WHEN HATRED AND COMMUNAL POLITICS IS MAINSTREAMED, REASON TAKES A BACKSEAT
By: BILAL AHMAD NAIK
In the same newspaper on December 13, 2018 I wrote that, “December 11 results have ensured that every rise has a fall and the fall of communal politics has just begun. Now the elections will be fought on the basis of real issues and concerns of the people. It marks a paradigm shift in Indian politics”. But I was quick to add that “it will be premature to conclude that this marks the end of politics based on religious lines, though the process has just begun.”
Until February, we were anticipating a normal election to Indian parliament based on simple issues like electricity, roads, water, employment, education and development. Everything was on expected lines and then Pulwama happened. Its bearing on the election needs no explanation. Nothing lasts too long and after a few weeks mainly because of congress’s promise of NYAY Yojana real issues again replaced rhetoric and demagoguery.
After this, the Malegaon terror accused, Pragya Thakur, was released on bail and provided ticket by BJP to contest the elections and now there seems no looking back. It merits mention that it is for the first time that a terror accused is contesting parliament election in India.
Nation, national interest, nationalism and national security have been some of the major planks to woo voters. Nation now stands for Hindu Rashtra, nationalism used as synonym to Hindutva and national interest is the policy of only one party where everything that is not in sync with that party is labeled anti-national. National security has always got space in the speeches of politicians but the hype it has been given in these elections is unprecedented. Attempts have been made to sell it as the only thing people need and unfortunately it has found many buyers.
But the question is how you instill such a jingoistic idea in the minds of a considerable proportion of a country with a population of more than a billion that they prioritize it over everything else. The idea that makes an unemployed youth think that issue of unemployment can be side-lined; a distressed farmer decides that the burden of loan on his shoulders, low price to his produce, suicides of his fellow farmers are trivial issues. The traders and businessmen think that deterrents in their business can be overlooked.
Suddenly you see people saying employment can wait, progress can be compromised but we need safety of our country. Our country should be in safe hands of a powerful government/ leader. We cannot afford a weak leader at this juncture where security of our nation is at stake.
For making people feel concerned about the security of a family, nation or state you must create a mental perception that you can invoke insecurity and people are made to believe that security is the most important concern. In a country like India or Pakistan it is easy to do so as, once located, they then must convey it repeatedly that they are the only ones capable of defend the nation from the assumed enemy. If required they can showcase and advertise their might as well.
This can influence a person at an individual level but that will not serve the requisite purpose. You need it to percolate through substantial proportion of population so that all of them can feel it in the same manner and more importantly react accordingly. For this you must give them a common identity to relate with collectively. Religion serves as the best tool here as it is the major bond between people giving them an identity that binds them together and at the same time makes them feel different and even adversaries of people of other religions.
People are made to believe that no one outside their community can save their identity, culture and nation. It’s this kind of nationalism combined with the anti-incumbency and a fantastic developmental vision that made BJP to occupy Delhi Lutyens in 2014. With the developmental plank falling flat, agrarian distress, inability to keep the tall promises BJP had found itself caught in jitters. After all it’s difficult to make people fall for the same promise again and again.
Getting its strong cadre again emotionally united over the Hindu identity was seeming difficult and at such occasions people like Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, the Melgaon terror accused who is known for her controversial statements and can polarize the voters on religious lines in a jiffy, are introduced in the political arena. The opposition has already fallen into the trap. Within a few days when BJP declared her as parliamentary candidate from Bhopal against congress’s Digvijaya Singh, she has stared earning dividends for them.
BJP has always accused Digvijaya Singh of coining the term ‘Saffron Terror’- A term that has hurt the sentiments of several Hindus who have always associated terrorism in the country with a particular religion. Hence her contesting from this very seat should not be taken as a coincidence. Ever since she has started campaigning, her message is echoing throughout north India, dominating the headlines and polarizing the society. BJP has got the much-needed precursor to galvanize people on emotional grounds and has, to a larger extent, succeeded in diverting the attention of the people from real issues to religion and national security. Can this take them through? We will have to wait till May 23.