footsteps and that it is in fact one of the few parties gaining momentum and should not be ignored especially when it tries to use Hindutva to reach out to voters, something which is centric to BJP.
“It will be foolish to ignore AAP and its growth. So far, Keriwal has been pitching his governance model but over a period of time he is trying to emerge as a devout Hindu. This is not only worrisome but it will end up creating a dent in BJP’s vote bank. The issue is not about Delhi civic polls or Gujarat, but we have to think of AAP’s prospects not just in 2024 but also 2029,” he asserted.
“Such comments show that he [Kejriwal] is panicking. When he had come to Gujarat this month, posters of him wearing a skull-cap with the ‘anti-Hindu’ label had gone viral after the conversion controversy [in Delhi]. As a damage control exercise, he made Kansa comment. As far as Gujarat is concerned, our social media team is active and whenever he makes such comments, we are prepared with his previous statements as well as tweets when he mocked Hindu gods and goddesses,” another senior BJP leader said.
The Delhi BJP unit, which has already started preparing for the civic polls, also criticised Kejriwal for his comments. “Their [AAP] minister, Gujarat chief and leaders have abused Hindu gods and said many things and yet, they are in the party. They’re bringing new tactics to save face in polls. Those who objected to Ram Mandir have come with a new mask,” Northeast Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari said.
During one of the meetings in Delhi, senior leaders have told the BJP MPs and party cadres to not only make regular visits to temples but also promote them on social media. “Ahead of the municipal elections in Delhi and Gujarat, Kejriwal is trying to project himself as a devout Hindu. Though people at large understand this, we as a party have been trying to highlight that it is nothing but pure politics,” said another Delhi BJP leader.
The party is compiling a list of ‘anti-Hindu’ tweets, statements made by Kejriwal and AAP leaders, he said, adding it will highlight the U-turns made by the rivals.
“As the door-to-door campaign will start from November, apart from other issues and highlighting our achievements in Delhi, this aspect of Kejriwal trying to mock Hindus and taking them for a ride will also be taken up.”
Political analyst Badri Narayan said the latest proposal by Kejriwal shows how his politics was shifting. “He is eyeing Hindu vote bank and also thinking about the Gujarat election. However, this may hurt the Muslim or secular vote bank of AAP in Delhi, as people tend to look at AAP as alternative to Congress. The BJP doesn’t need to strategise against AAP on Hindutva grounds, as it has all the big Hindu political symbols — whether it’s Ram Janmabhoomi or the recent Ujjain Corridor inauguration,” Narayan said.
Prof. Sanjay Kumar from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said this was not a surprising move by AAP, as it has been doing such politics to show that the majority community is taken care of too.
“They want to send out a message to the voters… that they are equally Hindu, and they are sending out the message loud and clear… using these symbols. One can term this as a gimmick or new weapon to counter BJP’s claim and enter into BJP’s terrain of Hindutva,” Kumar said.
Though he doubted the efficacy of such tactics, the political analyst agreed that “it helps in keeping votebank consolidated and allow to send a message to supporters that this isn’t the party which is trying to appease the minority, and is different from Congress, RJD, SP etc”.
With inputs from Unnati Sharma
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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