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Delhi Elections: How the Green Manifesto Died

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Delhi’s elections are turning out to be unique in more ways than one. The narrative and dialogue chan
 

The Unearth Bulletin

February 12 · Issue #80 · View online
Towards a Sustainable & Inclusive World

Delhi’s elections are turning out to be unique in more ways than one. The narrative and dialogue changed at least thrice – from environment to education to nationalism. By the last week before elections, the environment agenda was forgotten with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) spewing a strange type of nationalistic venom and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) deftly ducking all that.
A few months before elections were even announced, AAP seemed to be taking an environmentalist and public health agenda with false claims on reduced pollution levels in Delhi and distribution of ill-fitting masks to school children. The BJP was left with little to respond and one of its MPs from Delhi responded individually by financing an ill-conceived smog tower in his constituency.
At this point it was apparent, environment had finally entered the political discourse. While neither party was promising long term solutions, at least the political discourse was changing towards environment, and that was a big leap for Indian elections that typically rest on freebies and fake promises.
This author was one among many involved in putting together a Green Manifesto for Delhi which found ready acceptance by all political parties. However by mid-January 2020, the winds blew strong and cleared the air of particulate matter and the Green Manifesto from the political debate.
The BJP it seemed could not find a good enough hook to pitch for itself, but come January 2020 its leaders emerged from nooks and cracks with all guns blazing at not just AAP, but also JNU students, leftists, Muslims and even protesting students. Delhi citizens got a dose of a furious nationalistic anger they could obviously not identify with. But the AAP felt it had to respond, it became defensive, changed its position deftly, embraced obviously fake Hindu symbols, and its election strategy changed to ducking all that was thrown at it by embracing ‘positivism’ and accusing the BJP of ‘negativity’. In all that hungama the Green Manifesto died a quiet death.
The elections are now over and the battlegrounds will now shift to Bihar. No one now can tell what won AAP its election, was it the environment, service delivery, or was it the middle ground hindutva in the last week before elections? Nationalism, human rights or environment, eventually it will only be a very slow to evolve and extremely tough political competition that will decide which way the country will move.
But in three political get-togethers I visited during Delhi elections, there was at least one question on air quality in each of them. And that gives us cause for hope!
-Laveesh Bhandari

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I was happy to participate in meeting with Members of Parliament on the issue of clean air. The discussion, organised by ASAR was around increasing awareness on air pollution across states. 
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