File photo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
File photo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah (representational image) | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Shaheen Bagh’ was the most mentioned reference in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi poll campaign, a convenient metaphor for it to polarise the election and the electorate. But Tuesday’s verdict has shown us one thing — the politics of polarisation may not always work for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. At best, it is a no-gain-no-loss gamble for the party, one that the BJP will continue to push in the upcoming assembly polls, where the party has huge stakes.

But make no mistake. The one important lesson the BJP will not learn from the Delhi election is to refrain from brazen, even toxic, polarisation.

Polarising the voters on communal lines lies in the BJP’s political DNA, and has been at the heart of its rise in national politics. Notwithstanding Delhi results, this strategy will continue to form the core of the BJP’s campaign in elections in Bihar — due later this year — and Assam and West Bengal next year.


Also read: Congress big guns in Delhi stare at political oblivion after poll rout


The Delhi chapter

When the poll season began, BJP members privately admitted the party was staring at a dismal performance, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party as the front-runner by a wide margin.

The BJP party then sensed an opportunity to make this election a face-saver. It went all out to make this election entirely about non-developmental issues like the new citizenship law, Shaheen Bagh protests and ‘tukde tukde’ gang.

Even senior BJP leaders, including the likes of junior finance minister Anurag Thakur and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath tried their best to polarise the election, limiting the party’s campaign to goli and gaali. 

The BJP has increased its tally from three to eight seats and its voteshare from 32.7 per cent to 38.7 per cent (as per the Election Commission’s figures till 4pm). This is a marginal improvement for the party, but a resounding defeat nonetheless. However, given that the BJP knew it had a poor chance in Delhi, the polarisation push was more of a desperate attempt to deflect attention from Kejriwal’s governance conversation. Modi and Amit Shah will not see the Delhi election result as a failure of their strategy. It may not have helped BJP, but hasn’t taken away much either. In fact, if Lok Sabha polls were to be held today, Modi will manage to sweep Delhi again.

Do voters get put off by these overt attempts at polarisation? Unlikely, considering BJP polarises every election and its political grammar is such. If the Indian voter had a problem with polarisation, the BJP wouldn’t have managed 303 Lok Sabha seats after its ‘infiltrators are termites’, ‘go to Pakistan’ and ‘anti-national’ campaigns in 2019.

The politics of polarisation may have its limits, but for BJP, the law of diminishing marginal utility does not quite apply.


Also read: How BJP’s Delhi defeat gives ally Nitish Kumar an upper hand in Bihar


Upcoming elections

Bihar, West Bengal and Assam — three states where the BJP will do all it can to win — are fertile grounds for polarisation. In Bihar, where the party is in power with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), the Muslim population is around 17 per cent as per the 2011 Census. For Modi-Shah’s brand of politics, it makes complete sense to talk communal and put the Congress-RJD combine on the backfoot for ‘minority appeasement’. It helps the opposition’s cause that the RJD has remained a firmly secular party, never being seen as having compromised on that front.

In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already been branded as a minority appeaser, and her anti-NRC and anti-CAA stance have only given the BJP more ammunition against her.

If there’s one state that provides Narendra Modi and Amit Shah the most agreeable ground to polarise on communal lines, it is Assam. The state has been on the edge after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated and the CAA brought in, given the big ethnicity faultline. The BJP has conveniently turned the ethnicity debate into a religious one, changing the language of the state’s conflict. As elections approach, the party will sharpen this polarisation pitch further.

For the BJP — whether under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Narendra Modi or Amit Shah — polarisation, an overtly communal agenda and language is the brand of politics it relentlessly pursues, one that has helped it reap dividends over the decades. Shaheen Bagh may be behind it now, but expect the BJP to find another metaphor for its divisive agenda in the upcoming elections.

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. Dear sir, I think the Indian Voter is very smart . In last Loksabha polls BJP swept all Delhi seats. The Loksabha verdict made no impact on delhi assembly elections. kejriwal is back with a bang. Smarat voters indeed. Same was the position in rajasthan, MP and Chhatisgarh. People wants the most organized party at centre and opposition in states. Good equation and a check on BJP that it should not take it voters for granted. The other inference that may be drawn is merely in the name of extreme nationalism you cannot survive for a long. The issues related to unemployment, market, slow down of economy would required to addressed more delicately. Today on national level there has been no strong opposition after BJP only a combine regional parties hold the key. These regional party had taken toll of congress. Be it Sharad Pawar, mamta didi and many more, they were all congress stalwarts. Down fall of congress is attributed to the their tendency that they have taken it for granted that there has been no alternative, which could replace them. This aspect needs to be borne in mind by BJP too.

