Modi-Yogi-Shah and Their Mantra to Get Votes: Communal Polarisation
Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Sabrang India
“The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) can stoop to the lowest level for the sake of vote-bank politics,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election rally on 1 April 2019 in Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
“The Congress attempted to defame the crores of Indians by using the term ‘Hindu terror’.”
One wonders, who is the PM trying to fool?
That ‘Hindu Terror’ is real has been made apparent, again and again, by the ongoing investigations into the murders of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh; the investigations by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra (ATS); the killings by the cow vigilantes, among other horrific incidents.
The voters in this election are aware of what has happened over the past five years. The question is, why is Modi talking about and denying ‘Hindu terror’ in an election rally? The answer is very simple: communalisation is the mantra of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
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In 2014, Modi and the BJP leaders could fall back on the scams during the previous UPA government to ask people to not vote for the Congress: the BJP’s promise was that of development. However, after they formed their government, development took a back seat and the Hindutva agenda of the party was blatantly carried out and performed in public. For example, appointing extremists such as Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of the largest state Uttar Pradesh, the lynchings, communal riots, attacks on anti-hindutva voices, students, writers, artists in the past five years have brought the term ‘Hindu terror’ into the mainstream public discourse. Thus, Modi’s denial of Hindu terror and his argument that it is an invention of the Congress is obviously aimed at shielding the BJP from blame and creating a false enemy, i.e., the Congress.
In the same rally, the PM asked, “How can the Congress be forgiven for insulting the Hindus in front of the world? Weren’t you hurt when you heard the word ‘Hindu terror’?” While assuming everyone in this rally was Hindu, he made it clear that his and the BJP’s agenda was of Hindu Rashtra. This is also a blatant act of polarising the voters through the politics of religious sentiment and emotions. Instead of reflecting on the work done by their government, Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah, and Yogi Adityanath are trying to communally polarise people by creating a false discourse that the opposition party does not care for Hindus. When the BJP has got nothing to talk about their achievements, it is not surprising to see them resorting to their best-known tactic, i.e., communal polarisation.
As can historically be seen in India, the vote bank is divided based on castes and religions. As Asghar Ali Engineer in his essay, Lok Sabha Elections and Communalisation of Politics writes, even the Congress, though claiming to be a secular party, has resorted to communal politics in the past (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi post-emergency elections and now Rahul Gandhi trying to appease the “Hindu Voters”). However as Engineer argues, the BJP is “professedly a Hindu party.” BJP along with the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and many other Hindutva organisations mobilise the Hindu masses on a religious basis. As Kuldeep Kumar writes in The Wire, “Sadhus, sants, mahants, god men and god women and other assorted Hindu religious leaders actively help them in this communal project.”
The 2019 election campaign of the BJP, however, appears to have crossed all the limits. Other than the campaign rallies, advertisements on television and radio, there have been full-fledged movies made. If Vijay Ratnakar Gutte’s The Accidental Prime Minister aimed in ridiculing the former Prime MInister, Manmohan Singh, Omung Kumar’s PM Narendra Modi which is expected to be released on 11 April 2019 is the story of the heroism of Modi. On 29 March 2019, Ram Ki Janmabhoomi (Ram’s Birthplace) by Sanoj Mishra was released and, according to the journalist Abhisar Sharma, the movie talks about Triple Talaq. Another such propaganda movie was Uri: The Surgical Strike, by Aditya Dhar; the film showed the “surgical strikes” that were carried out on Pakistan camps following attacks by militants in Uri in 2016.
So on one hand, Modi, Shah and Yogi are addressing the sentiments and emotions of the voters by using two events that open up conversations around India and Pakistan, often evoking nationalist sentiments in the country. First, the Uri attacks and second, the recent Pulwama attacks where the convoy carrying Indian soldiers was bombed; and on the other hand, they are using the media, internet, films and books to instigate certain communally charged sentiments.
Modi in Vidarbha, referring to the Pulwama attacks and the “surgical strike” in Balakot by the Indian Air Force, asked the crowd, “Do you want heroes of Hindustan or of Pakistan? You want saboot [evidence] or sapoot [great son]?” He also said, “Teach a lesson to those who ask for evidence.” Just before this, he attacked Rahul Gandhi for contesting from Wayanad, commenting, “It is evident from the fact that one has to contest a seat where the minority is majority.” On 5 April 2019, addressing a rally in Uttarakhand, said, “Tukde-tukde gang is happy with the Congress manifesto. In fact, their friends in Jammu and Kashmir demand a separate Prime Minister in the state.”
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Why is the Prime Minister of the country using phrases such as “Tukde-tukde gang”, “heroes of Hindustan”, “minority is majority”? As mentioned earlier, he has got nothing else to talk about except playing on and inciting the sentiments of the people. Amit Shah and Yogi, not surprisingly, have been following the same path. Shah addressing a rally in Bengal had said, “I want to assure all the refugees that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is our commitment and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh refugees will not be required to leave the country. They can live here with respect…” The Economic Times reported Shah addressing a rally in Tamil Nadu and mentioning Pulwama attacks and asking the crowd, "Should we not avenge the Pulwama attacks?”
The National Herald reported on Yogi Adityanath addressing an election rally in Baghpat, saying “Jis tarah Hanuman ji ne Lanka mein ghus kar Lanka jala dee usi tarah Indian Army ne Pakistan ke andar ghus kar aatanki thikano ko khatam kar diya (The way Lord Hanuman set Lanka afire similarly the Indian Army destroyed terror camps being operated from Pakistan)”. In a rally at Muzaffarnagar, Yogi said, “The Muslim League is a virus. Nobody can survive after being infected with it; and the Congress, the main Opposition party, is infected with it. Think what will happen if they win. This virus will spread across the country.”
Finally, the BJP is using its obsession with the RSS’s version of nationalism to evoke faux-nationalist sentiments in the voters and is generating a narrative of the harmed Hindu to communally polarise voters; while entirely ignoring the problems faced by the people of the country. As an editorial in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) asks, “why does the BJP zero in on a single narrative of national integration and seek the voters’ support using emotional, rather than rational grounds for electoral mobilisation? Will a rational individual connect to an abstract concept of the nation by forgetting or ignoring the existential problems that are the result of the BJP’s rule until now?”
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