Political analysts say Deshbhakti’s budget and push for nationalism could help the party’s ambitions in other states, even as the BJP opposition and Congress in Delhi struggle to form a counter-narrative to its campaign to patriotism.

The Deshbhakti or patriotism campaign launched by the government of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the national capital sets the backdrop for the party’s political ambitions in other states, while strengthening the party’s grip on the city. In the latest budget, Finance Minister Manish Sisodia announced “big celebrations” for 75 weeks until August 15, 2022, which would fill Delhi with “patriotism and national pride”, allocating 45 crore to erect 500 national flags across the city and 10 crore each to conduct programs in honor of Bhagat Singh and BR Ambedkar.

In July, the Department of Public Works (PWD) issued a call for tenders for the installation of a “35 meter high flag pole” at 495 locations for a fee of 84.6 crore; on August 15, the Delhi government unveiled five national flags, all on poles 35 meters high. “When we see Tiranga, we get goosebumps and our hearts are filled with love and pride in the nation. 500 similar Tirangas will be set up all around Delhi, so that when you leave for the office, one or two Tirangas can be seen before arriving at the office. If you see Tiranga even once, then patriotism and love for the country would be rekindled, ”Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in his Independence Day speech.

The hour-long Deshbhakti class every day in Delhi public schools, he hoped, would motivate the younger generation to be proud of the country and fulfill their duty to build the future of the country.

According to a government statement, the Deshbhakti program which will begin on September 27 on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of Bhagat Singh, aims to develop in students, self-confidence, awareness, respect for constitutional values and a mindset of problem solving, and bringing about change to move the country forward.

Religious appeal

The AAP’s victory in the 2020 legislative elections in Delhi was largely based on the improvements made by its government in the health and education sectors in Delhi, but its winning campaign also required a heavy dose of appeal. religious – for example, Mr. Kejriwal chanted Hanuman Chalisa during the campaign and challenged BJP leaders to do the same.

This was in addition to well-advertised programs that give free water to about six lakh consumers, free electricity to 36.6 lakh consumers, and 496 Aam Aadmi Mohalla clinics or neighborhood dispensaries where people can go. make for minor ailments.

The AAP is now trying to expand beyond Delhi and has announced it will fight assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa among other states and Mr. Kejriwal has presented Delhi as a model of development and promises similar programs if elected to power. Delhi’s healthcare system crisis during the second coronavirus wave in 2021 may have made AAP’s governance claims less appealing, and the party could also seek a pan-Indian image with a focus on patriotism, according to some observers. PK Datta, a former professor at the Center for Comparative Politics and Political Theory at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that previously when the AAP tried to expand outside Delhi they had worked on issues locals who brought them to power in Delhi.

“My feeling is that they think patriotism will give them this ideological bridge that they can capitalize on,” he said.

Mr. Kejriwal also used India’s relatively good Olympic performance to reinforce the theme of patriotism.

Political analyst Neerja Chowdhury said the Deshbhakti budget and push for nationalism will certainly help the AAP in elections in states outside of Delhi, when it relates to core issues of the state. The AAP has the difficult task of maintaining its robust patriotism campaign while keeping its distinction from the BJP and Congress.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric is not part of the AAP vocabulary, but on several occasions the AAP has been silent on violence against Muslims. “Sometimes you don’t want to exaggerate the problem and give the BJP an advantage, but there is a limit,” Ms. Chowdhury said, referring to the polarizing community incidents over which the AAP chooses to remain silent. She thinks the AAP’s silence may have exceeded that limit.

Overall, the opposition parties, Congress and the BJP are struggling to form a counter-narrative to the AAP’s campaign of patriotism.

Although they privately admit that they have yet to develop a viable strategy to confront the PAA, the latter’s deshbhakti push has only increased their difficulties.

“Deshbhakti (patriotism) is an emotion and has nothing to do with a budget. This is just another example of how the AAP Delhi government believes in doing less and putting out more in-depth advertisements and public announcements that later prove to be false, ”said the MP. northeast of Delhi, Manoj Tiwari.

Delhi Congress leader Ch. Anil Kumar said the AAP has proposed the Deshbhakti budget and several other campaigns to create a screen behind which they can hide. “The AAP is supporting the BJP by using patriotism and huge advertising spending to cover up its failures. Why spend so much money on putting up flags when basic amenities are not provided to the citizens of Delhi.” , did he declare.

For citizenship and pluralism

The AAP presents Deshbhakti’s agenda as an emphasis on civic-mindedness and pluralism, including lessons in religious tolerance and a step back from religious intolerance.

“We seek to combine the values ​​of ‘Desh Prem’ with concrete actions; this is essentially our conception of the Deshbhakti program, ”Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.

“The story of the bitter struggle for independence that India went through was certainly to be passed on to new generations and citizens. But, at the same time, citizens and their governments must ask themselves whether the promises of freedom and equality enshrined in the Constitution have been kept, ”said Professor Manisha Priyam of the National Planning Institute. and Education Administration of the University of Delhi.

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