  2. This analysis is wrong. Th BJP is not the Polarizer. The BJP is a product of polarization fomented by the Indian National Congress and their fellow Indian Political Service made traveling companions such as the Dravis, the Dalits and the Communists.. At Delhi they lost out because, with characteristic Hindoo pusillanimity, they backed off from enforcing the law and maintaining order owing to pressure that the global Sunni Umma brought to bear through their Dhimmies of the West in the US Congress, EU Parliament and UK Parliament/. It was left to Kejriwal to ask Amit Shah, in an in / off the Public as to why Shah was taking no action against Sharjeel Imam or Shaheen Bagh when Shah bemoaed the situation! Not a good singnal to BJP’s supporters already sickened by Islamic riots such as the All India “Direct Action” of Ramzaan 2012.

    As for the polarization, here is the tapestry that created the BJP:

    BJP is an unsophisticated and non intellectual antipode created by the Congress and their “secular” clones’ policies that built an edifice of inequity, inequality under law and exceptions to the rule of law while demolishing all standards and merit in favour of corruption, nepotism and “social engineering” since 1947. All that the BJP does is attempt to do unto the “secular forces”, or, the PANGOLIN* “Idea of India” if you will (which is nothing but stealing from the Savarna for the benefit of the “minorities”, the “depressed classes” and the Judges, Politicians, Bureaucrats and Police to create a Nouveau Kleptocracy loyal to the ruling crooks of the day).
    My riposte to the offended opposition of the BJP is, “You made this bed, so, lie on it”. BJP is but a Khangress in Saffron clothing. Modi is but a Nehru (3.0) after Vajpayee’s (2.0)
    While the BJP barks very loud, their bite is nothing more than a nibble of what the opposition has already been chewing when in power for decades, whereas, when the opposition was in power, they bit very, very hard while ostensibly wagging their tails and created this citadel of inequity called India. For example:
    (1) The very first law the BJP made after coming to power was the Sonia Gandhi Bill to send politicians and bureaucrats abroad for medical treatment at my expense while most Indians can neither access nor afford genuine and credible health care.
    (2) Their so called “anti corruption” laws has, like Nehru’s, criminalized the victim of extortion (the so called “bribe giver”) making it impossible for victims to complain but has gone further, making it impossible for extortionists (aka Judiciary, Bureaucrats, Police, Politicians etc) to be punished. So much for a “non adversarial and collaborative” tax regime. Again, the Internationally poor (India’s poverty line is Rs 98.70 per day, whereas Germany’s is Rs 3, 970 per day adjusted for purchasing power) known as the Indian “Middle Class” are being looted and plundered by the State because they do not receive any benefits from the gargantuan self serving minions of Government. All their taxes go purely to maintain the burgeoning overheads of a profligate, obese, over remunerated and non productive Government and Public Sector while they have to pay for everything else from water supply, electricity, education and health through their nose. They have to suffer the indignity of being fleeced for toll and struggling through pot holes while Government “VIPs” whizz past in luxury vehicles paid for by the poor.
    (3) The Government has done nothing about “Equality under law”, the second item of their 2014 manifesto. For example:
    (a) Fundamental Rights of Articles 14 and 15 that were abrogated by Ambedkar in 1949 to steal from the “haves” for the “have lots” in the name of the mythical “have nots” on the basis of caste, tribe, religion, gender, language, geography, majoritarian voting muscle, and proximity to power which have been steadily growing in collusion with India’s corrupt and incompetent judiciary lacking integrity, have not been done away with but rather remain the leit motif of this gang of Modi Shining frauds.
    (b) Fundamental Rights of Articles 20 and 21 which have been abrogated by exercise of sheer State callousness such as the non availability and non affordability of Legal assistance and the rule of law have been allowed to drift. For example Nehru’s law of 1959 which took away the rights of the tribals to forage and thoroughfare through the forests of the Himalayas, Western Ghats and Dandakaranya,, has seen more than 80, 000 tribal incarcerated in cages like animals by forest officials for decades. (I was told this by Gopal Pillai when he was the Home Secretary). This law has contributed more to the growth of Naxalism and Maoism than any other PANGOLIN* law. or even Nehru’s “social re-engineering” of the North East which has done little ought than further the spread of Christianity and insurgency.
    (c) The abrogation of Articles 25 and 28 of the Constitution in 1959 by Nehru who confiscated the Temples, treasure, lands, water bodies, educational institutions, gymnasiums and other commonwealth of the Brahmana led Savarna Arya and did away with their religious freedoms in gleeful consort with India’s alien inspired and educated Judiciary have been continued by this Nehru in Saffron clothing and a turban called Narendra Modi as it was by the shayrie spouting Nehru in a white skull cap called Vajpayee.
    *Notes from my archives:
    (1) WOG is a pejorative acronym rhyming with “dog” for “Western Oriented Gentleman” that was used by the British at their clubs to snigger at the likes of Vivekananda. Gandhi. Nehru and Ambedkar who had no culture or breeding of their own.
    The Indian Republic is essentially a creature of the West, founded and run by WOGs educated in Harrow, Oxford, Columbia, Cambridge, Presidency College, Elphinstone College and so on and who had turned into “coconuts” (brown on the outside and white on the inside).by the British (Indian Political Service), Somewhere along the way, during the 70 years of looting, plundering, pillage and rape, WOGs of the Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar sort became “Convented Secularists”. Later, clad in Kurta and Jhola and armed with years spent politicking in India Coffee House or canteens of “institutions” such as JNU, they transmogrified into “Intellectuals” i.e. Fabians in the image of Bandit Jabberlal Neckscrew, aka Marxists under the cover of “Secular Sahitya”
    (2) PANGOLIN:
    This was a systematic, vicious and brilliant plan that the British (Indian Political Service) devised in the Viceregal period following the supercession of the East India Company by the Crown (1858). Delayed by the opposition of Lord Roberts and Curzon, The unrest under Chelmsford added to the reprisal unleashed by Lord Reading.
    After the 1857 mutiny, having had every Brahmin man, woman and child that they could lay hands in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency, Central Provinces, and United Provinces massacred by way of reprisal by their Madrassi, Pathan and Sikh soldiers, the British put together their plan to subjugate India and began the implementation from 1921; Confiscation of Savarna Commonwealth (Temples, treasure etc) in 1923 and expulsion of the Brahmanas from the courts and de recognizing their judicial authority. Distribution of agricultural lands on which guru kulas and temples were dependent to the ryots, Commencement of Daalit Movement (Phule, Ambedkar etc) in the West. Commencement of Draavid movement (EVR Naiker etc) in the South. Subversion of the Sikhs through Kartar and Karag (Sialkot) to commence the Akali movement in the North. Self emasculating pacifism and worship of alien religions and ideologies such as communism (Alan Octavian Hume, Indian National Congress, Gandhi, Nehru) etc etc. This and the pampering of the Deen e Kitabi (Christians and Moslems) as well as Daalits was enshrined in the Indian Constitution condemning India to a perpetual low intensity civil war. They solidified this by confiscating the commonwealth, including temples, educational institutions, gymnasiums, lands, water bodies, religious freedoms and dispossessing their hereditary law and education giving priesthood so that they would become rootless.

