BJP Election campaign: Developmental agenda as a pretext for stirring Hate campaign

His (Modi’s) strategy is becoming increasingly clear; he wants to divide the people of India along religious lines and to communalize them for his narrow political objective, says the author.

Modi’s Public Relations campaign has been in high gear for several years trumpeting his economic agenda and Gujarat’s development stories as the Chief Minister was preparing for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In the early part of the campaign, the Gujarat model of development portrayed Mr. Narendra Modi as someone who is so unique compared to his contemporary peers in politics when it comes to dynamism and visionary leadership.

He would even go to places like Kerala, a state far ahead of Gujarat in its Human Development Index to advocate his so-called prescription to cure all ills; i.e., the Modi’s model of development. The ‘fourth estate’, that is supposed to be objective in their reporting and analysis, faithfully repeated his every word and pretty much gave him a pass. However, something happened along the way as people began to take a serious look at the real picture of development and found Modi and BJP to be woefully short of their pronouncements.

Rahul Gandhi was compelled to make a sarcastic reference to the development in Gujarat calling it a ‘Tofee Model’ as it has benefited only one industrialist in the state, ignoring the interests of the farmers and the poor. “Land of Aurangabad’s size…45,000 acres…has been given for a mere Rs. 300 crore. This is toffee model not Gujarat model. For Rs. 1, you get a toffee here. There land was sold at Rs. 1 per meter…it was the land of the poor and the farmers,” Mr. Gandhi said. Obviously, what is practiced in Gujarat under Modi is crony capitalism helping an Industrialist like Adani at the expense of the Dalits, minorities, women, children, small businesses, tribals and poor farmers.

That explains how the Modi campaign coffers are loaded with funds from these crony capitalists to the tune of 10,000 crore. That is more than President Barack Obama spent on his entire Presidential campaign with one big difference,Mr. Obama had to declare every penny of it. India, under the UPA I and UPA II has tripled the Gross National product and created more wealth and value for business than anytime in history. However, Modi’s desire to favor one or two business houses and to practice crony capitalism truly makes a mockery of the industriousness of the people of Gujarat and might even be questioning their commercial business acumen.

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Now that Modi’s Campaign has realized that the incumbent can no longer defend his record on the contested Gujarat model of development,Modi is resorting more to personal attacks on the Gandhi family or playing the communal cards through his surrogates. His constant reference to Rahul Gandhi as ‘shehzada’ is demeaning to the political discourse and shows the mindset of a man who is angry and abusive to the opposition. He has also embarked upon making a mockery of Sonia Gandhi’s campaigning for Rahul Gandhi to the amusement of his audience. Obviously, this election has lost an element of decorum that was prevalent among the political parties in the past. The authoritarian nature of the man and his attributes are on public display all throughout this campaign. His strategy is becoming increasingly clear; he wants to divide the people of India along religious lines and to communalize them for his narrow political objectives.

In a recent interview Rahul Gandhi remarked ‘The core philosophy of the BJP has always had a strong communal and centralizing tendency. It is an ideology that seeks to perpetuate status quo which makes it impossible for the poor and the disadvantaged to rise above their stations through hard work. Under the current BJP leadership, this ideology has acquired a particularly virulent character. It has shed any semblance of respect for the democratic, secular and inclusive fabric of our nation. It is a politics of hubris, anger, and divisiveness. The BJP manifesto and [the] recent statements of senior leaders of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar clearly suggest that this is indeed the direction they are taking. Tolerance and mutual respect appears to have little place in their thought process”.

Some of the recent outbursts of the BJP leaders and its affiliates manifest and reveal their true intentions very well. Pravin Togadia, President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) ignited a firestorm with his statement that Muslims should be evicted from Hindu areas. On camera, at a gathering in a house in Bhavanagar, Gujarat, Pravin Togadia is seen offering advice on how to prevent Muslims from buying properties where Hindus are a majority. “We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them”, Mr. Togadia says. The VHP is a key constituent of the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organizations that includes BJP.

