Lucknow: In the run-up to the crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in early 2022, political observers believe the state is set to witness a communally charged electoral battle.
This time round, political parties fear that the Assembly election campaign may widen the Hindu-Muslim chasm, as is evident by a some recent statements and remarks made by some ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders, led by its saffron- clad chief minister Yogi Adityanath, mainly hitting out at rival Samajwadi Party (SP), led by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Political observers feel that the incendiary religious appeals being made by the saffron party is a tactic to win votes by polarising the electorate and divert attention from the real issues, such as collapsed health services, unemployment, deteriorating law and order, labour migration, crime against women, farmers’ protests and food security.
One indication of the tone of BJP’s poll campaign to consolidate its Hindu vote bank is chief minister Adityanath’s repeated invocation of the ongoing Ram Temple construction work in Ayodhya. The CM made it a point to attack the SP over the firing incident atkar sevaks in Ayodhya when SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav was chief minister.
Also, the ruling BJP, apart from the development plank, has also been harping on the issue of security threat after rise of Taliban in Afghanistan.
The latest in the string of remarks targeting SP is Adityanath accusing their government of appeasement of Muslims, without naming the community, and alleging that rations during their tenure (before 2017) was being “digested”by those who used to say “Abba Jaan” (a term used by the Muslims to address fathers).
The CM’s attack, by repeatedly raising these issues through social media platforms, debates, and rallies, comes at a time when the Opposition parties in UP have been largely focusing their pre-poll campaign on rising unemployment, COVID-19 mismanagement and the law and order situation.
Adityanath’s “Abba Jaan’ jibe at a public gathering in Kushinagar district has stoked a controversy, with the UP CM facing an immense backlash from Opposition leaders who have decried it as an attempt to “communally polarise” the upcoming Assembly elections. Even BJP’s ally in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) condemned the statement on Tuesday, calling upon political parties to maintain “restraint” and adding that the country belongs to all – Hindus, Muslims Christians and other communities.
Adityanath’s remarks came soon after Akhilesh Yadav’s statement that he was a “more devout Hindu” than the BJP leader.
Reacting to the CM’s comment, Professor Heramb Chaturvedi, who teaches medieval history at Allahabad University, told NewsClick: "This hatred towards minorities should end as we have already suffered in 1947. However, the government is deliberately changing the connotation and distorting Urdu words including ‘abba jaan’ to retaliate and polarise but we should not counter or react to them, rather we should keep silent."
Yash Malviya, author and poet, recited asher (couplet): "Ye dekh kar patangein bhi hairan ho gayin, Ab to chhatein bhi Hindu-Musalman ho gayin (even kites are surprised that rooftops have turned Hindu and Muslim) said the current regime has drawn a huge line between Hindu and Muslim. Words such as “abba jaan, kabristan, samshan, topi wala”by the person who is sitting at the top position is basically making us realise that this government is of the Hindus and is working for them. We don't know where this country heading toward."
Malviya said: "Communalism and hatred is at its peak under the current regime. In the name of religion, communities are being divided and has come to the surface. To stay in power, the government is using all these tactics. They want to retain power while showing Article 370 and Ram temple as its achievements. They know that people are disillusioned with the government and by polarising Hindu votes, they may come back to power.”
Lamenting at the misuse of religious slogans like “Jai Sri Ram” for political purposes, Malviya said: "People remember Nathuram Godse, who killed Gandhi, but don't remember Batakh Miya who saved Gandhi when he was given poison. Such a line is being drawn to create hatred between Hindus and Muslims." He recalled that Yogi Adityanath came to power as he promised to make 'shamshans' (cremation ground) in every village.
"The BJP government has no achievement to show to the people and hence it has now come to use its time-tested strategy of communal polarisation. Children are dying (of fever) in Firozabad and other places but the CM is busy in polarization," Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Samajwadi Party spokes person told NewsClick.
Another professor wishing anonymity said: "The trend is dangerous. By playing the Hindu card and attacking Muslims, the saffron party has managed to 'hypnotise' a large section of the Hindu community, so they cannot raise their voices against farm laws, privatisation, unemployment, crime against women etc. This trend should end as it is we Hindus who will also suffer due to poor policies of the current state and Central governments."