With the coming of the Monsoon in 2011, dawned in Delhi, along with the rains, the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement led by Anna Hazare.
The anti-corruption crusader from Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra sat on a fast at the Ramlila Ground and held the centrestage in the national politics for the next fortnight.
During the protest, the activists’ creativity was at its best and one clearly recalls a poster which had pictures of Anna, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi anointed as Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Jhansi’s queen Lakshmi Bai, all in the same frame.
Ideologically, the three historical figures do not make to one frame. But such mass movements are like that when people with different ideological leanings come together for a common cause.
Some months later, on a television debate, when the movement converted into a political outfit – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), its then main ideologue Yogendra Yadav was asked about the ideological moorings of the organisation.
He had said that they believed in extracting the best from every ideology. It did not happen that way and soon Yadav, along with several similar thinking leaders of the party, was shown the door.
The party, nevertheless, from day one showed the unfailing tendencies of adapting to the time-testing tactics of Indian politics, thus an Ashutosh became Ashutosh Gupta while contesting from the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and now Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia sees himself in the shoes of Maharana Pratap taking on the mighty Mughals.
Earlier this week, the AAP leader hit out at the Centre while speaking on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap, the medieval ruler of Mewar fiefdom, saying that the Rajput king’s battle against the Mughal Empire was like that of his government’s with the Narendra Modi government. This is interesting as Modi’s own ideological fellow-travellers are busy burning midnight oil to erase the trace of anything Mughal from the topography of the national capital, which principally is a Sultanate-Mughal city.
“A cruel ruler in Delhi used to ask him (Maharana Pratap) to leave. The fight is same. A number of incidents happening now remind me of the Mughal rule,” Sisodia said at the unveiling of a statue of the Rajput king at ISBT, Kashmere Gate. That the Delhi’s Deputy CM decided to celebrate Pratap’s birthday, which is an essential part of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s cultural calendar, makes clear that Sisodia has no qualms about fishing in the cesspool of caste politics.
He was reported as saying, “Some people in the Centre have the same arrogance as the Mughals did. They will not allow the common man to work… the same fight continues today.”
Delhi leader’s love for the Rajput king emanates from the fact that Maharana Pratap belonged to the Sisodia dynasty and is much revered in the community. In fact, Delhi deputy CM’s village in neigbouring Ghaziabad district has a huge Maharana Pratap statue at Dhaulana, standing tall in the middle of the green agricultural fields. No wonder the last two Lok Sabha members from Ghaziabad – Rajnath Singh and General VK Singh, have been Rajputs and both played the castecard to the hilt during their respective polls.
Sisodia’s Assembly constituency, Mandawali, in East Delhi, which borders Ghaziabad, has a huge migrant presence from the western UP district. Thus one can clearly see the need to revive the umbilical cord which connects Sisodia with Maharana Pratap’s clan.
Politics of caste has been integral to the Indian democracy’s vibrant functioning, but the bigger question is would Sisodia also endorse the agenda to replace Akbar as victor of Haldighati with the name of the ruler of Mewar.
Moreover, calling Akbar cruel, whom the non-Sangh historians consider to be a secular and fair leader, could make Sisodia suspect in the eyes of his party supporters.
The AAP, which came to power on a very progressive agenda of fighting corruption in public life, has taken to all the vices of politics and failed to rub onto the system any of its original ideals; in fact, it never made any serious attempt at doing it. Those who wanted to implement these ideals were purged out.
People from the minority communities, especially the Muslims constitute about 18 percent of Delhi’s electorate. The Muslims in the city have so far been steadfast in their support to the AAP government, much to the chagrin of the local Congress leadership. They have always applauded Kejriwal government’s ‘struggle’ with the Modi dispensation.
However, will the narrative of Delhi government as replica of Mewar fiduciary and Narendra Modi as modern day Mughal monarch be palatable to the minorities, especially when the fringe elements from the right wing went on to ‘rename’ Akbar Road as Maharana Pratap Road on the same day.
Some of the observers of the political behaviour of city’s minorities are of the opinion that they still see Arvind Kejriwal as the most potent warrior against the Modi regime.
The minorities in the city are yet to realise that their support for the AAP adds to the woes of the Congress and comfort of the BJP rather than making the latter uncomfortable. However, an AAP leader espousing a purely Sangh agenda like celebrating Maharana Pratap’s anniversary as Hindu icon has the potential to give the game away. A victory for AAP in the name of Maharana Pratap on the Mandawali seat may end up costing the party dear, especially on the minority dominated seats.
(The writer is a senior journalist. Views are personal.)