AAP hopes ‘terrorist’ jibe is BJP undoing, drives message home

Sourav Roy Barman
delhi assembly elections, aam aadmi party, arvind kejriwal, bjp, amit shah, kalkaji, shaheen bagh protests, indian express

AAP party workers talk to residents at Kalkaji transit camp Friday. (Express photo: Praveen Khanna)

“A BJP leader called Arvind Kejriwal a terrorist. Kya aapne suna hai? Are you aware?”

The question is posed by AAP volunteer Shailesh Srivastava, leading a team of around 40 youngsters, at every household in Kalkaji Extension’s Transit Camp JJ cluster. Most residents vaguely nodded, while one of them, Gaura Devi, said: “Samachar mein suna toh hai. Lekin bolne do, aap tension mat lo.”

As doors creaked open, youngsters with Srivastava quickly handed over a pamphlet, with images of an angry-looking Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh. The accompanying text says, “Now you decide whether Kejriwal is your son/brother or a terrorist.”

“If you think Kejriwal is not a terrorist, press the broom (AAP’s poll symbol),” it adds.

The pamphlets are the latest introduction in the list of items — apart from report cards and guarantee cards — that the AAP is handing over to people during its door-to-door campaign, being monitored by Prashant Kishore’s political advisory firm I-PAC.

While the “son vs terrorist” narrative is also being used by Kejriwal in his speeches — on Thursday he had made an emotional appeal at a rally in the evening — it has come to occupy centrestage in the AAP’s ground-level push, down to the last household, with the party hoping the backlash against BJP MP Singh’s remark will be the BJP’s undoing. Singh had called the CM a terrorist earlier this week.

On Friday, The Indian Express tracked the AAP’s door-to-door campaign at the Transit Camp, a settlement of around 350 families, most relocated from Lutyens’ Delhi around 25 years ago. Over the years, migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh have moved here.

“Singh’s remark will only interest a person when read in the context of Shaheen Bagh protests. But the AAP campaign asks a person point blank if they think Kejriwal is a terrorist, while listing his accomplishments as CM. This takes the sting out of Singh’s statement and makes it look petty,” said an AAP functionary.

Archana, a homemaker married to a daily-wage labourer, said she will vote for the AAP as the camp has got regular power supply under AAP. “We are also getting zero bills,” she said.

A few houses away, tenants complained that the benefits of the scheme elude them. “We have a scheme for tenants, but they are at the mercy of landlords. We will set it right when the government returns,” said Atul Kashyap, another volunteer.

The camp receives water supply once a day. Some streetlights have also come up, along with two WiFi hotspots, but both are yet to be activated. “They are on an overdrive only now. The hotspots don’t work and the lamps have just come up,” said Vijay, a resident, who agrees with MP Singh. He is one of the few who is sold to Singh’s statement. “Sirf bandook leke jo chalta hai wohi atankwadi nahi hota (a terrorist does not necessarily have to carry a gun),” he told the volunteers, when asked about the MP’s remark, over which the Election Commission has issued a showcause notice to him.

However, the general consensus at the camp, one of the several such JJ clusters dotting the area, appears to be of disdain against the MP’s comment. “Kisika vote kisika nahi beta, wo apna hota hai. Log itne bhi bewkoof nahi hain ab (a person knows very well that their vote belongs to only them. People are not so dumb),” said Uma Devi.

The camp falls under the Kalkaji constituency, where the AAP has fielded Atishi, replacing sitting MLA Avatar Singh. But many, like Deonath Dubey Sahoo, who works in a private firm, are not aware about the local candidate. “Candidate toh wohi hain na, lambe chashme waale (the tall person with spectacles is the candidate, right?),” Sahoo asked.

Volunteers informed Sahoo that the candidate has changed. “This time, it is Atishi, who improved all sarkari schools,” Kashyap explained. For Sahoo, it hardly mattered. He collected a pamphlet, a guarantee card and pedalled away, onward to a 12-hour overnight shift.