Delhi Assembly Election 2020: AAP starts new campaign over ‘terrorist CM’ remark
With about 10,000 posters printed overnight and more than a million pamphlets likely to arrive in a day, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Friday launched a new campaign to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over MP Parvesh Verma’s remark that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is a “terrorist”.
The counter campaign, launched just a week before assembly elections on February 8, is a digression from the party’s core election campaign that has, so far, focussed on development and welfare issues.
On Friday, a group of AAP supporters marched through the lanes of west Delhi’s Dashrathpuri but they did not chant the party’s poll slogan, “Achhe Beetein Paanch Saal, Lagey Raho Kejriwal (The past five years have gone well, carry on Kejriwal)”.
Instead, they waved placards that had slogans such as “Kejriwal is our son, not a terrorist”, “Kejriwal is our brother, not a terrorist” and “We are the common people of Delhi, not terrorists”. Another poster, which had images of Verma and Union home minister Amit Shah, read, “The BJP said Kejriwal is a terrorist. Now people of Delhi will decide. If you do not think Kejriwal is a terrorist, vote for the broom (the election symbol of the AAP)”.
Such campaigns were seen across all 70 constituencies Friday. The AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP and election campaign in-charge Sanjay Singh said, “We have not digressed from our core campaign. This is rather a special campaign within the macro campaign, which will continue across all constituencies till Sunday.”
Kejriwal’s core campaign and the new campaign, both have been designed by election campaign strategist Prashant Kishor’s agency I-PAC, which teamed with the AAP last year.
“The party got 10,000 posters made overnight Thursday. This morning, they were turned into placards and distributed among teams across all constituencies. The idea is to ensure supporters in each of the 70 constituencies have around 150 placards each. The first batch of a million pamphlets is likely to arrive by tomorrow (Saturday),” an associate of I-PAC, who did not wish to be identified, said.
In his response to the AAP’s new campaign, Verma said, “Kejriwal himself has used words such as terrorist for the Prime Minister and now he is crying victim. On February 8, the people of Delhi will tell him what they think of him.”
According to Praveen Rai, political scientist with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, the new campaign is a smart move by AAP, but it was too soon to ascertain its impact. “With a personal remark like that, the BJP has taken its ongoing poll campaign in Delhi – which was largely based on the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests – to another level. It is a smart move on part of the AAP to counter the narrative. It can be productive, but how productive – that’s difficult to ascertain at this point. This election is turning into a see-saw perception battle,” Rai said.
In the new campaign, candidates were told not to speak and supporters were asked to sport a black band on their arms. In several constituencies, door-to-door campaigns followed silent marches. Unlike the earlier door-to-door campaigns, in which the party workers engaged with residents over achievements and assurances of the AAP, the engagements in the new one revolved around the “terrorist” remark.
Supporters in some constituencies walked with lighted candles, their mouths covered by black cloth.
“Parvesh Verma is the representative of the parliamentary constituency under which my assembly segment comes. People are upset by his shameful ‘terrorist’ remark. It is necessary on our part to reach out and engage with them,” AAP’s Dwarka candidate Vinay Mishra said during a rally.
On Thursday, the Election Commission of India had imposed a four-day campaign ban on Verma, for his “terrorist” remark against Kejriwal. The chief minister also highlighted the issue in all his road shows throughout Thursday. In a press conference heald early Thursday, Kejriwal urged people of Delhi to decide, citing his political journey, his diabetes and how his parents were hurt by the “terrorist” remark.
Kejriwal and the AAP have been on the receiving end of criticism from the BJP since he expressed solidarity with the anti-CAA protesters in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh and accused the BJP of failing to have engaged with them.