By Arun Srivastava
Coinciding with the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh an US intelligence report presented to the US senate select committee by Dan Coats, director of national intelligence had cautioned that India could see a spike in religious violence ahead of the general elections. Fortunately no major religious violence took place, but Pulwama massacre of the security personnel definitely took place and it provided sufficient opportunity to Narendra Modi to systematically harp on Hindu nationalist themes.
Coats had also criticised Modi for degrading the country’s religious harmony. The report also mentioned, “Hindu nationalist state leaders might view a Hindu-nationalist campaign as a signal to incite low-level violence to animate their supporters. Increasing communal clashes could alienate Indian Muslims and allow Islamist terrorist groups in India to expand their influence.” After coming to power Modi has been systematically giving rise to a strong contingent of Hindu mercenaries by patronizing mob lynching and other form of violence.
The clout of this section of the people could be gauged from the simple fact that they do not allow others to speak rationale or point to the ground realities. The situation has come to such a stage where their views dictate even the functioning of the government. Pursuing this mode of politics has substantially increased the support of the party.
Yet another report predicted that relations between India and Pakistan will strain when the elections will be held. It also expressed apprehension that terrorist attacks and cross-border firing will increase. This prophecy appears to be true. During the last six months cross border terrorism and violation of ceasefire have been taking place at large scale. This has provided the much needed ammunition to ignite the obsession of nationalism.
Aftermath of Pulwama, the Congress on its own adopted a low profile, as a result of which its campaign visibly lost steam, while both Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah crisscrossed the country seeking the party’s return to power. Congress is seeking to catch up only now. The Congress nursed the view that during this period of crisis the issue of nationalism must get wider support. But this proved to be major strategical failure of the party. Congress pointing to the loop holes in the government clarification was presented as its anti-military stance.
There was no doubt the Congress would perform better and may even emerge as the single largest party in Lok Sabha, but its sheer lack of perception and how to use the situation to its advantage forced it to adopt a defensive posture. The confusion prevailing in the party on this issue blunted the sharpness of the poll strategy needed to beat an opponent like the BJP.
Just a month left for culmination of the electoral battle, BJP is desperately trying to convert the election into a referendum on the nationalism. The air strike in Pakistan following the Pulwama massacre of the security personnel provided the much needed occasion. The fact of the matter is at one stage the BJP and Modi government were hesitant of making it an election issue. He had started projecting the gains of his government. But they soon realized that this shift would show up the failures of the government in agriculture sector, creating jobs, manufacturing sector and ameliorating the condition of the poor.
But realising that the prevailing economic situation would start questioning the veracity of Modi’s claim, the BJP strategically shifted to the agenda of nationalism and security of the country, the two highly sensitive and emotional issues. The impression was being created that this has the support of the people of the country, but the fact remains that the RSS and BJP guys have been creating the hype.
Though the opposition leaders claim that they have not reduced the election to Modi versus all, the fact remains that this is the only agenda. Unemployment is acute. Such situation has not emerged during the last 46 years. There has been all round decline in the economic activities. It is not that trade unions have become dormant. But it is irony the political parties do not find time and interest in these issues. The opposition could have built a strong popular movement on these issues. But they lack will. They are in the stupor.
The opposition has miserably failed to build it campaign on whether Modi has delivered on his promises on jobs and economy. The BJP utterly failed to curb corruption and black marketing. A number of scams have taken place, but opposition failed to build a movement and involve the common people in their fight. At one stage it appeared that plight of the peasants and farmers would become the key electoral issue but the opposition failed to give a direction and dynamics. The worst has been the failure on the agrarian front. Rafale deal got buried into the ashes of the martyrs.
While BJP and Modi have been taking affront to opposition questioning the veracity of its nationalists claims, in contrasts the BJP has been ruthlessly using nationalism and patriotism. It is primarily being done to deflect attention from the failure of its government. The opposition particularly the Congress preferred not to raise the issue of Pulawama and air strike as a mark of respect to the soldiers killed in Pulawama. But shockingly Modi and BJP continued to exploit it. The party used the photographs of the soldiers and army fatigues.
The BJP is trying to prove its patriotism. History of the ideologues of the BJP explicitly makes it clear that they did not participate in the freedom movement. I wonder; is it the Indian voters are so naïve not to understand and realize that the BJP has been using the nationalism for promoting its political mission? RSS and BJP have been using nationalism to alter the idea of India. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma rightly pointed out; “For the first time, the danger is not because of (the government’s) failures and deficiencies. The threat comes from the agenda and policies of the ruling party. Even on national security, the people are asking why there has been such a massive increase in the martyrdom of our soldiers since Narendra Modi took over.”
There is little doubt that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will seek political mileage from the air strikes in Pakistani territory on February 26 after the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama.
While the CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “In these elections Indians will vote against the assault on their livelihood; against the rupture of social harmony & against the degradation of sublime human relationships” the fact cannot be denied that CPI(M) too was in the state of confusion on air strike and relating it with Indian nationalism. It could not use the Marxist dialectics to analyse the situation and act. (IPA Service)