In the breathless run up to Narendra Modi‘s anointment as the hope and future of the great republic, we have been repeatedly assured by pundits and rightly of course that most Indians are essentially peace-loving and tolerant by nature and would never allow an egotistical hawk with a bloody history to lead them.
We’re told that only an electoral miracle or extreme religious polarization, like the one witnessed during the Ayodhya upheavals in the 1980s and ’90s could get the BJP or its prime ministerial hopeful past the post.
Even under Vajpayee, a much popular leader with a national appeal because of his relatively liberal image, it took the BJP much political jugglery to come within the striking distance of Delhi. Its best performance till date is 183 seats, in 1999 way short of the 272- majority mark. The post liberalization, 21st century India, it is argued, has moved beyond the cynical mandir-masjid politics.
Indians today are more concerned about bread-and-butter issues, rather than obsess over a temple. Repeatedly conned and exploited over such brazenly expedient issues, people are wiser today.
But are they really? As reports of the madness in Muzaffarnagar, a sleepy district in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous and politically critical province, pour in and death toll continues to mount amidst the army’s presence, I am not so sure. It is like yesterday once again as politicians hurl the country back in time — in the last century.
The politicians wanted a communal conflagration and the state that sends the largest number of lawmakers to Parliament and is home to the largest Muslim population in the country, has delivered once again. Everybody loves a good riot.
A besieged minority being hunted and chased like animals out of villages and towns; Muslim homes, businesses and mosques being burnt as an ineffective, indifferent administration looks on; what is different? We have been here before.
And this is the government of a party that is accused of Muslim appeasement. In fact, since Samajwadi Party returned to power under Akhilesh Yadav, the young son of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav last year, UP has seen hundreds of riots.
As the ‘battle 2014’ heats up, a desperate BJP led by an even more desperate Modi appears hell-bent on raising communal tempers. Without sharply dividing the nation along religious lines, the prospects of capturing Delhi aren’t too bright despite all the help from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Defying the media’s perpetual polishing and brushing up of the legend of Narendra Modi the messiah and the middle classes’ longing for a no-nonsense knight in a shining armor, his past is catching up with the Gujarat satrap. The noose appears to tighten, ever so slowly.
As if all those court cases about the 2002 pogrom and sordid details about a series of staged killings of Muslims weren’t enough, jailed top cop Vanzara, who presided over all those killings, has begun to sing like a canary.
No wonder Modi is getting impatient for a formal nomination as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. On the other hand, this is precisely why many in the BJP, including its tallest leader Advani and popular face Sushma Swaraj, do not cherish the idea. They fear that with Modi at the helm, the party would be politically isolated and may not muster the required numbers.
Already, most of the BJP allies including the Janata Dal United have abandoned it over Modi’s leadership. Even Shiv Sena isn’t excited about the proposition. The National Democratic Alliance has thus been reduced to the BJP and Akali Dal.
Under the circumstances, a storm of communal passions and obtaining polarization is what the Hindutva party is hoping to cook up. Ironically, this is why the Congress too is looking forward to an early declaration of Modi’s candidature for the top job.
Deeply unpopular over corruption, inflation and the mess on economic front, the Congress hopes that the idea of ‘PM Modi’ would scare the voters, especially minorities, into its arms.
One suspects that the wily Mulayam, exploiting Muslims at every opportunity, is hoping to achieve the same in UP. He also nurses the ambition of ruling from Delhi in the event of a third alternative to the Congress and BJP becoming a reality. Else a government endlessly paying tributes to secularism wouldn’t sit around while the state is ravaged by riot after riot.
Meanwhile, it’s ordinary people who become the cannon fodder in this cynical game of power. The Muzaffarnagar riot, easily the bloodiest since Gujarat 11 years ago, isn’t therefore an isolated incident. A method in the madness is apparent.
It’s part of the pattern that has been emerging in UP and elsewhere in the country over the past few months. It’s no coincidence that nearly two decades after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and months before the general elections, the VHP and other rabble-rousers have woken up to their promise to build a temple.
The elaborate VHP show in Ayodhya last month in the presence of saffron-clad ‘sants’ and sadhus amidst loud protestations about Muslim appeasement, Hindu pride and Mughal rule over mother India was frighteningly familiar. It’s as though we are back in those terrifying times and it’s as if India has stood still all these years.
In the run up to the latest of VHP antics, Prashant Panday wrote in the Times of India: “Nothing sounds correct about this yatra. Here’s what is likely to happen. There will be violence in UP. A few innocents could die. The government will be shown to be the villain. TV channels will amplify the violence. It will make every Hindu sit up and take note.
“Every Hindu will feel the only savior is the BJP and vote for the party. That’s what the plan is. It happened that way following 1992. The (VHP) yatra is tailor-made to help the BJP. For the SP and Congress, it’s a no-win situation. All in all, this is a political masterstroke, one that is bound to succeed for the BJP.”
So, Muzaffarnagar may just be the beginning. There could be more fireworks on Modi’s way to Delhi. Interestingly, BJP’s Hukum Singh, facing charges over his role in Muzaffarnagar, in media interviews recounted his own horror at the ‘rage’ seen at last week’s massive gathering of Jats, traditionally close to Muslims. “I’ve never seen anything like this before and it was very disturbing,” Singh told NDTV’s Srinivasan Jain.
Many in the 150,000-strong crowd brandished guns, swords, knives and sticks, shouting slogans against ‘injustice to Hindus’ and, interestingly, cheering for Modi. It was as if UP had become Gujarat overnight. “The Jats have turned Hindus,” declared BJP vice-president Satpal Malik.
So it’s all nicely playing out according to the script. Various saffron outfits successfully are enacting their respective roles in one grand, flawless design. And the BJP is ready to reap its bitter harvest, once again. Who cares what it would entail for the wellbeing and stability of this complex land of myriad, competing identities! It’s a small price to pay for power.
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf based commentator. The above article was first published by Arab News.
– See more at: http://ummid.com/news/2013/September/12.09.2013/design-behind-bjp-battle-for-delhi.html#sthash.JlBXhyg2.dpuf