Failed to implement its promises it had made in the run-up to the 16th Lok Sabha elections, the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is back to whipping up national sentiments in order to evade real “bread and butter” issues facing the people.
In its editorial on 3 April 2019, The Indian Express observed apprehensions over the Prime Minister’s remarks made in Wardha, Maharashtra, for targeting the Congress for coining the term “Hindu terror” and invoking the specter of “Hindu anger”, and politicizing the last month’s acquittal of Assemanand and some other members of alleged radical Hindu outfits by a Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Panchkula, Haryana. The PM brushed off the court’s anguish while letting the accused off, pointing that the NIA withheld the key evidence against the accused.
The brazen polarization of the electorates, on the lines of the religion and the binary of majority versus minority, by the ruling party is in full swing with an overt disregard to the ethos of the democratic polity. There have been cases where the BJP politicians have been seen overtly garlanding the lynching accused and sharing the stage with the accused of the serious crimes such as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister sharing the stage with the Dadri lynching accused in which a family was attacked for allegedly storing beef in their refrigerator. This reflects the party in poor light and shows its desperation to capture power by hook and crook.
The Bhartiya Janata Party rode to power with the development as its main poll-plank and inclusive growth for all Indians. But an honest stocktaking of its five-year stint would reveal a complete failure on all fronts. Besides, the party employs diversionary tactics to deal with real issues and tackle its opponents. The party, interestingly, never shies away in branding its competitors as anti-nationals who, it reiterates, need to be packed off to Pakistan.
One and a half month ago, the party was reeling under the combined onslaught of the opposition and the civil society for its alleged irregularities in the purchase of the Rafale Fighter Jets from France. The sudden terror strike in Pulwama in February and subsequent Indian Air Force strike in Pakistan’s Balakot region turned the tables for the party leading to a complete change in the national discourse. The party managed to change the narrative from internal failures to external security dynamics vis-a-vis Pakistan. This led many to perceive that the BJP had a pragmatic and hard-nosed approach when it comes to the security and integrity of the country.
In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the radical groups embarked on a free spree to target Kashmiri students across the country harassing and abusing them for more than a week till the apex court intervened, acting upon a plea filed by advocate Tariq Adeeb. Much later, though, Ram Madhav, BJP’s general secretary echoed the sentiments of the top court declaring that all Kashmiris are ours and they need to be won by love and the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
One month later, the party raised the issue of the contentious Article 35A well before elections. On March 28, 2019, Mr. Arun Jaitley, the finance minister in the NDA government, wrote a Facebook post and observed the following: “Article 35A was surreptitiously included by a Presidential Notification in the Constitution in 1954. It was neither a part of the original Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly nor did it come as a Constitutional Amendment under Article 368 of the Constitution which requires approval by a two-third majority of both Houses of Parliament. It came as a Presidential Notification and is a surreptitious executive insertion in the Constitution”.
One could argue that this is his personal opinion but the timing of it indicates a clear political move intended possibly to stoke sentiments and divert the nation’s attention on issues which could be dealt with post elections. A few days later, another statement was made by Party president Amit Shah observing that Article 35 A can be abrogated by 2020. One wonders why the party is issuing such political statements when the case is sub judice.
On April 2, the Congress released its manifesto which, to a great extent, reflected the real issues including its flagship ‘Nyay scheme’ which promises 6000 rupees a month for the bottom 20 percent of the poor population(though experts have reservations on its realization), filling vacancies in the Central Government, Central Public Sector Enterprises, Judiciary and Parliament by March 2020, creating around one million jobs in Gram Panchayats and urban municipal bodies, doubling education and health expenditure etc. Immediately it came under attack by the ruling regime with the finance minister alleging that some of the important points of the manifesto were drafted by Rahul Gandhi’s friend in tukde tukde gang, and the manifesto was meant to divide the country.
The BJP should, no doubt, be focused on external and internal security environment and should draft a realistic policy which could tackle the existing challenges the country faces, but it should devote considerable efforts in handling the issues which are being faced by the farmers and the youth of this country whose aspirations are being undermined under the current regime which is excessively focused on hyper-nationalism and majoritarian culture at the expense of the “bread and butter” concerns of the people.
The Congress manifesto may fail to yield the desired results and may fail to be implemented properly but it has accomplished one thing for sure; it has brought the focus back to the real issues.