“Liberal brigade", this is how Kejriwal has responded to “B-team” accusation
In the wake of the Delhi riots, supporters and detractors alike started calling AAP a ‘B-Team’ of the Sangh Parivar. On Friday, AAP legislators lambasted NRC, and the Delhi Assembly passed resolutions against NPR and NRC. Does this mark the return of the AAP which used to be seen as the arch-rival of the BJP?
The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has yet again proved that he and his party can’t be written off that easily. In the wake of the Delhi riots, supporters and detractors alike declared him as the B team of the Sangh Parivar. Many went to the extent of calling him the extension of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On Friday, Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party MLAs presented a resolution against the contentious National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Delhi assembly passed the resolution against NPR and NRC with a majority. Kejriwal and his team also made it clear during their addresses in the Delhi assembly that the AAP believes that the NPR data will lay down the foundation of the NRC in the country.
The leaders selected to speak against the Central government’s proposal to roll out the NPR-NRC in the coming days tried to tear apart the BJP’s defence for the move.
It was AAP Minister Gopal Rai who introduced the proposal in the assembly. During his address, Rai said that NPR-NRC “was not only against one community; rather it was deceit with all citizens of the country.”
Without mincing words, Kejriwal said, “The Centre should withdraw the NPR and NRC.” Voting in support of the resolution against the contentious NPR-NRC, the Delhi CM said, “It should not be implemented in Delhi."
Importantly, the AAP had come prepared to take on the Centre’s proposal to roll out the NPR and NRC across the nation. Its attack on the two proposed exercises started from AAP MLA Atishi’s declaration that through NPR, the Centre is trying to make a backdoor entry for the NRC.
The registrar of India, the body which conducts the Census across the country – has been tasked with carrying out the NPR exercise. In the present form, the NPR 2020 will collect the data of every Indian citizen, along with details such as the date and place of birth of their parents. It will also require them to disclose details of other documents such as their voter identification card, passport, mobile number, and permanent account number.
Ever since the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), sit-in protests are being organised by the civil society across the nation. Anti-CAA protest sites such as Shaheen Bagh – where Muslim women along with activists have been observing a road blockade – have become a symbol of these protests. The Central government’s intentions to collect the NPR data further spread the fear and anxiousness amongst the groups protesting against the CAA.
On Friday, on the floor of the Delhi Assembly, the AAP legislators repeated the arguments being made by these protests. They said that NPR is nothing but NRC.
Raghav Chadha, a senior AAP leader and spokesperson, claimed that NPR and NRC is deceitful towards Indian citizens. First Chadha and later every AAP speaker argued that the NPR-NRC is against 90 per cent of the population of the country.
In the run-up to the 2020 Delhi assembly election, the BJP had tried to create a binary between the anti-CAA and pro-CAA groups. In layman’s language, the saffron party dubbed the anti-CAA groups as Muslims and the pro-CAA group as majorly Hindu. Even at the peak of campaigning in Delhi, senior BJP leaders such as Amit Shah, JP Nadda, and several BJP CMs as well as hundreds of MPs tried to maintain this binary while seeking support for the CAA and the BJP in the assembly elections. The anti-CAA groups had largely failed to break through this narrative being peddled by the incumbent right-wing ideology and its associate fringe groups.
The arson, violence, and murder during the communal riots of Delhi started with stone pelting between the warring anti-CAA and pro-CAA frenzied mobs at the Maujpur – Jaffrabad stretch in North East Delhi.
While passing the resolution in the Delhi Assembly, the AAP legislators unequivocally said that the NRC is going to hurt both the Hindu and Muslim communities. It has rejected the NPR 2020 exercise in its present form.
Kejriwal and his team made sure that this myth of binary is busted. Legislators such as Chadha and Dilip Kumar Pandey claimed that NPR-NRC exercise was against the Hindus and the migrant population.
For instance Raghav Chadha, with pictures of Assam’s detention centres (that are currently under construction) in his hands, claimed that the threat of the NRC looms over the Hindu community. “90 per cent of the poor population of the country will be sent to detention centres,” Chadha said.
The AAP legislators were also tasked with pointing out the loophole in the framing of the CAA. AAP MLA Pandey said that as per the Citizenship Act, “Any foreigner is eligible to get Indian citizenship if they stay in India for 5yrs. But you want to shoo out those who have been living in India for decades now."
Notably, to boost the debate around the NPR-NRC, several AAP legislators disclosed inside the Delhi assembly that their parents don’t have birth certificates.
The biggest blow to the BJP came from the Delhi CM and AAP convenor Kejriwal. “Even Delhi CM doesn't have a birth certificate. My wife doesn't have one. Will you send the entire family of Delhi CM to a detention centre?" Kejriwal asked. He further asked whether his family should be sent to a detention centre.
During his address opposing the resolution against the NPR-NRC exercise, glimpses of the old Kejriwal – who used to be the arch-rival of PM Modi and Shah - were quite visible.
Kejriwal, in his known style, said that the CAA would force Indians without documents to claim that they are Pakistanis. “If those without documents accept that they are Pakistanis, citizenship will be provided to them. We refuse to say that, they will throw us inside the detention centre,” Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal indeed had used shades of the BJP’s style to counter their narrative.
The Delhi CM asked why Indians should be forced to say that they are Pakistanis. He claimed that the exercise is to impact 90 per cent of the population of the country.
The AAP’s declaration of war on the NPR-NRC is the first important drift ever since the Lok Sabha debacle in Delhi. The AAP convenor had maintained a convenient line where he didn’t have to lock horns with the Central government, or for that matter even the BJP’s top brass. Even in the wake of the Delhi riots, Kejriwal didn’t openly take the bull by horns. He refused to call out Union Home Minister Shah and Delhi Police’s failure to contain the communal riots. This had given ammunition to the liberal brigade against Kejriwal and his team.
Ironically, AAP’s mammoth victory in the assembly elections had brought hopes to the liberal brigade. Soon after Kejriwal was re-elected as three-time Delhi Chief Minister, he was held as the only leader who could challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the seemingly unstoppable duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. There were talks of AAP going pan-India.
Barely a week after Kejriwal and his cabinet took the oath of office, North East Delhi was set on fire by a communal frenzied mob. At least 53 lives were lost. Hundreds of houses and shops were burned down. Hundreds sustained injuries – including bullet injuries.
It didn’t take much time for the liberal brigade to dub Kejriwal and his party as the B-team of the Sangh Parivar. The AAP was under fire from both camps – liberals and the right-wing fringe.
The Delhi Assembly’s rejection of the NPR and NRC exercise, and Kejriwal’s open message to the Centre for its withdrawal, might have shocked many.