Hindutva and Hate
The BJP is banking on communal polarization and the speculative Modi factor to cross the lowly 10-seat mark in the 2014 elections in UP
Pradeeep Kapoor Lucknow
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi realizes that if he has to become prime minister then the BJP should get more than 40 Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh. Also, Modi is aware of the cliché that the route to power at the Centre goes through UP which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha. Indeed, it is to be seen as to how Modi and his ‘team’ are able to negotiate the tricky and complicated terrain of entrenched caste politics in UP.
In 1998, the BJP came to power and Atal Behari Vajpayee became the prime minister because the party won 59 seats in UP with a vote share of more than 30 per cent. A majority of the ‘upper/forward castes’ reportedly voted for the BJP.
Modi has put his lieutenant Amit Shah, in charge of the BJP’s campaign in UP. Shah is an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife, Kausarbi, and Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case in which some of the top cops of Modi are in jail. Shah, a former minister of state (home) in Gujarat, has done a stint in jail, in the case. His name has figured in the other encounters too, notably in call records where he has been in direct touch with the cops who engineered the killings.
The BJP hopes to take advantage of a speculation that if Modi is fielded from Lucknow or Varanasi then it will help to polarize votes
Soon after taking over as the BJP general secretary in charge of UP affairs, Shah arrived in Lucknow and asked the party’s leaders to concentrate on building the organization at the booth level. He asked them to ‘adopt’ a polling booth each to ensure maximum turnout of voters on polling day. (There are an estimated 1.72 lakh polling booths in UP.) According to a party functionary, Shah directed them to collect a donation of at least Rs 1,000 per booth in order to make the organization at the booth level self-reliant. That Shah meant business became clear when he told them that he would spend 20 days in UP in a month and tour
However, in UP, since the Vajpayee days, the party has been in steady decline. It bagged only 10 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, even while the Congress, miraculously, won 21 seats. In the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP barely secured 15 per cent of the total votes polled and won a shamefully low 47 seats. It finished second in 55 assembly constituencies, third in 110 seats, and fourth in 123 seats. Significantly, its candidates forfeited their deposits in 229 assembly seats.
During his recent visit to Ayodhya, Shah openly indulged in politics of sectarian and communal revivalism yet again. He visited the makeshift Ram temple. He met leaders known for their hardline Hindutva agenda; they made it apparent that it will be their endeavour to project Modi as a mix of Mandal and ‘kamandal’. Modi belongs to the Ghanchi backward caste and is an aggressive symbol of Hindutva. The shadow of the Gujarat carnage of 2002 haunts him constantly.
In Lucknow, Shah met Kalyan Singh who was the chief minister of UP at the time of the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992. He was given the additional responsibility to guide the party’s campaign in the state. Singh is the undisputed leader of the Lodhs, a backward community, and he can transfer the Lodh Rajput votes in favour of the BJP in about a dozen constituencies in central UP. Shah also met Vinay Katiyar, a Kurmi leader, also a leading light of the Bajrang Dal in the pre and post-violence polarization after the
The BJP hopes to take advantage of a speculation that if Modi is fielded as its Lok Sabha candidate from Lucknow or Varanasi then it will help to polarize votes, ‘electrify’ and enthuse the party workers, all at once. The party feels that it could improve its fortunes in the neighbouring constituencies, too. If the BJP is to be believed, communal polarization is imminent, given that the state has witnessed over 100 incidents of low intensity communal violence under the Akhilesh Yadav government. There have been eight incidents of full-blown communal clashes, which could help the BJP, too.
At a time when the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are wooing the powerful Brahmin community by organizing ‘sammelans’, the BJP is working on beefing up Modi’s image as the face of Hindutva and ‘development’, despite the ‘Gujarat model’ proving to be a ‘farce’ manufactured by Modi’s formidable PR machinery. The Brahmins had played an important role in ensuring the victory of the BSP in 2007. The erosion of the Brahmin vote, coupled with the tussle between Vajpayee and Kalyan Singh, had ensured that the BJP’s tally fell from 58 in 1998 to 27 in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls.
The Brahmins voted for the BJP largely due to Vajpayee and the Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement. When they realized that the party was not giving prominence to Brahmins and it was not committed to build the temple, they deserted it, and instead voted for the Congress or the BSP. Ramesh Dixit, a political observer based in Lucknow, feels that the BJP may gain seats due to a combination of communal polarization and division in secular votes. However, Brahmins can be expected to vote tactically, much like the minorities, in terms of swinging it for the leading/winning party.
There is resentment among the upper-caste Thakurs, too. The ouster of ‘bahubali and don’ Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya from the SP government over allegations of his involvement in the murder of a police officer has demoralized the dominant community. He was not reinstated as a minister in the recent expansion of the council of ministers. However, if BJP president Rajnath Singh, a Thakur, is projected as a contender for the post of prime minister, then, it is widely believed, the Thakurs could join hands with the BJP.
Another powerful Thakur leader, Mahant Adityanath, has asked Modi to contest from his constituency. Adityanath is a BJP MP from Gorakhpur known for his extremist Hindutva views. He is the chief of the Hindu Yuva Vahini and wields considerable influence in eastern UP. The mahant believes that Modi need only file his nomination from Gorakhpur; his victory is a foregone conclusion even if he does not have the time to campaign in his constituency.
The BJP and its Sangh Parivar affiliates are working overtime to attract the youth, which constitutes 55 per cent of the electorate, by selling the ‘Gujarat model’. A BJP spokesman, Vijay Pathak, says that the social media is being used to address the concerns of youth, especially in urban areas, and to highlight the failures of the UPA government in the last 10 years, and the SP and the erstwhile BSP governments in the state.
Standard BJP issues like Muslim appeasement with regards to discrimination in compensation and financial grant to Muslim women and withdrawal of cases against innocent Muslims branded as terrorists have been raked up. In what is termed focused campaigning, Pathak claims that the party will give more importance to the 10 seats won by it in 2009, the 10 seats where it was placed second, and the 30 seats where it was placed third. When asked about the list of candidates, Pathak said that it will be announced in due course; but the campaigning has already begun.
There have been eight incidents of full-blown communal clashes, which could help the BJP
Leaders such as Kalraj Mishra, MLA from Lucknow, MLA Hukum Singh and Uma Bharti have expressed the desire to contest the parliamentary elections. For the first time in UP, the list of candidates might be finalized by Modi on the basis of the report prepared by his team led by Shah.
Using its politics of communal polarization, the BJP will be concentrating on western UP because 24 Lok Sabha constituencies in this region have a strong presence by the Muslim community. Surendra Rajput, a political observer in Saharanpur, points out that the Muslims in this area constitute 18 to 45 per cent of the electorate.
BJP leader Chandramohan claims that there is a “resurgence of Hindus”. He says that in the 2012 assembly polls the party had won half of the seats from this region; in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, out of the 10 seats, five were won from western UP. The BJP’s calculation is that the division of Muslim votes between the BSP, SP, Congress and Lok Dal, and the sectarian polarization of Hindus, especially the upper castes, will benefit the BJP.