What is there to say? What can one say that has not already been said umpteen times before – during earlier rounds of communal violence elsewhere – and in Delhi this time?
The political class, true to its character, has revealed as it has so many times in the past, that when it comes to matters like communal violence, it is simply paralyzed – perhaps with the exception of the Left in states where it was strong enough to impact things. For all its failures in other respects, this was one where the Bengal Left, for instance, too had in the past shown great promptness in nipping such possibilities in the bud. Most often this was done, not by relying only on the administrative power of the state, but with the entire party machinery moving into action. Kerala too has had a similar record. But those instances apart, especially in states of the Northern or Western India, there hasn’t been much to write home about. What entering the political domain does to you is illustrated so starkly by the fate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its utter capitulation to what it imagines to be the ‘Hindu sentiment’.
Continue reading The Violence in Delhi, Politics and ‘Heroism of the Ordinary’
Guest Post by SURAJ JACOB
[Note: This article was written before the ongoing violence in Delhi began and is not about current affairs. It rather engages with the political problem at a broader philosophical level. – AN]
Analysts of Delhi’s recent election note thatAAP imaginatively courted voters on the BJP’s own turf (Shekhar Gupta): welfarism with a dash of nationalism and careful projection around religion. There are several critics of this strategy. Satish Deshpande criticises AAP’s quiescence in ‘mere’ development activities (its campaign “was about municipal matters such as water and electricity and nothing else”). He describes AAP as a “non-ideological management consultancy”, even arguing that its campaign conveyed the message: “Don’t worry, we have no problem with communal politics, but please don’t ask us to say it openly”. Apoorvanand also casts the AAP as “an ideology-agnostic party that does not impede the BJP’s nationalist drive”. Similar points are made by Yogendra Yadav. They castigate AAP for its ideological failure in resisting the BJP’s polarising tactics violating the spirit of the Constitution. AAP voted with the BJP on Article 370, welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya temple and did not sufficiently support protests around the CAA/NRC especially in Shaheen Bagh. Besides ideological failure, Yadav also identifies AAP’s moral failures: choosing consultants and candidates based on winnability “without any moral or ideological hindrance” and undemocratically centralising power.
Deshpande, Apoorvanand and Yadav are scholars and public intellectuals with activist conscience and commitment to the public good. Taking their disquiet seriously, one may ask: How, indeed, should AAP’s campaign have been? Is the party and its dominant leader Kejriwal really “non-ideological” and “ideology-agnostic”, especially when it comes to toxic polarisation? The evidence simply doesn’t stack up for such a sweeping claim (though, according to Suhas Palshikar, “we will probably never know” Kejriwal’s real stand on these issues). Notes Monobina Gupta: “the AAP, within and outside parliament, has opposed the CAA and supported the protests in Shaheen Bagh in different ways. … What his [Kejriwal’s] ideologically-inflected critics mean to say is that he didn’t take the position they wanted him to. Yes, he didn’t run an ideological campaign.”
Continue reading Kejriwal and the ‘Dirty Hands Problem’
I have been reading with interest the exchange between Aditya Nigam and Satish Deshpande on the AAP’s strategy of avoiding ‘politics’ – or rather, distancing itself mostly from the polarised ideological debates while making small moves to shape for itself a space, arguably fuzzy, in the hegemonic discourse of Hindu. I am also witness to the unbelievably egregious attacks by the CPM leadership in Kerala against Islamist organizations protesting the CAA — the free reign granted to an explicitly communalised police force, the appallingly soft treatment of Hindutva offenders, even when they make open threats that warn Malayalis to ‘remember Gujarat’, the wanton attack on internal dissidents in the CPM using the worst instruments of the security states such as the UAPA, and the threat to dismantle the pandal of the Shaheen Bagh solidarity satyagraha in Thiruvananthapuram, something even Amit Shah has not dared to do (thankfully withdrawn after public outrage), and its blatant caste-elite majoritarian thrust while claiming to be the (sole) guardians of secularism. Continue reading Thoughts on the AAP’s Hindu Gestures from Kerala’s History
The debate on the meaning of AAP’s victory in Delhi and the Hindu idiom that its spokespersons have adopted continues as indeed on the implications of its refusal to play the electoral game in the way the BJP was intent on setting it up. But to keep our perspective right, we need to remember that this was just one stop on the long and arduous journey that still lies ahead. We also need to remember that AAP is only one of the forces and Delhi only one of the theatres of the anti-fascist struggle.
