Just before the 2014 General Election, AAP candidate and Narendra Modi's challenger from Varanasi Arvind Kejriwal pulled out the last trick from his 'secular' hat: A skullcap. It could not save him from a rout.
Since then, he sported it again and again, attended iftaar, met with Bareilly's Maulana Tauqeer Raza who had issued a fatwa on writer Tasleema Nasreen, and his party distributed cheques to imams before last year's General Election.
All that changed before this Delhi election. Kejriwal did not dust off his skullcap from the trunk, hardly uttered a word in support of communally-charged Shaheen Bagh protests, and was not even spotted campaigning in Muslim-dominated areas.
Instead, he 'outed' as a Hanuman bhakt, recited the chalisa, and even visited a Bajrang Bali temple.
He congratulated the Centre for its decision to create a trust for building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. "There is no right time for good work," he said.
The man who had once called Modi "a coward and a psychopath" did not utter a single harsh word against the prime minister throughout the campaign.
Nudged by his newest electoral advisor Prashant Kishor, this Kejriwal could be passed off as a rather taciturn BJP chief minister if the broom wasn't his party symbol.
Some who were celebrating Modi in 2014, now saying likely defeat of BJP in Delhi is the defeat of Hindutva politics in India. Pure Nonsense. 1. AAP has NOT challenged BJP on Hindutva 2. AAP has NOT challenged Modi's Leadership 3. AAP has NOT gone to JNU, Jamia or Shaheenbagh.
" Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) February 8, 2020
The march of ideology
So, even as early results show AAP will win in Delhi but with a lower seat and vote share than in 2015, the politics that the BJP represents just won another silent battle. Its ideological mentor RSS " an organisation with infinite reserves of patience and determination in spreading Hindutva " has much to be happy about.
Sangh sarkaryavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi succinctly articulated this just a couple of days before the Delhi results. He said opposing the BJP did not amount to opposing Hindus. The nation's polity has changed unrecognisably over the past six years. And that change is captured less in the thumping march of the BJP than the gingerly following footsteps of the Opposition. Not many may admit it, but competitive Hindutva has slowly but surely replaced competitive minority appeasement.
Letter sent by Arvind Kejriwal to senior citizens of Delhi (this one addressed to my grand father who by no means needs any dole) offering FREE teerth yaatras. Soft Hindutva anybody?! I think so! #DelhiElections2020 pic.twitter.com/htbftQFRl0 " Shreyasi Goenka (@anvivud) February 7, 2020
The first to capitulate was the Congress. Rahul Gandhi hops from one temple to the other before elections, avoids Muslim-dominated rallies and skullcap photo ops, fashions himself as a Shiv devotee and a "janeudhari brahmin".
Mamata Banerjee, perpetrator of the most brazen minority-ism in recent times, has been lately invoking Hindu gods and goddesses at rallies, announced stipends for Hindu priests and doled out huge donations to local Durga Puja committees.
Even the anti-BJP coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress in Maharashtra could not give anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters in Mumbai a free run after they cheered Islamist radical Sharjeel Imam. It slapped sedition charges against 50 young people, sensing the flames of nationalistic outrage lick at their chairs.
Hobson's choice for Muslims
The Muslims are left with choosing between shades of saffron. Years of appeasement politics has left them with no genuine leader who has any appeal beyond a section of the community.
Even if AAP wins it won't be a death-knell for communalism because on imp ideological issues -Article 370 abrogation in #Kashmir, #CAA - Arvind Kejriwal has supported the BJP. He has also pandered to public display of religiosity to cater to soft Hindutva votebank. #DelhiResults
" Farzana Versey (@farzana_versey) February 11, 2020
The secular parties have started to openly take them for granted. You can't go to the BJP, you will have to come to us, the Gandhis and the Kejriwal seem to be telling them.
There lies the downer: Identity politics begets identity politics. Hindus, who were never an organised vote bank, have coalesced into one after witnessing unbridled minority politics for decades, leftist and colonial distortions of history, apologists covering for Islamist terror, and an unchecked demographic takeover.
If Muslims respond with more strident identity politics instead of mainstreaming, Hindus consolidation will deepen. Indian polity will change even more, perhaps irreversibly.
Hindutva has got a grip on it finally. It knows the party of its first choice losing an election is fleeting defeat, but the ideology sending deeper and wider roots is lasting victory.