Why Isn’t Hate Listed on The BJP’s Manifesto? It Seems to Be The Only Thing Its Politicians Have to Offer
Over the years, the BJP has created an entire vocabulary—anti-national, tukde tukde gang, urban naxal, infiltrator—to nurture this narrative.
“We will make knowledge exchange and transfer of technology for the development of all countries a major focus of our diplomatic relations.” “Infrastructure construction will lead to more job creation.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) manifesto is full of brilliant platitudes such as these. But the real big-ticket advantage of India’s ruling political party—not listed in its manifesto but clearly visible in the speeches of its leaders and on the official Twitter handle of the party @BJP4India is its ability to marshal hate and us vs them divisiveness for electoral gains.
Over the years the party has created an entire vocabulary—anti-national, tukde tukde gang, urban naxal, infiltrator—to nurture this narrative. The Sangh Parivar is the only true caretaker of Indian Pride in a vision where India equals Hindu. Hindus are a minority in Wayanad and that’s why Congress President Rahul Gandhi picked this constituency, Chowkidar Narendra Modi said recently.
Using “Pakistan” and “infiltrator” as a replacement word for “Muslim” is a tried and tested tactic. “Our opposition leaders are now heroes in Pakistan, where their speeches are quoted, their statements used freely by the leadership there to discredit India: PM Modi #ModiHiAayega”, “Congress and JDS are against the nationalists. They stand with people who are anti-India and raise ‘Break India’ slogans,” the party tweeted recently.
While on the subject of Pakistan, the party’s handle didn’t highlight the fact that its Prime Minister Imran Khan believes there may be a better chance of peace talks with India if the BJP wins. Print founder Shekhar Gupta says in his Business Standard column that when PV Narasimha Rao found himself in a somewhat similar situation in the early 1990s he targeted insurgency and, later, ignored Pakistan in the 1996 campaign. “He was too wise to give Pakistan such importance in domestic politics. He had too much strategic wisdom to appreciate that such cynical politics would gift Pakistan the one power it never had: Influence on Indian elections.”
Juxtaposing Hindu and Muslim festivals (Eid vs Diwali is an oft repeated classic) is a speciality of the BJP. Hate is custom-made for each state. When you’re in Karnataka, for example, you can position Tipu Sultan—once a favourite of the party’s Karnataka leaders—against anything. “They have money for the festival of sultan, but they fall short of money for the Hampi festival: PM @narendramodi #ModiHiAayega,” the party tweeted.
The overall, arching theme is clearly voiced hatred for India’s nearly 200 million Muslim citizens. “We will ensure implementation of NRC in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs: Shri @AmitShah #NaMoForNewIndia.” This was the party president speaking in Darjeeling. The hate was helpfully highlighted by the party on Twitter.
— BJP (@BJP4India) April 11, 2019
The NRC is the National Register of Citizens in Assam, a controversial document that supposedly holds the names of all “genuine citizens” in this state. “Mamata didi is spreading lies about the NRC. Gorkhas don’t have fear it as it’s going to target the infiltrators and not the genuine citizens of India: Shri @AmitShah #NaMoForNewIndia,” the party tweeted Shah’s speech. Shah linked his custom-made reassurance to the historic patriotism of this hill people.
“If you follow Assam’s standard,” Guwahati based lawyer Aman Wadud tweeted, “to get your name included in the NRC you need to prove your citizenship. The cut off date of citizenship for rest of India (except Assam) is 26 November, 1949. How many of you have docs prior to 26 Nov 1949? Can Amit Shah prove his citizenship?”
This time five years ago, the Election Commission had issued an order to all its chief electoral officers, directing them to promptly file FIRs against politicians who were making hate speeches. The EC had asked them to submit daily reports on such speeches in their area of jurisdiction.
Shah was banned from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh for a few days during the last election after he told voters that the 2014 general election was a chance for the Jat community to seek “revenge for the insult” inflicted in the Muzaffarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh the previous year. The Uttar Pradesh police lodged an FIR in Bijnor against Shah for promoting enmity but voters seemed convinced by this narrative and the BJP was never disincentivized to stop hate speech.
These days though, it seems like it’s easier for politicians to be hateful and get away with it. Thus far the EC has issued some notices but it remains to be seen if it will go beyond writing letters to hateful politicians.
Meanwhile, Chowkidar Maneka Gandhi joined the long list of BJP MLAs and MPs who have promoted divisiveness and hate these past few years with her speech warning that if Muslims don’t vote for her she will not do anything for them.
After targeting and bullying minorities through its term, the BJP thinks it knows how this set of Indians will vote. But has the party’s hate blinded it from analysing how the rest of India will vote?