Modi’s spin on Priyanka’s jibe caters to caste politics

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  • Updated: May 07, 2014 02:19 IST

When in Uttar Pradesh, say what the UP crowds want to hear. That seems to be the strategy that the BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is following.

Deliberately distorting Priyanka Gandhi’s jibe about his low-level politics, Mr Modi deftly changed the whole debate into one of insulting the low castes, of which he is one.

He thundered on relentlessly about the contribution of the low castes in his speech in UP where caste is a paramount factor in any election.

Mr Modi knows he has to challenge the BSP in UP and hence the reference to himself as a lower-caste person. His dramatic statement that he is willing to be hanged rather than have the lower castes insulted is aimed at both UP and Bihar. With this, he hopes that these castes will rally around the BJP, which is facing a very tough fight in these states.

In the emotional overdrive of elections, few will notice that Ms Gandhi actually made no reference to caste at all.

But Mr Modi, who wears his tea seller credentials on his sleeve, has used it both to appeal to the lower castes and also to take a swipe at the patrician Gandhi family.

The reference to the tea seller, which has stood Mr Modi in good stead these elections, was a foolish handle given to him by the thoughtless remarks made by a Congress leader disparaging Mr Modi’s origins.

In cutting his coat to suit the cloth, Mr Modi ‘accidentally’ addressed a rally in Faizabad in which he made several references to Lord Ram though no promise of a temple.

A large portrait of Lord Ram and a temple loomed in the background. The connection could not be mistaken. The BJP tried to cover its tracks, somewhat unsuccessfully, by saying that these religious emblems were put up as a result of over-enthusiasm on the part of the local unit.

The Congress, of course, has swung into action on this, complaining to the Election Commission. But the BJP has achieved what it wanted — a hint that the Hindutva ideology is not all forgotten in the talk of progress and development.

This is a last-minute push by Mr Modi to get as many lower-caste votes and try and effect a consolidation of the Hindu vote.

It is also his way of pitting himself against the Gandhis, whom he is trying to portray as privileged and out of touch with India that is Bharat. Is this becoming conduct for a man who aspires to be prime minister? Perhaps not, but as an electoral ploy it certainly has its merits.

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