Riots, Tablighi Jamaat issues resonated in Chauhan Banger result
Of the municipal five wards where bypolls were held on Sunday, Chauhan Banger– a Muslim-dominated ward in north-east Delhi where communal riots erupted in February last year, recorded the biggest victory margin.
The Congress won the seat defeating the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by a margin of 10,642 votes. In the other four municipal seats that went to the bypolls, AAP defeated BJP with victory margins ranging between 2,705 (Shalimar Bagh) and 7,043 (Kalyanpuri), election commission data showed.
Zubair Ahmad, the Congress candidate who won the seat on Wednesday, said: “People in the area were affected by the north-east Delhi riots and they felt that Arvind Kejriwal abandoned them during the crisis. Then, they were disgruntled about the way the AAP government dealt with the Tablighi Jamaat issue during the Covid-19 lockdown. There were development-related issues too and people of Chauhan Banger did not have any trust on AAP.”
Zubair is the son of Mateen Ahmad, five-time MLA from Seelampur assembly segment. Ahmad, a veteran Congress leader, unsuccessfully contested the 2020 assembly polls from Seelampur. Chauhan Banger ward is a part of Seelampur assembly constituency.
The AAP candidate, Mohd Ishraq Khan, a former MLA from Seelampur, agreed that there was “anger among people in Chauhan Banger” but said, “While we focused our campaign more on development issues – sanitation, school, health centres, roads, etc – the Congress focused on the riots and Tablighi Jamaat issues.”
The AAP’s in-charge of municipal affairs Durgesh Pathak said the party could not win the Chauhan Banger seat because the Congress candidate was more “popular” among people and there were other “local factors”. He further said, “But the biggest thing is that the BJP did not win a single seat in the municipal bypolls.”
Chauhan Banger ward has around 40,000 voters, of which around 22,000 cast their votes in the February 28 municipal bypolls, election commission data showed. While the Congress got 16,203 votes, the AAP got 5,561 and the BJP candidate got only 105 votes in the ward.
Praveen Rai, political analyst with the centre for study of developing societies, said: “The huge gap between the votes garnered by the Congress and runner up AAP in Chauhan Banger reflects the resentment among the Muslim community over Delhi riots and the Tablighi Jamaat incidents... The AAP has to develop political strategies to ensure that it retains its Muslim voter base in Delhi. The alienation of the Muslims from AAP can lead to an en-masse shift of the community’s vote to the Congress in the 2022 municipal polls. This will not only hurt the electoral prospects of AAP in local elections in the national capital, but also help save the BJP from a major political defeat.”
Rahul Verma, a fellow with the Centre for Policy Research, differed. He said, “It would be difficult to draw larger interpretations from this one ward. Similar resentment factors -- related to the anti-citizenship law protests and AAP trying to fight the BJP with Hindu-oriented strategies such as Hanuman worship during the assembly poll campaign -- could have affected the Muslim vote base ahead of the 2020 assembly elections too. But Muslims still voted for the AAP in large numbers.”