The Samajwadi Party government has only done vikas for Muslims. Law and order is bad, and most crimes - theft and loot - have been committed by Muslims. And so there is a reaction in the majority community, a polarisation which will benefit the BJP.
This is the declared platform of Chetan Chauhan - once India’s opening batsman, then two-time Lok Sabha MP, government-appointed chairperson of National Institute of Fashion Technology, and now playing on another pitch as the MLA candidate of BJP from Amroha’s Naugawan constituency.
To understand how law and order and development - the stated big campaign issues of the UP election for the BJP - can be seamlessly weaved with a narrative of religion-based polarisation, listen to Chauhan.
“A big issue in this election is vikas. The government has done vikas only for its supporters and one community,” he says. Does this mean Yadavs and Muslims? “Not even Yadavs, only Muslims. And so the majority community is feeling let down.”
Chauhan also says law and order is terrible - with rapes, theft, loot and plunder. “There has been goondagardi of one community predominantly, of the minority community. They have committed the most ‘chori’, theft, so there is a reaction.” To clarify, was he suggesting that most of the crimes were committed by minorities? “Yes.”
He also dismissed Mayawati’s claim that law and order was better under her. “I don’t think so. She also showed a preference for the minority community. Minority ministers of her government did the same thing.”
Preference for polarisation
Chauhan’s statement is a part of the BJP’s push in west UP to create - or tap into - a polarised environment like 2014, which paid rich electoral dividends, multiple party leaders confirmed to Hindustan Times.
And for this, they have returned to the themes of ‘love jihad’, now framed as ‘anti-Romeo squad’, ‘minority appeasement’ as articulated by Chauhan and earlier by party leader Sangeet Som, and need for ‘Hindu consolidation’.
A senior leader from east UP, who is an MP and also heads a religious institution, said, “We should have polarised much earlier. We left it late. There has been unnecessary hesitation. We move forward two steps and move back four steps. In the first two phases, this is crucial.”
But other party insiders believe the manifesto itself sent enough signals.
Chandra Mohan, a spokesperson for UP BJP, points to the promise of ‘anti-Romeo’ squad. “It is a reference to Sachin and Gaurav’s killing by a Muslim when they were protecting their sister from harassment, which led to the Muzaffarnagar riots.”
He added that as Muslim political and financial power has grown, ‘because of the SP government protection and illegal work’, Muslim boys have lured Hindu girls, gifted them mobiles and trapped them.
Another BJP leader said the anti-Romeo squad is actually the ‘anti-Salman, anti-Naushad’ squad. The party has, however, been careful not to use the term ‘love jihad’, preferred by many Sangh affiliates.
If voices in west UP are any indication, even though the environment is not as surcharged as the last elections, there are enough takers for this narrative.
Ravi Pal, a BSC student in Chauhan’s constituency, says, “This is a Hindu-Muslim election. SP has a Muslim candidate. Three of four SP MLAs here were Muslims. We have to defeat them.”
And this is what Chauhan is relying on.
Will there be polarisation? He replies, “Yes, it will happen at the end.” And is BJP deliberately polarising the polity on religious lines? “No. We are not doing it. It is happening automatically. There is a reaction irrespective of whether we do anything.” And is BJP tapping into that? “It is coming on its own. We will also tap it.”
He also suggests that Hindus this time would not get divided on caste because they have been ‘exploited for five years’, have got ‘hit’, and so are ‘consolidating’. “And if there is a consolidation of the minorities, there will be a consolidation of the majority.”
The extent and spread of this consolidation could well decide BJP’s electoral fortunes in west UP as it heads to polls.