For the uninitiated, the Delhi unit of the BJP can be easily mistaken for a singers’ club if one were to go by the popular names that are identified with it. Clearly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, is unamused when it comes to the members’ list of the BJP in Delhi.
Delhi convener of the RSS, Rajiv Tuli tweeted a picture of singer Sapna Choudhary saying the quorum is now complete with Choudhary, Manoj Tiwari and Hans Raj Hans being the saffron party’s key leaders in the National Capital. Choudhary, a singer and performer from Haryana and a former Bigg Boss contestant joined the party in the presence of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and BJP vice-president Shivraj Singh Chouhan recently.
— rajiv tuli (@rajivtuli69) July 8, 2019
Just before the MCD elections of 2017, the BJP made Bhojpuri singer and actor Manoj Tiwari its Delhi chief. Tiwari earned the post for his stellar performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when he won the North East Delhi seat with a margin of 144,084 votes. The constituency has a sizeable Purvanchali population.
Reacting to his tweet, Tuli said his tweet was self-explanatory and that it is the responsibility of the BJP to explain why Choudhary was inducted. He also suggested that one should check Choudhary’s videos on YouTube and the message they deliver. The objection to Choudhary’s induction is clearly on the grounds that her work doesn’t sit well with the ideology of the RSS.
The rift between the party and its ideological parent is becoming clearer in the National Capital but might not influence BJP’s presence and rise in the region which is driven by celebrity faces.
During the Lok Sabha elections this year, Firstpost discovered that the voters were largely sceptical of his abilities to govern and even BJP’s own karyakartas went on camera to say that they are aware that Tiwari hasn’t delivered on the ground but knew that this election is about Modi.
“We know Manoj Tiwari hasn’t done anything for this area. We are voting for Modi. We don’t want 15 lakh in our accounts for free. If Modi becomes prime minister again, we will find the ability to earn Rs 15 crore on our own,” Prakash Thakur, a resident of Ghonda had said.
Purvanchalis, who hail from the Indian heartland, essentially East Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, make up a quarter of Delhi’s population and are nearly 42 lakh strong. A big part of this population comprises migrant workers who live in unauthorised colonies.
In the last five years, the unauthorised colonies have been AAP’s focus. The laying of pipelines to check the unmonitored water supply and tanker mafia menace, the setting up of mohalla clinics and to give government schools a facelift by skill training and new infrastructure, clearly indicates that the AAP has focused on delivery. Tiwari’s Delhi campaign, on the other hand, hasn’t been development centric but rather been about personally attacking Kejriwal and other AAP leaders.
At this point, veteran leaders in the BJP are perhaps ignoring Tiwari’s flaws because stardom works as a strategy. Tiwari, who constantly criticised Kejriwal for taking on the Centre, had claimed credit for the completion of the Signature Bridge. The project was under the Delhi government and Tiwari reached the venue shortly before the inauguration, leading to a scuffle between the two parties, as well as, the police.
He went on hunger strike against the Delhi government which according to him neglected the development work in his parliamentary constituency, after repeatedly criticising Kejriwal for his negative politics of blaming the Centre. During the ceiling protests, Tiwari broke a lock of a shop in Gokalpur and made news. The next day, the lock was back on and an FIR was registered against the shopowner. However, Tiwari’s consecutive electoral victory and his undeniable appeal among Purvanchalis has led to a stage where the party’s state campaign rests primarily on his appeal.
In the North West Delhi constituency, former BJP MP Udit Raj switched over to the Congress on being denied a ticket and Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans was fielded by the BJP in the last Lok Sabha election. There was speculation that Raj’s followers wouldn’t vote for Hans Raj Hans but the latter ended up winning from the SC seat. Raj is the founder of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisation (All India Parisangh) that was formed in 1997 and had been raising critical issues concerning SCs in national politics. The constituency has a Scheduled Caste population of 697,237.
A senior leader BJP like Jagdish Mukhi was made governor of Mizoram, Kiran Bedi was packed off to Pondicherry after the 2015 Vidhan Sabha defeat and Harsh Vardhan, a veteran Delhi leader is now cabinet minister and has taken up a bigger role at the Centre. There’s a leadership void and none of the party’s more credible and seasoned politicians are coming to the fore in the National Capital’s politics.
The stardom strategy has worked both in the MCD elections and two consecutive Lok Sabha elections. Given the success of regional stars, the party has brought Sapna Choudhary on board, who was seen campaigning for Tiwari during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The singer who hails from a Jat family of Najafgarh started singing to support her family after her father’s death. She was all of 12. Social media made her song and dance videos go viral. For instance, video of her dancing to Teri Aankhya Ka Yo Kaajal has (at last count) nearly 170 million views.
In fact, Raj Babbar had tweeted a picture of hers with Priyanka Gandhi and welcomed her into the Congress after which BJP’s Amit Malviya had shared that the grand old party forged her membership document and released a dated picture. It is not just the BJP that knows the value of cashing in on the popularity of the current crop of celebrities. Despite what the RSS feels about the quality of her craft, Choudhary has arrived on the scene, perhaps, to stay.
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