BJP and electoral communalism

B.K. Chum

“All is fair in love and war”, and in politics, particularly electoral. This is happening in UP assembly polls. In their no-holds-barred campaigns, some political parties and their affiliates claiming to be the biggest champions of India’s unity and integrity are ironically trying to polarize India’s diversity by injecting communal virus in the country’s bodypolitic. Hypocrisy, opportunism and sycophancy have become their modus operandi to achieve their dubious political objectives.
To begin with, take the attempts being made by Bhagwat’s ‘patriots’ to communally polarize the Indian society. 
The attempts originated with the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat’s periodically made declarations that India is a Hindu rashtra and its residents are Hindus, forgetting that the country is inhabited by a number of communities and castes. His declarations have alienated minority communities, particularly Muslims, India’s largest minority, and Christians.  
Taking a cue from Bhagwat’s assertions, the BJP’s Sakshis, Yogis, Mahants, Sadhvis and even some ministers and MPs started making provocative comments against Muslims. What is worrisome is that the language PM Narendra Modi, otherwise reputed for his oratorical and governance skills, has started using language in his public addresses which lowers the dignity of the country’s highest executive office he holds.
The latest such instance is his Kabristan-Shamshan comments made at his rally in Fatehpur district on Feb. 19. Even at the cost of repetition, his remarks subtly devised to escalate Hindu-Muslim polarization, need to be reproduced.  “Gaon mein agar kabristan banta hai, to gaon mein shamshaan bhi banana chahiye. Agar Ramzan mein bijli milti hai to Diwali mein bhi milni chahye. Agar Holi mein bijli milti hai, to Eid par bhi bijli milni chahiye. Bhedhbav nahin chahiye”.
Modi made the comments after accusing Samajwadi Party government in UP of indulging in discrimination. But instead of talking about discrimination in granting facilities or undertaking welfare schemes for common people, he preferred to highlight what he described religious discrimination. One is yet to be enlightened if the issues he raised in his public discourses had any topical value or was there any provocation for the PM to raise religious issues which have communal and religious implications. This reminds me what Karl Marx had once said “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. Obviously, PM wanted to use the opiate for electoral considerations.  
Modi made another undignified remark which lowered the stature of the constitutionally high executive office he holds   when he targeted former PM Manmohan Singh during a debate over corruption issue in Rajya Sabha. He said “Bathroom mein raincoat pehn kar ke nahana, yeh kala to Doctor Sahib hi jaante hain aur koi nahin jaanta hai”     
Modi’s junior of the centralized power duo Amit Shah went a step further than his boss in injecting Hindu-Muslim virus in plural India’s body politic when he made the following comments during his address at the party rally at Saraon (Allahabad) on February 21. “Sapa (SP)wale ke wahan jao to Azam Khan aur Atiq Ahmed baithe hain. Baspa (BSP) walon ke yahan jao to Naseemuddin to baithe he thhe pehle, aur ab Mukhatar Ansari bhi chale gaye hain...Afzal Ansari bhi chale gaye …yeh UP ki janata jaye to kahan jaye…ek aur khaai hai, ek aur kuan hai…Hai na dikkat? Mein rasta batata hoon…hamare yahan koi nahi hai….BJP me gundo ki koi jagah nahi hai .Yeh Afzal hon, Mukhtar hon, ya Atiq hon…BJP aayegi…mein batata hun… koi gunda Uttar Pradesh ke andar nahin bachega. .sabko ulta latka kar seedha karne ka kaam yeh BJP karne wali hai”.
Amit Shah did not stop at making such communally-charged controversial comments. Two days later, he called his party’s political opponents (Ajmal) “Kasab”, who was the only Pakistani terrorist caught after the Mumbai attack in 2008 and was hanged in 2012. Shah’s attempt to draw a parallel between Congress-SP-BSP and a Pakistani terrorist was a subtle bid to demonize the political rivals. This reflected either his frustration or impropriety in political discourse.
Besides the attempts to communally polarize the polity, the on-going polls are also replete with instances of opportunistic politics.
Those, especially the SP and Congress who not long back were foes have turned friends to fight their common political foe BJP. Some of BJP’s bigwigs who had been condemning the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty have now started creating their own dynasties. They have secured party nominations for their sons, daughters and other close relatives for contesting the 2017 elections.  
Hypocrisy is the game our politicians love to play. The Amit Shah-led BJP is an example. Even as the party leaders have lately toned down their criticism of the “Nehru-Gandhi dynasty”, the tough UP contest has made them launch an onslaught against the Mulayam-Akhlesh Yadav clan for converting the country’s largest populated state into a family-ruled state. The party’s hypocritical stand on family-rule issue is exposed by its having a “life-long relationship” with Badals whose family has been ruling Punjab for a decade.
In the above backdrop, the question arises: Who gains majority in UP poll when its results are declared on March 11. If the BJP fails to secure a majority, it will signal the true beginning of the downslide in the party’s electoral fortunes in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. If it wins, it would dim prospects of the non-BJP parties in the forthcoming elections in some states and in Lok Sabha polls. A defeat, however, may prompt some of the non-BJP parties to form Bihar-like mahagathbandhans to contest assembly elections to be held in some states before 2019 Lok Sabha polls. (IPA)

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017