THE BJP's election campaign in Uttar Pradesh is unfolding true to form. Led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, communal rhetoric is in full flow and the staple diet of majoritarian communalism is being dished out.
Narendra Modi himself has set the pace, in the midst of the campaign, in a speech at Fatehpur, where he said that where there is a kabristan (graveyard) in a village, then it must have a shamshaan (cremation ground) too, if there is electricity during Ramzan, it should be there on Diwali as well. To camouflage the blatant communal appeal, he concluded by saying that if there is electricity during Holi, it should be there on Eid too.
This is nothing but playing upon the well-worn theme of "minority appeasement" and the imagined victimhood of the majority community. Modi had no compunction in resorting to falsehood to portray the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh as pampering the Muslims. The official statistics show that the power supply in Uttar Pradesh was more during Diwali day than on Eid day. Nor is it true, as alleged by the BJP campaigners, that laptops have been distributed mainly to Muslim students.
That this communal campaign is designed from the top is further confirmed in the manner in which Amit Shah, the BJP president, has been harping on communal issues designed to create polarisation. Amit Shah has declared that if the BJP comes to power, "It would shut down all slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh" and "stop the river of blood of cows, oxen and buffaloes". He has been identifying criminals as Muslims and accusing the Samajwadi Party and the BSP of harbouring that.
The BJP election manifesto talks of forming "anti-Romeo squads". Romeos being the code for Muslim youth who are supposed to be harassing Hindu girls; the "love jihad" campaign being recycled. It also talks about constituting teams to prevent Hindu exodus from towns like Kairana – another myth which has been exposed by investigative reports in the media.
Some political commentators have concluded that the BJP has begun to increasingly resort to communal propaganda as they are failing to gain popular support in the election. This is an incorrect analysis. For the BJP, the communal platform is an essential part of its political campaign which stems from its Hindutva ideology. Narendra Modi and the BJP resorted to such communal campaign in the Bihar elections last year and in the Lok Sabha elections too in Uttar Pradesh. This communal campaign is always conducted at the grassroots level by the RSS-BJP cadres during elections. Whether it should be highlighted by the leaders in their speeches depends on the assessment of the ground situation.
For the BJP, the purveying of the communal outlook and creating Hindu-Muslim divide is part of its political project and its quest for a Hindu consolidation. This is supplemented by the use of caste alignments and identities in Uttar Pradesh.
The fact that the Election Commission has not taken suo-moto cognizance of the speeches of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah shows how the communal discourse is now becoming acceptable in mainstream politics.
It is to be hoped that the people of Uttar Pradesh will see through the communal game-plan of the BJP and reject the cynical maneouvre to divide them.
(The author is member Polit Bureau, CPI(M)