TalkPoint: Is the BJP falling back on communal polarisation ahead of 2019 elections?

Illustration by Siddhant Gupta.

The Ram Rajya Rath Yatra organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad begins from Ayodhya Tuesday and will cover six cities including Karnataka, MP, UP and Kerala. Critics say this is part of an election propaganda for the BJP.

ThePrint asks: Is the BJP falling back on communal polarisation ahead of 2019 elections?


Dialling the Lord Ram number is the only option left for the BJP

Mohammad Sajjad 
Professor, Centre of Advanced Study in History, AMU

Saffron politics in the country is behaving quite predictably. It came to power in the backdrop of a huge electoral wave against the Congress and caste-based regional parties, promising nothing less than the moon to voters in 2014. Since then, the BJP has grown into a hegemonic political force.

Now, the reality is, it has failed quite miserably on the economic front, particularly on youth unemployment, and farm crisis. Demonetisation rendered workers in the unorganised sectors jobless, and they had to go back to their villages. It further aggravated farm distress.

So, dialling the Lord Rama number, is the only option left. In 1990, when L.K. Advani launched it, there was the ideological bulwark of Mandal, and forces like Lalu to resist. This time, the Ashwamedha has got no Lav-Kush to get hold of the horse.

A likelihood is: the scared, cornered, miserably de-citizenised Muslims too would probably be looking away, with a resigned fate, sort of hiding inside the dark and dense forests –Vanvaas – to avoid the wrath. It won’t therefore possibly be as delicious an exercise for the saffron forces. For, a fight is not worth a fight, unless some semblance of resistance is there from the other side.

The route chosen is also an interesting aspect. Except UP, almost each of the five provinces, including Tamil Nadu where it will conclude in Rameshwaram, will have Assembly polls in the coming months. The choice is to drag and give prominence to south India in the Rath Yatra itinerary.

Rabid polarisation is the best way for an effective Hindu consolidation, and to divert people’s attention from absolute non-delivery on economic fronts.

These unbridled developments make our understanding of Indian history from 1938-47 much clearer. The rapid rise & proliferation of the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS and such ideological currents flowing within the provincial and district units of the Congress, should be re-visited with insights into what we are getting now.


Is taking the name of Lord Ram equivalent to campaigning now?

Prakash Sharma 
Ex-National Convenor, Bajrang Dal

The problem lies with the people who cannot divorce politics from any event. Everything has political motive for these people. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is organizing this Rath Yatra, not the BJP. They will be following the route that Lord Ram took on way to, and back from Sri Lanka. The idea is to invoke the land of Lord Ram.

The perspective that colours everything in shades of politics is the problem. India is a holy land. We are a land of ‘Rath Yatras,’ Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna and Lord Ram. Nobody can say rallies to worship them amounts to being political. This is a religious exercise, to view it as political one is a mistake. Is taking the name of Lord Ram equivalent to campaigning now?

The violence is in the minds of those so-called ‘seculars’ who oppose Hinduism. Did riots not happen before L.K. Advani launched his Rath Yatra? Even before the Ram Janmabhoomi movement ever started, there were many communal clashes. Why not talk about those?

As for the apprehensions expressed by the Kerala government, they don’t run this country. They even have problems with hoisting the Indian flag. India has a rich history and tradition of launching such rallies and the governments of today, like the one in Kerala, can’t change that.

Is it a sin to invoke a god who endeavored for a better India? Those who view everything through the lens of suspicion will have a problem with anything that we do. This rath yatra is to spread awareness about Lord Ram, and not about campaigning for any political party. No one is forcing anyone to participate.


BJP’s return to hard-line Hindutva was just a matter of when 

Maneesh Chhibber
Editor, Special Projects, ThePrint

Ram Mandir, Article 370 on Kashmir and Pakistan (the enemy): these are the three main issues, in no particular order, which propelled the BJP from a party with just two seats in the Lok Sabha to a party in power – as part of a larger NDA alliance.

Two yatras: the Lal Krishna Advani-led Rath Yatra of 1990, aimed at educating the Hindu masses about the Ayodhya movement; and the 1992 Ekta Yatra led by then BJP chief Murli Manohar Joshi, which ended with a handful of BJP leaders, including current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, unfurling the tricolor at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Republic Day – played a significant part in giving the BJP political heft and identity as a Hindu-centric, nationalist political party.

In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi, riding high on his successive wins in Gujarat and claiming the mantle of Hindu Hridya Samrat, emerged as the darling of the middle-classes. When the youth and old alike voted for him, they did so to teach the moribund and corrupt (a perception cleverly created by Team Modi) Congress a lesson. While it will always be a subject matter of speculation, there is some consensus that the vote was mainly for Modi’s slogan of “acche din”.

With questions on whether Modi has actually been able to usher in “acche din” or if it was a “jumla” like many others that the opposition is associating him with, BJP’s return to hard-line Hindutva was just a matter of when, and not if.

But as the Congress finally shows some spunk and, under Rahul Gandhi, resorts to soft-Hindutva itself, the BJP may need more than just another yatra. What about a “favourable” judgment on Ayodhya or a limited war with the enemy to help shore up its run to hold on the Delhi throne in 2019?


BJP can’t replicate what happened during the Rath Yatra of 1990s. India has moved on

Manish Tewari
National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress

The performance of any government is benchmarked on five parameters: social cohesion, internal security, economic development, foreign policy and the promises it has made to the people. On all these five parameters, the NDA-BJP government has been an abject failure. Therefore, the government has no other cards left up its sleeve.

Under the prevailing circumstances, except for creating communal polarisation, they have no cards up their sleeve.

For the last 45 months, this nation has been kept on edge by them creating one controversy after the other, which tries to pit people against one another.

However, the people of this country have seen through their game plan and are not going to fall prey to it any longer. That is why despite all their efforts to polarise the elections, the results in the Rajasthan bypolls are a decisive indication of how the public mood has changed. Insofar as the Ayodhya issue is concerned, we have always held and continue to hold that the decision of the apex court will be binding on everybody. Since the court is hearing this issue and the matter is sub-judice, we should await the outcome.

They will not be able to replicate what happened during the Rath Yatra of 1990s because India has moved on. People have seen through this entire charade and are not going to fall prey to it anymore. This is not the India of the ’80s and the ’90s.

People are concerned about real issues like jobs, the growth of real economy, situation in Jammu and Kashmir and other pressing matters; especially the complete absence of any coherent policy towards Pakistan. Therefore, this is their one last desperate attempt. It is indeed quixotic when the apex court is adjudicating upon this issue.


Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj and Talha Ashraf.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Jai Ho ! They have nothing to fight the election on. The best they can do is call for Jai Shree Ram. Rama kab tak chalega in BJP ka Drama !

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