Ahead of the upcoming elections in Himachal and Gujarat, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Covenant and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider including the pictures of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha in banknotes as they would earn the blessings of the Hindu gods and strengthen the economy. Kejriwal went on to say that if Indonesia can do it, so can India.
It seems that Kejriwal’s appeal is clearly less about the economy and more about appeasing Hindu voters in an unabashed effort to get the ruling BJP on the latter’s Hinduvta shelf. That’s why Kejriwal’s words got under the skin of the BJP.
Immediately after Kejriwal’s appeal, Sambit Patra of the BJP took pot shots at him on Wednesday, saying that “there is a song in a Hindi movie – ‘kya ho gaya dekhte dekhte'”. During the press conference, Patra also said: “Kashmiri Pandit ko dilli me naukri dene se inkaar karne waale Arvind Kejriwal, Kashmiri Pandit ke upar hasne wale Arvind Kejriwal, aaj achanak jo Hindu banne ki chesta kar rehein hain, ye U-turn ki parakasta hoi. ” The BJP has tried to portray Kejriwal as suffering from ‘impostor syndrome’ and a ‘chunavi Hindu’.
Meanwhile, AAP also held a series of press conferences to bolster Kejriwal’s appeal and get the BJP to take a stance on its currency appeal.
In a battle for the ‘Hindu vote’, the playing out of the story between the BJP and AAP is pretty fierce, with the former claiming to be the champion of the ‘Hindu identity’, while the latter accusing the BJP of ‘pseudo- Hindu’ since Kejriwal announced his government’s intention to establish a ‘Ram Rajya’ in Delhi. It is reminiscent of the way the BJP continues to hammer the main opposition party, Congress, on ‘pseudo-secularism’.
Ahead of the pivotal election polls in Gujarat, the results of which appear to have an impact on the 2024 general election, Kejriwal’s campaign in the state has drawn heavily on the epic Mahabharata – depicting his party as the righteous with Lord Krishna by his side and the BJP as the unjust. It should also be noted that while the AAP has defended Satyendra Jain and Manish Sisodia, who has been accused of corruption and labeled the entire episode a political vendetta, it took a very different stance when controversy erupted over the participation of his former minister Rajendra. Pal Gautam at a ‘diksha’ ceremony in which thousands were sworn to convert to Buddhism.
The timing of Kejriwal’s currency appeal came the day Mallikarjun Kharge was officially anointed as the new president of the Congress, and a few days after the mega Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya in which Prime Minister Modi took part.
It remains to be seen what impact Kejriwal’s most recent political positioning will have on the electorate, especially in Gujarat. Can AAP learn to cast itself in the molds of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh and claim the majority of religious sentiments? Gujarat may have an answer.
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