The stage would not host any speaker until mid-afternoon. But at AAP headquarters Tuesday, the stage was not just the medium, but the message.
“Join the AAP for nation development,” said the flexes wrapped around the makeshift stage, erected on the terrace of the party office on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi.
At 3.35 pm, as he rose to speak, the slogan formed the backdrop for Arvind Kejriwal.
The message could not be clearer. Having achieved the astonishing feat of bagging 90 per cent seats in two elections in a row, the AAP was now once again daring to spread wings, a desire that it had to shelve owing to successive electoral reverses, forcing it to adopt a “Delhi first” policy.
In his speech Kejriwal once again stressed the importance of the bijli, paani, shiksha and swastha model, the defining theme of his governance model. “Dilliwalon, gazab kar diya aap logon ne, I love you… This the birth of a new kind of politics, the politics of work,” he said. But the line that followed could not have been more telling.
“This (AAP’s victory) is a great message for not just Delhi, but the country. This politics of work will take India to the 21st Century. This victory is not just of Delhi people, but that of Bharat Mata. This is a victory for the entire country,” he said.
Gone was the “fear” of getting complacent, “arrogant” that he spoke about in his 2015 victory speech from the balcony of a three-storey building in east Patel Nagar, where the party had its office before storming to power. Kejriwal of 2020 sounded more sure-footed, confident, hopeful.
“The people of Delhi have sent the message that the votes will go to only those who will construct schools. The message is that the vote will go to those building mohalla clinics or provide power round the clock, cheap water in every household, roads… the people of Delhi have, with a lot of hope, given us so many seats. We will have to work hard over the next five years, we will have to work together,” he said.
The CM was flanked by his wife Sunita Kejriwal, who could not have asked for a better birthday gift. Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and AAP national secretary Pankaj Gupta stood smiling, with the party’s Delhi convenor Gopal Rai and Raghav Chadha.
In his speech, Rai was more direct in suggesting AAP’s national ambitions. “It is not just Delhi, the entire country needs change. The same patriots who live in Delhi can also be found in Bihar, Tamil Nadu. I appeal to party workers to start working across the country to usher in change,” he said, emphasising the birth of a “new kind of nationalism — of schools, hospitals, women’s safety”.
“For the third time in Delhi, the architect of the anti-corruption movement and the man who changed the face of politics in India has defeated the party that has spread hate across the country, Amit Shahji and his entire army, their three speakers and their anti-Constitution politics. AAP and Kejriwal have proved that whenever there has been a war between nafrat and mohabbat, nafrat has lost and mohabbat has won. The whole world was waiting for the past ten days, looking at Delhi. Today, Delhi showed its heart, where love defeats hate and prevails,” Rai said.
But as significant as what the CM said was what he did not say: The speech did not target the BJP or its leaders, who have over the past month repeatedly targeted Kejriwal. This is in line with his new approach to politics, where he has tried to keep the focus on governance and avoid direct confrontations with opponents.
Even when BJP leaders had called him a terrorist, Kejriwal’s response was aimed not at them but at the public — he told Delhi voters to pick the BJP if they considered him a terrorist, and choose him if they considered him their son.
Another highlight of this approach — the refusal to cede the Hindu nationalistic space to the BJP — also found reflection in his speech. “Aaj mangalvaar hai, Hanumanji ka din hai, Hanumanji aap apni Delhi pe kripa barsayi hai, Hanumanji ka bohot bohot dhanyavad, prabhu ka bohot bohot dhanyavad. And we pray that prabhu, in the coming five years, also continues to provide the necessary strength and show us the way so that the two crore people of Delhi, a family, is transformed,” he said.
The speech also had a personal touch, with the CM telling the crowd that his family were his biggest supporters, and that it was his wife Sunita’s birthday today. He ended the little over six-minute speech with chants of Inquilab Zindabad, Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram. Slogans he began with.
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