    The PANGOLIN*s extended the same policies to residual India including the unfortunate, formerly well governed, Princely States (Vijayanagar Viceregalities or Palegars and Maratha Governorates) such as Mysore, Travancore, Puri, Kohlapur, etc.
    The Government of India Act (1935) which was modified by Sir Maurice Gwyer for Nehru and Ambedkar to plagiarize into the Indian Constitution, and into which they embroidered ideas that they borrowed from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, such as “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” and “Four legs good, two legs bad”

    A nation locked in the iron maiden of the British Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Police, garnished with self serving politicians, and raised on the gibbet of the Reservations-Extortion Constitution and laws to fall to 135 out of 172 countries (and below Sub-Saharan Africa) in the Global Human and Social Development Index (UNDP – 2016) and 143 rd out of 172 countries in internal Peace and Stability (UNDP – 2016) , home to 30% of the World’s poor (World Bank 2016) and with the highest number of Bomb Blast in the World 2016) pushing Iraq to a lowly second place with just half as many; in just 67 years. India ranks 107 out of 124 countries in corruption free law enforcement and personal security. And in 2018 achieved the distinction of ranking 81 on the list of corrupt countries, ranked from Least Corrupt downwards, and 182 in terms of Freedom of Speech !
    *Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)
    :

    .

  3. Kejriwal doubled the salaries of Imams and mosque workers in Delhi. Is that not polarisation? If Modi had done the same to temple priests wouldn’t you have been jumping up and down?

    • pls dont spread wrong information to polarize public. The Waqf Board provide salary to imam not from taxpayer money. Waqf generates revenue from leasing its properties that are spread across the national capital.

  4. Every one seem to be OK with polarization of any group and see it as a strategic strength but have all the problems with Hindu polarization. So called liberals…….

  5. A hateful party will be hateful. Its in their DMA. Please remember what happened in Gujarat. Yes, they disguised themselves for a few years but the truth has come out. Can you believe that their politicians were exhorting people to shoot bullets and not one institution reacted. Shameful.

