File photo | PM Narendra Modi being presented with a memento by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath during the Ayodhya Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan | PTI
File photo | PM Narendra Modi being presented with a memento by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath during the Ayodhya Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan | PTI
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The Bharatiya Janata Party fought the 2017 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh with a simple binary—Narendra Modi versus others—with everything else subsumed into it. For 2022, it has set the stage for yet another binary—Ram versus others.

With the grand bhoomi pujan ceremony in Ayodhya last week, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s BJP has set the tone for the 2022 UP assembly election, and possibly even the 2024 Lok Sabha polls — if you are with Ram, you are with us, else you are with the rest.

The use of a George Bush-esque binary—either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists—is clever, forcing the voter to see the situation as a zero-sum game and pushing opponents into a very uncomfortable and slippery corner.

The BJP is well aware of this political art, and deploying binaries has been its old trick—from the ‘are you with Babur ke aulad or are you with Ram’ in the early 1990s when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was at its peak, to the constant ‘are you with Pakistan or us’, and now the overarching Narendra Modi versus the rest.

The Uttar Pradesh election is arguably the most crucial in India, setting the tone for the Lok Sabha election that follows two years later. After acing the state in 2017 as well as in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the 2022 polls are a prestige issue for Modi and Shah, and a fresh ‘this versus that’ question will form the core of this critical campaign.


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The Ram factor

The Modi-Shah duo is well aware of the need to put the opposition in a box, from where it finds it difficult to extract itself unscathed and is forced to operate as per the narrative set by the BJP. Binaries conveniently achieve that purpose.

In 2017, Modi was an overwhelming brand in Uttar Pradesh, with the BJP needing little else. Amit Shah’s arithmetic and a carefully calibrated caste equation were both useful but only became enabling factors, with Modi remaining the core. When I travelled across the state extensively to cover the election, all I heard was voters chanting Modi’s name, wanting to vote for him, with many even unaware of their local BJP candidate’s name.

By making the election a Modi’s brand versus rest affair, the BJP forced the opposition to react on similar lines.

To counter the brand, the Samajwadi Party and Congress joined hands and created what they thought was a super-brand. But the ‘UP ke ladke’ — Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi — failed because against BJP’s binary game, they stood little chance.

For 2022, the Modi factor cannot be key. The last assembly election didn’t have a CM face, but this time, Yogi Adityanath cannot be wished away. Hence, the party has decided to field Ram. If you believe in Ram, you have to be with the party that has fought for his ‘janmabhoomi’ and is constructing the ‘bhavya, gaganchumbhi’ Ram Mandir in the state. If you’re not with the BJP, then you are with those who question Ram and have done nothing for Him.

The opposition will be forced to play the BJP’s game. The Congress’ flirting with ‘soft-Hindutva’ has now become far more overt and brazen, with its top leaders falling over each other to welcome the temple and hail Ram, and quietly forgetting Babri Masjid. The other stakeholders — Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party are not far behind, going all out to woo the upper caste Hindu voters, promising a statue of Parshuram, the warrior believed to be the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu.

That Ram was going to be BJP’s key card in the 2022 UP election is a foregone conclusion, but it is the ‘this or that’ narrative is what gives Modi-Shah the most potent tool.


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The game of binaries

When the Ram Janmabhoomi movement peaked in the early 1990s, the fight was between those who believed in Ram and those who owed their allegiance to ‘Babur’.

Decades later, the BJP’s top leadership may have changed, but the game hasn’t. For Modi and Shah, Pakistan is always the convenient other, and those who are not with it, are supporters of the Muslim nation. Ahead of the Bihar election in 2015, Amit Shah had said if the BJP loses in Bihar, ‘patakas’ will go off in Pakistan.

In the run up to the 2002 Gujarat assembly election, Modi deployed a familiar tactic when he made it about Hindu patriots against ‘Mian Musharraf’. Cut to the current era, and there are binaries galore. The us-versus-them game has many manifestations for the BJP—the other is the Bangladeshi ‘infiltrator’, or the ‘urban Naxals’, or the ‘tukde tukde gang’, or the ‘anti-nationals’ — whatever best fits the bill and the election in question.

