The forthcoming UP Assembly Elections (2017) are regarded as very crucial for all the political parties and more so for the future of secularism and democracy in the country. BJP’s rise on the national scene began at a higher pitch with Ram Temple agitation and the consequent rise in communal violence. Since then it has been adding more divisive issues and with greater vehemence to reap electoral benefits.
Even before the elections in UP were declared many a BJP leaders had been raising issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad and exodus of Hindus from Kairana. In Gujarat Modi during the Gujarat carnage used the infamous ‘action-reaction’ theory and the statement that refugee camps have become the ‘child production centers’ and so should be closed down. In due course to give a neutral cover to the underlying communal agenda he did shift to the ‘development agenda’, which was more of an eye wash. Along with the media blitz and a clever publicity he tried to sell his image of ‘development man’ and took the policies to woo the Corporate World. But the slip always kept showing. Even during the creation of euphoria of ‘Acche Din’ during 2014 General elections, he kept on raising the issues of Pink revolution (relating to beef) and Bangladeshi immigrants in the context of saving Rhinos in Assam.
His associates did keep talking of issues related to Hindutva agenda like Ram Temple, Triple Talaq, Article 370 at the same time. The propaganda of development and communal message carried the day for BJP during 2014 elections as it managed to get simple majority on its own in Lok Sabha. Now Election Commission has censured BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj for his remarks where he blames Muslims for the rise in population.
Currently in UP elections; the attempt is on to sell ‘national pride’, in the form of surgical strike on Pakistan and demonetization as a measure to root out black money. It seems both these have floundered in public image as by now it is well known that surgical strike was followed by the killings of Indian soldiers in large numbers. The pangs of demonetization for the average people are too severe to make them forget their post demonetization suffering to be able to support the move. Sensing this; this party has stepped up on the divisive propaganda. The BJP manifesto delineates this in a very clever manner. It invokes Hindu pride it talks of ushering in ‘Sampooran Hindu samaj (Total Hindu society) The Ram Temple issue finds its place. The critics say that Ram Temple issue is a permanent treasure for BJP to consolidate its vote bank as and when needed. Since Babri demolition, this issue has been finding mention in all BJP utterances, knowing full well that the matter is lying in the Supreme Court.
Now new dimensions have been added to the armamentarium by various leaders of BJP. Clearly Modi will underplay communal issues or present them in a subtle way while his colleagues down the line are more involved in these utterances in a direct and forthright manner. The issue of Hindu exodus from Kairana was raised by BJP M.P. Hukum Singh a while ago. Now another BJP MP Yogi Adityanath has made it more frightening by saying that whole of Western UP is being converted into Kashmir, and Hindus are being terrorized and are being made to flee the area. As a matter of fact the issue is that post Muzzafarnagar violence thousands of Muslims were forced to leave their villages. Hukum Singh’s assertion of Hindu exodus from Kairana was proved to be more of make-believe as from his list of families which had supposed to leave the village, many of them were right there and some had left for social and economic reasons. Now BJP manifesto is talking about White paper on the issue.
The Muzzafarnagar riots were instigated around the issue of love jihad, now the BJP manifesto is talking of creating ‘Anti Romeo squads’, which is a hidden message against inter-religious marriages, the love jihad issue being projected in a newer language. Beef has been the major polarizing point for BJP, now after Dadri incident they have reaped a rich crop of polarization around this issue and manifesto is promising to close down mechanized abattoirs The BJP’s double standards about gender justice are frighteningly obvious. While it is very concerned about the issue of Triple Talaq for Muslim women, it is quiet about the atrocities faced by dalit, tribal and Hindu women. Clearly raising the issue of triple talaq has nothing to do with justice for BJP; it is a stick to beat minorities with, notwithstanding the fact that Muslim women do require the abolition of practices like this which are retarding their social progress.
Sangeet Som, BJP MLA, had recently circulated the video of his post Dadri speech. An FIR was registered against him for violating the law and the code of conduct for violating the poll code. Similarly another BJP MLA Suresh Rana has been booked on charges of inciting hatred after he said that curfew will be imposed in Kairana, Deoband and Moradabad if he is elected again in assembly polls next month. Yogi Adiyanath has stated that voters should remember riots and rapes before casting their votes.
These are few from the numerous incidents from the speeches of this outfit, whose core electoral strategy has been to polarize along religious lines. Through its machinations it has been adding issue after issue to the earlier existing issues like Ram Temple and article 370. Today it has a large set of such issues which are spelt out by different leaders. Another aspect of this propaganda is that there is also a division of labor among these leaders. While some try to play development card, some present communal agenda in a concealed language others are blunt and direct in inciting the communal Hate. The Supreme Court has opined that Electoral process should be a secular activity, we need to remind ourselves of that and Election Commission needs to exercise the restrain in a more effective way.