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NARENDRA MODI COMPROMISES HIS STATURE IN UP ELECTIONS
With indications of major voting in favour of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), led by strong dalit leader Mayawati, in the early round of polling in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, it is quite strange that major newspapers, quite suspiciously, are predicting a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government just before the results are to be out on 11 March, 2017. We have seen this kind of phenomenon during the last general elections in 2014 when Narendra Modi was swept to power riding on a high profile publicity campaign. However, it is quite unlikely that 2014 will be repeated when BJP bagged 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP. The apparent wave in favour of BJP is limited to media and appears to be sponsored. It is also likely that some media houses have been arm twisted to toe the rudely authoritarian rule to which India is now getting used to.
In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desperation was visible when he stooped to the level of talking about more electricity being given on Ramzan than on Diwali and how Hindu’s also deserve space in Shamshaan like the Muslims get in Kabristan. It became clear that he was speaking as the Prime Minister of Hindus and not the whole population. The now deceased President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Ashok Singhal had claimed in 2014 after Narendra Modi’s elevation to PM’s post that Hindu rule was back in India after the Mughals invaded the country. It is interesting that Ashok Singhal did not say this when Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the PM, the tallest leader of BJP so far. Vajpayee was not seen as communal and was the only important national BJP leader absent from the site when Babri Masjid demolition was taking place in 1992 in Ayodhya.
Since before the campaign for last general elections when it was clear the Narendra Modi would be the PM candidate it was decided between Narendra Modi and his handpicked BJP chief Amit Shah that the former will only address development issues and the latter may, when felt necessary, raise communal issues like he did prior to the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 and made reference to Kasab, the now executed Pakistani involved in 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, recently in the UP campaign. This arrangement was made to project an image of Narendra Modi widely acceptable by all sections of population since he was to be a national leader. It must be granted that he did control his communal tendencies and went out of the way to make friends with some heads of states of Muslim nations like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Afghanistan and even made a visit to Pakistan, opposition to which is a cornerstone of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh politics, to attend a private event in Nawaz Sharif’s family. Even though he was not forthright in condemning communal incidents like the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in 2015, he never uttered anything explicitly communal. He was trying to project himself as a statesman in the mould of Jawaharlal Nehru, a hugely popular PM internationally as well. But the fear of losing UP elections weighed heavily on him, especially after the humiliating loss in Bihar in 2015. The self-discipline gave away. He betrayed his true colours and appealed to the baser instincts of Hindu population, which was not expected of a PM. He even claimed, out of the blue, that terrorists from a neighbouring country, quite obviously referring to Pakistan, were behind a railway accident which took place sometime back. It was patently clear that he lost his self-confidence. But he could not have quit midway and therefore continued to campaign with a bold face. The strategy to pump money into media or pull levers to project a BJP victory was adopted subsequently.
It was feared that BJP may even resort to provoking a communal riot, if needed, to polarize the votes further. That did not happen but the evening before the last day of polling, on 7 March, 2017 an encounter took place in Lucknow in which Saifullah, with alleged connections to ISIS, was eliminated. With technological advancement terrorist incidents have replaced communal riots and have the same effect in mobilizing public opinion. A number of questions have already been raised about this encounter and in all probability it was staged to give BJP some advantage in the polling the next day. Recently a number of individuals accused in terrorist incidents in Delhi and Gujarat have been acquitted on account of insufficient evidence.
It will be obvious to any outside observer that BJP is repeating its mistakes in Bihar. By not announcing a Chief Ministerial candidate and projecting Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as the only credible leaders in the Party, it has once again annoyed the state leaders, some of whom are senior to both the Gujarat leaders. It did not learn from Mohan Bhagwat’s anti-reservation pronouncements in the middle of the Bihar campaign in response to which the PM had to go out of the way to claim that he will lay down his life to protect the reservations system. This time Manmohan Vaidya, another senior functionary of RSS, repeated the mistake at an international literary festival in Jaipur held in January 2017.
Even if the BJP manages to pull through a victory by fluke in the UP assembly elections it would have caused serious damage to the secular fabric of the state. The BJP is working on replicating the Gujarat model of segregating the Muslim population by victimizing them and then denying them their basic rights. It doesn’t portend well for the future of the state and the country. This campaign has also proven that Narendra Modi does not have the mettle to be the Prime Minister of the country. At best he is a chieftain of a section of the majority community which subscribes to a sectarian view of cultural nationalism.
By Sandeep Pandey
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