  6. ”Millions of Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists are also poor, illiterate and oppressed. Do they engage in terrorism, riots and bomb blasts, population explosion and jihad like Muslims do? ” Taslima Nasreen

  7. By playing Muslim vote bank politics which Congress has always done, CPM did after that, and now TMC continues with illegal Bangladeshi votes, what is wrong if BJP does the same with Hindus? Hindus do not want to be minority in their own state. A large number of Hindus in west Bengal were immigrants from Bangladesh where they were driven out.. Where would they go when they become minority again? i do not think the writer has any idea of living in a Muslim majority country. she should go to Bangladesh and ask the Hindus why they migrate to India.

  8. Dilli ki janta ki nabz pakad bhi nahi sakte…. mujhe sub free chahiye…… aaj such mein shaheen bagh jeet gya aur modiji haar gaye…. modi ji kya aaj shaheed bhagat singh, chndrashekhar azaad, shivaji, prithviraj chauhan aur sub tuch anya desh ke suputra haar gaye aur sirf lalchi angreez mohm gauri, aurangzeb aur shayad desh ki asli gulami ke rakt wali praja jeet gayi….. jai hind jai bharat aur haaan jai kejriwal ji….. piyo mere desh ka rakt muft mein abb….

  9. If APP works to unite Muslims against BJP, it’s strengthening of secularism. If BJP works to unite Hindus, it’s communalism. Leftist and librandus turn all their principles up side down when applying to BJP. It’s obvious that disunited Hindus suites every leftist and librandus except BJP.

  10. What one calls polarization in negative sense, it is consolidation of Hindu votes across different castes. Unfortunately, in India, given Hindu divided family that we have, this is the only way for BJP to come to power given that it cannot do minority appeasement and vote bank caste politics of Congress and other regional parties. It cannot even have an option of soft Hindutva! Besides, BJP has a popular leader who commands trust of the majority of people in the country. Hence, what BJP is doing is par for the course. Delhi is a special case where this was expected to fail, given the freebies given by AAP in the recent past and generally good work started by Kejariwal. Also, BJP had no face to project against Kejriwal and AAP had the advantage of being in power. But Bihar, Assam and West Bengal are different and we have to wait and see what new strategy if any BJP has for them. But generally, voters are voting differently for national, state and municipal elections and this means BJP has to develop local leaders to stand up against leader of state level parties. This will be a tough task.

  11. All that worked for the opposition candidates viz. Namratha,five year performance ok,Lage raho Kejariwal,
    no gaali, and sheer positivism arising out of an earnestness to serve the people have been the critical
    success factors,
    The success resounded to Jaadu sweeping the Delhi poll ,amply aided by the mindless and take the
    voters for granted attitude of the BJP.
    The formula is the more you are in power the more chances of your distancing from the masses, unless
    one is eternally aware of and conscious of his original self.

  12. There’s an old Sanskrit saying, “Vinaash-kaale, vipreet budhhi”. Vinaash kaal has begun for the BJP. I won’t say anything more lest they should get any help out of my babblings. Insignificant though I know my words are, I would absolutely hate it if anything I say helps the BJP in any way.

    • Your advice is more useful to Congress who can’t even save deposits in Delhi elections. BJP doesn’t need advice from Modi haters.

    • You are right–only it is vinaasha kaala for people like YOU. If you mindlessly oppose BJP and lump up everything its opposition says, it is your vinaasha kaala

      • I am “mindful” of my poor home’s budget, I am “mindful” of my beloved country’s integrity, I am “mindful” of my religion’s image of kindness. That’s why I oppose the BJP. I repeat, it’s vinaash kaal for this party. It is hurtling towards its 2-MP status.

  13. One unspoken message which comes through the column is that nothing more wholesome is on offer in terms of governance and economic development. If there is a common theme running through successive defeats and disappointments in recent state elections, so soon after the May general election, it is that economic distress is turning voters angry and resentful. How far steam can be allowed to build a head one cannot judge. However, we risk serious social disaffection along this path. 3. Didi will win a third term.

    • Accusation of serious social disaffection is bogus. Modi continues to be the most popular leader and PM choice even today. Modi haters love to accuse Modi for every problem India is facing. Though economic development of non-BJP ruled states is no better than BJP ruled states, Modi haters don’t accuse the non-BJP governments for unemployments, poverty and economic distress.

  14. What is polarisation according to this writer? If Muslims sit in Dharna, shout anti-national and anti-Hindu slogans, it is not polarisation. But, if the Hindus speak in defence of their only land on earth, it amounts to polarisation. Speakers at Shaeen Bagh or Assaduddin Owaisi don’t help reduce the polarisation. But, I don’t this writer or people of her ilk criticising their speeches. If the Muslims are less bliigerent in their conduct, the atmosphere which has been vitiated will improve.

    • Why don’t these johnnies also mention that Kejriwal doubled the salaries of Imams and mosque workers in Delhi, with public money? If Modi had done that to Hindu temple priests–they are not in good shape, believe me–would all these Lutyens journalists kept as quiet?

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