Electorates in the five poll bound states are not yet impressed by the political leaders who are making reference to the Israel-Hamas war during their campaigns to exploit their communal sentiments. Dominant issues for them presently relates chiefly to their respective states and performance of their local leaders in the past five years. Yet, the political parties and their leaders go on referring the Israel-Hamas war to whip the communal passions.
Most prominent among the leaders were from the BJP that is currently ruling the Centre. On October 7, the very first day of the Hamas attack on Israel, PM Narendra Modi tweeted on X “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour.” This message was also reposted by the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Following this many RSS-BJP leaders started referring the incident during their election campaigns and telling the people that their party is against “terror” while the opposition parties in INDIA alliance are supporting the “terrorists”.
The latest example is the speech delivered nine days later on October 16by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Huzurabad in Telangana, one of the five poll bound states. He referred to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict as he hit the campaign trail slamming the opposition for their alleged support for Hamas saying “supporting terrorism is a very bad game.”
“Everyone should avoid this (supporting terror). Everyone should be careful about those who have supported terrorism,” he said. What he said is just opposite the fact, since no one has supported the “Hamas” but has supported the “Palestinian people” who happened to be Muslims. Though “Hamas” are also Palestinian people one cannot equate “Hamas” with all “Palestinian”, as one can see even in the government stand made clear by the External Affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi during a press conference that although India stands against terrorism, the government has always believed in the establishment of a “sovereign, independent” Palestine.
“Our policy has been long-standing and consistent. India always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent state of Palestine, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel. I think that position remains the same,” Bagchi had said in a news conference.
Congress and several other political parties have supported the peaceful resolution to the conflict and their support to Palestinian people cannot be equated to a support to “terrorists” as our Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was alleging during BJP’s election rally in Telangana.
The real opposition stand can be seen in the joint statement of political parties made on October 16, after their meeting with the Palestinian envoy, that read “We express our deep concern regarding the ongoing crisis in Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people. We strongly condemn the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians in Gaza by Israel, which we believe amounts to an attempt at genocide.”
If the BJP has supported Israel, and a similar solution to the alleged “Islamic terror” as Israel pursues, the All India Mjlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi has severely criticized Israel and called Israel PM Netanyahu a “devil”. AIMIM is also an important player in Telangana election. They perhaps think that their statement may influence the public opinion and sentiments in their favour, especially of those who have religious, ethnic, or ideological affiliations with either side.
However, Telangana people are not responding to the communal polarisation wishes of the BJP and AIMIM. They are more interested in other local issues relating to the development of Telangana and well-being of their people. That is why BRS and Congress as major political contenders in the state have been focusing on local issues.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was campaigning in election bound state in Mizoram on October 16. He seems to have perceived the public mood that people there were not much interested in Israel-Hamas conflict but in the local issues. That is why he chose to criticise PM Modi and BJP leaders for raising the issue of Israel-Hamas in local election speeches.
“It’s amazing to me that the Prime Minister and the Government of India are so interested in what is happening in Israel but not interested at all in what is happening in Manipur,” he said. “People have been murdered, women have been molested and babies have been killed, but the Prime Minister doesn’t find it important to travel there.”
Even in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, majority of people are not interested in Israel-Hamas issue, but they are being more influenced by the local issues relating to governance and their performance.
In the meantime, ABP-CVoter has come out with a survey result on the possible impact of Israel-Hamas war issue on Vidhan Sabah elections. In Madhya Pradesh, 33.4 per cent of voters surveyed said that there would be no impact, while 31.9 per cent believe it may emerge as a factor favouring BJP and 23.8 per cent believe would benefit Congress.
Among the surveyed people in Rajasthan, 35 per cent believed that the issue would have no impact, 37.3 per cent believed it could emerge as a factor benefiting BJP, while 17.2 per cent said would benefit Congress.
In Chhattisgarh, 37.7 per cent of respondents said that there would be no impact of the issue. However, 31.6 per cent thought it could emerge as a factor and would benefit BJP, followed by 17.9 per cent voting that it can favour the Congress.
As the survey indicates, Israel-Hamas issue has not yet been emerged as a political factor in the Vidhan Sabha elections, and majority believe it could not become a factor either. However, the people having religio-political affiliations on both sides – the BJP and INDIA alliance – hope that it may emerge as a factor. (IPA Service)