Many tend to compartmentalize the BJP’s use of the development card, the law and order card, and the Hindu card and treat them as distinct platforms. This ignores how cleverly the BJP often juxtaposes all three into a common narrative. And in this process, it is happy to use what it knows to be lies. Take the other issues it raised in western UP.
The party claimed Hindus were insecure in Kairana in western UP because of Muslim gangsters, that they had to flee because of this fear and that Kairana had become the ‘new Kashmir’. All independent fact-finding teams found the claims untrue; migration that had taken place was in the search of better opportunities. Once again, like the narrative of Muslims as the lucky ones in Muzaffarnagar or Muslims as the criminals in Amroha, the narrative of the Muslim as the gangster and the Hindu as the forced migrant in Kairana was spread, even though it was just as untrue. Through the WhatsApp groups – and the BJP Lucknow office itself ran over 800 such groups – and social media, particularly Facebook, a narrative of ‘Hindu insecurity’ was constructed. A party leader, when confronted with the fact that this was just not true, admitted to me, “Bhai saheb, that does not matter. The point is to show we are the victims. This will get Hindus angry. They will then realize they have to unite against the Muslims.”
A similar narrative was built up about illegal slaughterhouses, and how it had been promoted by the pro-Muslim SP government. The official spin was that this was linked to law and order, to environment and hygiene, to abiding by laws and municipal norms. But the same leader candidly admitted the underlying calculation: “When you think of these slaughterhouses, what images come to your mind? I think of Muslim butchers, cow slaughter and blood on the streets. I think of how the Muslims have taken over our public life, how they are destroying our culture and lifestyle, of how there are chicken and meat shops everywhere, and how they have become rich doing this. By raising it, we want to wake up the Hindu, get him angry.”
But the most dubious narrative that the BJP and its ideological affiliates spread across UP – and even in other parts of the country – was that of ‘love jihad’. The term had gained currency during the Muzaffarnagar riots, when Sangh activists pushed the theory that Muslim boys used tricks and lies to woo Hindu girls, entrapped them into relationships and converted them. This was, they argued, ‘demographic aggression’ – it was an organized conspiracy to increase Muslim population and reduce Hindus to a minority. Over the past three years, the theory of ‘love jihad’ had become a part of everyday conversations across west UP.
Truth was again irrelevant to the claim. There was, first, no proof that inter-religious relationships and marriages had indeed increased. Two, even if they had increased, there was no evidence that this was part of any ‘organized’ Muslim conspiracy. It may have been a function of growing interaction between young adults of different religions in secular spaces like universities and markets in a region which had a mixed population. And three, the entire construct – as multiple false cases and allegations showed – was a patriarchal attempt to control women from having agency.
Excerpted from “How The BJP Wins” by Prashant Jha, published by Juggernaut. You can read the book here