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Modi’s Dog- whistle politics creates concerns in Bangladesh

By TANYA MAHENDRU

Thu May 08, 2014

A-widelyInner

NEW DELHI: After BJP’s ‘Modifesto’ was released on April 7, the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra has not shied away from trumping out at numerous rallies, that India must welcome Hindus because of their ‘Indianness’ and deport Muslim migrants, read Bangladeshis.

“Those who were India’s sons, who love India, who celebrate Durgashtami and speak Bengali, they should be treated in exactly the same way as the sons of India” and others, the “infiltrators”, who come here as part of “vote bank politics” and steal jobs from Indians.

Dog-whistle politics is a deprecatory form of messaging using coded language that means one thing to the general populace but has an undercurrent or particular echo for a targeted subgroup. It refers to the ultrasonic whistle that dogs can hear but which is inaudible to human beings.

And dog-whistle politics is precisely what Modi is being condemned of embracing. If he explicitly says that only Hindus were Indians and India belonged foremost to Hindus, the denunciation would come not only from other political parties, but from the Election Commission and a large sea of voters. So taking the route of dog-whistle politics permits the polarizing message to reach the voters without the BJP having to unveil the communal drape, a move that suits him and the sentiments of his party best.

“I dare you to touch Bangladeshis,” is what West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has to say on the issue. According to her, Modi is playing divisive politics in her state which borders Bangladesh. “Who is he to oust Bangladeshis? He is nobody,” Banerjee, chief of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), said.

In his speeches in West Bengal, the Gujarat chief minister has blazoned out, palpably indeed, that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants should keep their bags packed after May 16, the day of the Lok Sabha results. “BJP’s position is very clear. Vote bank politics has destroyed the country. Those who are Bangladeshi infiltrators, will have to go back,” he said on May 4 in Bankura.

“You are spreading the red carpet for vote bank politics. If people come from Bihar, they are outsiders to you. If people come from Odisha, they are outsiders to you. But if some Bangladeshi comes, your face seems to shine. This country cannot run like this. We won’t allow you to destroy the country for the sake of your vote bank politics,” he said, accusing Mamata’s TMC of using Bangladeshi migrants as a “vote bank.”

BJP’s election campaign led by Modi’s has been creating ripples across the subcontinent in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also expressed unease over the BJP prime ministerial candidate’s statement over Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’.

Although the Bangladesh government did not issue any official reaction to Modi’s statement, Hasina said such statements did not contribute to bilateral ties and could spoil relations between the future Indian government and Bangladeshi citizens.

Under the UPA government, India has extended more support than most countries towards Hasina’s Awami League (AL) administration and its victory in the general elections. The support goes back 40 years when Indira Gandhi helped Bangladesh gain independence from Islamabad in 1971 after India defeated Pakistan. Hasina’s father Mujibur Rahman then became the first president of Bangladesh.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was left enfeebled after AL’s belligerent win. Modi, though, has given the BNP a disguised opportunity to protest against the government with his curt comments on Bangladeshi migrants.

The BJP manifesto made it clear “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus
and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.” Though, Modi’s explicitly abrasive statements, though, could reinforce the anti-India extremist groups in Bangladesh and the minorities would have to face the wrath.

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