The 2019 Lok Sabha poll was also built on one big binary that PM Modi created — the naamdaar versus kaamdaar (the entitled versus the worker) — with the latter defining himself through ‘hard work’ and the former, pretty much all political dynasties.

The party creates options that seem like easy choices for many voters. After all, who supports Pakistan? Or who likes the ‘tukde tukde gang’? Or who can support the entitled lot? And now, which good Hindu—or anyone in this climate—can go against Ram?

Well, temple by then or not, Ram had better brace himself to be the star of BJP’s 2022 Uttar Pradesh campaigner.

Views are personal.

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17 Comments Share Your Views

17 COMMENTS

  1. This is totally your narrative. A single person can not represent an entire community. It is because of people like you that there is more hatred amongst different communities. In order to earn money you people sell your integrity. Shame on you.

  2. “Bhagwan Ram” bol, randi. Aur polarisation toh suru hi hua hain, by the time 2022 rolls around, an average Hindu would be so Redpilled, Hindu Hriday Samrat Modiji ko campaign karna tak karna nahi padega. Tab tak keep seething, lavdi.

    • Vinsmoke: Well, the language you use in your home when you address your mother, sisters or other female members is surely your prerogative. But keep it away from the public domain will you ? Or is it the new norm for the gaurakshak tribe to which you clearly belong ?

  3. Setting narratives according to your convenience is what is called politics. And who is stopping opposition to set their own narratives. Fact is narratives alone can’t win you an election. You have to make people believe in your narrative by actually showing some action/work.

  4. Poohi is a congrass journalist.

    1]SHRI RAM MANDIR will destroy the caste barrier by welcoming everyone .

    2] CONGRASS AND JOURNALIST MAY WANT TO FORGET BUT THE PEOPLE WILL NOT THAT IF THE BABUWAS COME TO POWER WITH HAND ON CYCLE. SECULAR VOTES WILL MAKE LIFE DIFFICULT AND CRIME EASY.

    3] SADLY POOHI THINKS THAT UP WAS LAND OF HONEY FOR HER TYPES BUT AFTER YOGIJI IT ISNT SO.

    4] PLEASE JOIN POLITICS

  5. If UP’s 200 million people and Bihar’s 100 million are happy with the current managements, they should extend their terms. Small things like good schools and clean hospitals, law and order, women’s safety, even jobs and prosperity should not distract them. Kahaan sattar saal mein Congress de payee jo ab aspire karna chahiye.

  6. You liberals brought all this on yourself. When you mocked Diwali and praised Ramzan, when you denied Ram and accepted Allah, even today when you mock Hindu festivals and praise Muslim festivals. Keep doing the same. India will win.

    • You must be from Tamilnadu. No where in the country except in TN, Hindu Gods are denigrated by DMK and DK consistently, while they take all the efforts to honour Muslim and Christian festivities. DMK Stalin has not greeted people on Krishna Jeyanthi now. This is just an example. He never greets people on Hindu festivals. Well this time they have played too much and the Judgement day is coming in May 2021.

  7. Why does left (including Congress as it is more left these days that it was at the beginning) always have to set the narrative for Modi and BJP? They have always been transparent with their promises and they fulfilled them too unlike the Congress which is still riding the fake secular and garibi politics. You guys haven’t been able to set your own narrative properly for ages now.

  8. “RAM ” as political slogan is better than rant of pseudo-secularism which had been in dirty political air since the installation of Nehruvian dynasty in 1950-60 s. The party – Congress wanted to make India –A SOCIALIST -state since its Avadi session of 1956 , like erst-while USSR . but failed miserably. Then it invented the slogan of GARIBI HATAO – Remove poverty– in 1971 , But its policies failed to remove mass poverty , illiteracy, rather country was burdened with corruption , inefficiency , use and enjoyment of authority without responsibility. Defense of India, internal security , fight against Jihadi forces , left to sweet will of forces inimical to India and Indian people. Only way to capture power was / is to develop and maintain a clever army of pliable media-men who will sing songs of greatness of the FAMILY – whereas most of common people can not see even an iota of worth .

  9. The left wing cabal & Congress eco-system is hurting! You guys backed the wrong horse (donkey is a better description of your candidate).

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