The lessons of the antifascist struggles in Germany or in Europe at large clearly are of no use in our battles here. At one level, we are all destined to repeat the grievous mistakes of the German communists (and the Comintern) for concentrating their main blow at the Social-Democrats, pronouncing them ‘social-fascists’ – till it was pretty late in the day and Nazism was already on the way to consolidating its power. In states other than Delhi, there are instances where this mindset can be seen to be in full operation. In Delhi, thankfully, this is not the scenario and most non-BJP political parties assess the situation differently, though an entirely negative stance towards AAP’s victory can be seen among many people. However, I do not intend to engage them in a debate in this post, having already stated my position on AAP’s victory quite categorically. Continue reading Imagining an Antifascist Coalition Today
Guest post by SATISH DESHPANDE
[This post responds to the piece by Aditya Nigam on Kafila last week, which was partially in response to pieces by Satish Deshpande and Apoorvanand.]
Thanks for your response, which (despite its tone 😊) helps to underline the seriousness of our broader predicament today.
I readily concede that my article was not sufficiently respectful of AAP’s major achievement in winning a second landslide against heavy odds. But I do not think – as you seem to do – that this lack of respect (even if it was ungenerous) was without any justification whatsoever.
The article expresses my frustration at the fact (yes, this is a fact and not just my opinion) that the most effective and astute non-BJP political party around today chose not to use even a small fraction of its proven on-the-ground capabilities to counter the poison being spewed daily. I have no prescription to offer AAP, and I don’t know why you think I do – where have I said that or even implied it? Though I had no specific acts in mind (such as AK visiting Shaheen Bagh, etc.) I did expect AAP to do something (in its own unique way) to take back at least an inch or two of the political ground that is being ceded every day.
Continue reading Apropos AAP Victory in Delhi: Satish Deshpande Responds
BJP’s Delhi campaign was not divisive by sanyog or coincidence. That is its prayog or experiment. Which it will take to other elections.
Kitney aadmi thhe—how many were there?
A meme based on this famous monologue from the highly successful film, Sholay (Embers), from the early seventies, started trending when “David” Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), defeated “Goliath” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi’s recent Assembly elections.
No doubt this election’s result has put paid to the efforts of Home Minister Amit Shah to retain his image as “Chanakya” of Indian politics, at least for now. The result is despite BJP’s desperate attempts to win Delhi, as part of which pulled chief ministers, former chief ministers, cabinet ministers and more than 240 Members of Parliament to campaign in the city. Blame it on the high stakes battle that allegations surfaced that they had distributed cash and liquor ahead of the polls.
The result is for everyone to see.
The most toxic electoral campaign, perhaps ever, in which leaders of the ruling dispensation even provoked violence through their hate speeches, did not work. The BJP’s seat tally rose by merely five and a bloody nose.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Towards-BJP-Hindutva-Lite-Template)
What has Gandhi got to do with the recently concluded elections in Delhi? On the face of it nothing. But at another level, the election process, its campaign and its results – all invite us to revisit Gandhi’s stupendous moral-political project of cementing the Hindu-Muslim division with his own blood and his heroic failure. He could not prevent the Partition and ultimately fell to the bullets of a fanatic Hindu nationalist of the kind who are in power today.
I remember Gandhi today because gung-ho secularists (the political community that I inhabit, if very uncomfortably) are once again at their favourite occupation of daring Arvind Kejriwal and AAP to ‘prove’ their ‘anti-communal stance’ and all that it can mean today – as though they alone have the talisman to fight communalism. I am reminded of Gandhi because his was by far the most audacious attempt to fight the communal menace but he too had no readymade answers to it.
Secular warrriors have been basically daring Kejriwal and AAP to do and say things that he had been avoiding doing or saying all these days. Just two instances – of the quotes below from two dear friends – should suffice to indicate what I mean. The first is from Apoorvanand, writing in the Business Standard,
‘Voters in Delhi were confident that the AAP victory in the assembly elections wouldn’t so much as serve as an irritant to the BJP, let alone rock its boat, as the saffron outfit was firmly and safely ensconced in power. An efficient delivery boy is all the electorate wanted. In the Delhi voters mindset, an ideology-agnostic party that does not impede the BJP’s nationalist drive is tolerable.’
Continue reading Winning Delhi Elections – AAP, Gandhi and the Ideology Wars