At a News18 event on 3 February, Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the central government was “not opening the road near Shaheen Bagh” because the Bharatiya Janata Party wanted to “indulge in politics over it.” Delhi goes to polls on 8 February. Since mid-December 2019, a long stretch of road in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area has been the site of a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, spearheaded by Muslim women from the area. The chief minister said that the protesters “have the right to protest” while also maintaining that students and ambulances get stuck on that road, and so it “should be reopened for sure.” The next day Kejriwal told NDTV that if he had power over the Delhi Police, he would have cleared “the Shaheen Bagh area in two hours.” The incongruous comments were typical of the Aam Aadmi Party’s ambiguous position on the CAA and the protests against it across the national capital.
While the AAP has expressed its opposition to the CAA, in several interviews the party members have deflected questions about the controversial law with answers on development issues in Delhi. The party has treaded a cautious line, in an apparent attempt to appease those in favour of the CAA and opposed to the protests. Most notably, the party has been conspicuously vague about the religious fault lines of the law and its support for the protesters. It has largely refrained from addressing, or even acknowledging, the exclusion of Muslims under the CAA.
In doing so, the party has distanced itself from one of the most controversial decisions of the BJP-led central government that prompted tens of thousands of Indian citizens to come out onto the streets in protest, in the national capital and across the country. The chief minister, whose rise to fame and political power was built on the back of a similar nationwide movement, was nowhere to be seen when the country rose again. During the course of the protests, Delhi has been witness to partial internet shutdowns, illegal detentions, police brutality and open calls to violence against the anti-CAA protesters by the BJP’s leaders, and yet, its residents have poured out in numbers that have only increased. Meanwhile, the AAP, which academics often refer to as a “post ideological” party, has turned a blind eye to the Hindu-nationalist ideological underpinnings of the BJP’s actions.