Togadia also told the gathering that another option was to occupy a Muslim’s property by force and knit the owner in a legal case that could take years to resolve. At a rally in Mumbai on April 21st, just a few minutes before Mr. Modi arrived, Ramdas Kadam, a leader from Shiva Sena said to the large crowd, “Narendra Modi will destroy Pakistan within six months if he comes to power”. Mr. Kadam’s party, the Shiva Sena, is the oldest ally of the BJP which declared Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate. After Mr. Modi arrived at the venue with Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Kadam continued with his inflammatory rhetoric “if 5 lakh Muslims can gather at the Azad Maidan, desecrate memorials, attack policemen and molest policewomen…Narendra Modi will teach them a lesson”.

Lok Sabha candidate Giriraj Singh in a campaign stop on April 18 at Bokaro and Deoghar in Jharkhand stated that those who oppose Narendra Modi ‘will only have place in Pakistan’. Mr. Singh is running on a BJP ticket from Nawada in Bihar. An FIR was filed against Mr. Singh by the election commission and issued the following statement; “the commission has particularly noted that part of his public utterance that voters who do not vote for Modi shall have to find their place in Pakistan, is totally violative of the principles of the Indian constitution…”

Mr. Amit Shah, the campaign manager for Modi in Western U.P. said the following “The elections in Uttar Pradesh, especially in western Uttar Pradesh, is an election for honour, for seeking revenge for the insult, and for teaching a lesson to those who committed injustice,” Mr. Shah told a gathering of Jats on Thursday in Shamli, one of the worst-affected areas in the riots. Interestingly, the 50-year-old was flanked by BJP legislator Suresh Rana, who is one of those accused of inciting tension between Jats and Muslims during the riots. Kapil Sibal, Law Minister of India, at a press conference, recently read out the excerpts from a CBI report accusing Mr. Shah for complicity in the triple murders of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsi Ram Prajapati.

As per the CBI report, Mr. Sibal added that there is strong circumstantial evidence which suggests that Shah is involved in the “murders”. “Amit Shah, accused in three murder cases, is leading Narendra Modi’s campaign,” Sibal said. “Evidence suggests that Gujarat chief minister’s office was directly involved in the 2002 (‘murder’) conspiracy,” Sibal said. Sibal said call records show that an OSD in the chief minister’s office, Parag Shah, was in constant touch with suspended IPS officers DG Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian. Shah was an OSD in Modi’s office between 2003 and 2008. “I am just producing documents before you (journalists), I want to know why this investigation has not been carried forward,” Sibal added. Modi on his part has never apologized for his inaction during the Gujarat riots.

In an interview to Reuters, Modi refuted allegations that he had failed to do enough to stop hundreds of Muslims from being killed in his state in 2002, during his first term as chief minister. When asked if he regretted the violence, Mr. Modi responded, “If someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is.” If this is how a leader of the BJP who is a prime ministerial candidate feels and reacts to the suffering of people, what else can be expected from his cohorts! This election is all about choices. It is extremely important for the voters to make the right choices.

The question is whether the Non-Resident Indians would like to see a pluralistic India with an inclusive agenda or a majoritarian regime with a theocratic one? The BJP manifesto gives a glimpse of the Hindutva agenda such as the building of Ram temple; doing away with existing civil codes;changing the status of Kashmir; banning cow slaughter; etc. These are camouflaged by the developmental agenda which is ironically almost an identical copy of the Congress manifesto. Rahul Gandhi in a recent interview summarized the points very clearly “We are now faced with a contest between two competing ideas of India. The Congress’ idea of India is about inclusion, decentralization, empowering people and building partnerships for economic growth.

The Opposition’s idea seeks to divide the country on communal lines, capture resources for a select few, and centralized decision-making by putting all power into the hands of one individual. Our opponents want an India, in which there is no place for the poor, no place for those with a different religion or ideology. This is a dangerous idea. It has been the proud legacy of the Congress party to fight and defeat this idea since the birth of our nation.We are committed to continuing this fight”.

For the NRIs who breathe and live by the fresh air of democracy and freedom and enjoy equal opportunities in the United States despite being a small minority, the choice is abundantly clear. They ought to hope for a vibrant and thriving democratic India that can be an equal partner with United States in a challenging global arena defending human rights, freedom and justice for all.

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