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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 16 New Delhi April 6, 2019

Ominous Scenario, Essential Task

Sunday 7 April 2019, by SC


As the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections hots up, the two star campaigners of the ruling BJP—PM Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah—are spouting venom against the Opposition leaders and simultaneously seeking to polarise the voters along communal lines. In the process the issue of development has not only been relegated into the background but actually vanished from the BJP’s electoral propaganda in the face of the muscular anti-Pakistan, and by implication anti-Muslim, rhetoric that now occupies the centre-stage.

Of course, it would be incorrect to conclude that this is a sudden transformation. The process had begun five years ago during the 2014 election campaign itself. As Anjali Modi, in her latest article in (‘Modi-Shah’s polarising poll speeches aren’t mere rhetoric—they fuel real violence on the ground’), writes:

....the last five years have been transformational for India.... As the country wades into another election campaign, we risk losing sight of the fact that this transformation began with the Lok Sabha election campaign in 2014...

Although ‘vikas’ or ‘development’ was purportedly the BJP’s main election plank in 2014, one of the recurrent themes of Modi’s election campaign was the claim that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Govern-ment at the Centre supported the slaughter of cows and promoted the beef trade.

“This country wants a Green Revolution,” Modi said in a speech in Bihar in April 2014. “.... But those at the Centre want a ‘Pink Revolution’. Do you know what it means? When animals are slaughtered, the colour of their flesh is pink.... There are many big slaughterhouses in the country. The government is not willing to provide subsidy to a person who keeps a cow, but if a person wants to set up a slaughterhouse, he gets assistance.”...

Modi has been mocked for referring to himself in the third person during his speeches—but in the BJP narrative, he personifies India. In his last speech in Parliament, on February 7 (2019),.... Modi declared with characteristic hubris: “In hating Modi, the Opposition has begun to hate the nation.”...

At the end of five years, the Modi-Shah project has left Indians with a rising graph of targeted communal violence, a palpable fear of violence, the projection of the political Opposition and argumentative Indians as the enemy, the normalisation of hate speech, and coarseness as the dominant language of politics.

It has also left us with a TV nation, which includes critics of the BJP, asking: “But, other than Modi, who else is there?”

It is true that there is no one other than Modi who can make the same poisonous speeches over and over again and still be called a great orator. It is true that there is no one else in India who can lie with such felicity in order to project his political rivals as enemies. It is true that there is no one else who can channel people’s low self-esteem to make victimhood his battle cry....

The country is faced with an existential crisis—a pluralist, inclusive India is defending itself against a majoritarian hate-filled “New India”. The Modi-Shah-led BJP language of violence, we have seen these past five years, is quickly translated into actual violence in pursuit of the party’s political goals. Whatever the outcome of the coming elections, this is not going to change.

Anjali also does not fail to recall that Modi had, during the 2014 election campaign, “called former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ‘a former Vice-President’ (Hamid Ansari) fifth columnists who were conspiring with Pakistan to interfere in Indian elections....” This is precisely what he is saying against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi (and also other Opposition leaders, notably TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee) today.

The concluding paragraph of Anjali’s analysis highlights a matter of grave anxiety. That is also why it is so essential to defeat the BJP in the coming elections and remove the Modi-Shah duo from power.

April 4 S.C.

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