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Has AAP fallen prey to vote-bank politics?

Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 16, 2013
First Published: 23:00 IST(16/10/2013) | Last Updated: 14:07 IST(17/10/2013)

It wanted to bring about a refreshing change in the murky world of politics. But the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have fallen into the trap of politics it originally wanted to change.

When it plunged into politics, Arvind Kejriwal's party had earlier claimed it will put an end to "nafrat ki rajniti" (politics of hatred, read vote-bank politics). That was till it inducted several Muslims into its fold amid much fanfare. Then, it formed a Sikh cell to reach out to the community.

Four constituencies in Delhi are dominated by Sikhs and they can sway votes in another three. Muslims dominate four constituencies and have a considerable say in nine areas. There is no denying that a winning candidate from these constituencies will come from the dominant community.

But by going solely by the 'winnability' criteria, has AAP gone back on its promise of religion-free politics?

Its leader Kejriwal disagreed. "There are two ways to use religious identity," he said. "In one, you gather people in the name of religion and propagate enmity for the other group and in the other you gather a group and send out a message of love and togetherness."

He cited the example of Partition: "In Kolkata (then Calcutta) at that time, Sikhs had played an important role in bringing Hindus and Muslims together. We need to play such a role to counter this politics of hatred."

Moreover, some issues are unique to the city's Sikh community, Kejriwal said. AAP, he said, had found out that there are no proper schools in rehabilitation colonies for 1984 riot victims such as Tilak Vihar. Unemployment is a big issue. Widows go to work and their children have become drug addicts. "Our Sikh cell will take up such issues," he added.

But not everyone in the party is happy with the scheme of things. "No doubt several issues affect Sikhs directly. But are such cells a solution? Today there is a Sikh cell, tomorrow there will be a Christian cell, then one for Jains. Whatever happened to being Indian, or just an aam aadmi?" fumed a worker.

Kejriwal, for once, seemed did not have a clear answer. "Other parties try to alienate communities by terming them Muslims and Hindus. To counter the politics of hatred, I have to focus on the Muslim and Hindu terms to promote love and affection between the communities," he said.

"The aam aadmi (common man) of this country is secular, but the political parties want to create hatred and perpetuate insecurity (among communities) for vote- bank politics. That is what eclipses major issues such as corruption," Kejriwal added.

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