The BJP expects Muslims to forget the past and move on. Perhaps they should. But has the party done enough to win their trust? Has the BJP itself moved on? Has it shed the persona that fire-walled it from the country’s largest minority?
These are questions begging for answers in the lead-up to general elections. If it wasn’t in the manner of creating a problem to offer a solution that made it look good, the BJP leadership acted wisely to dump Pramod Muthalik within hours of his return to the party.
The Hindutva fringe-king would have discredited Narendra Modi’s youth-centric campaign in Karnataka. He couldn’t have been the voters’ valentine by the side of a ‘moral cop’ with lumpen values. He had to junk Muthalik to remain an attractive suitor!
Politicians try being all things to all people in the election season. Cut the frame to Uttar Pradesh and the scenario changes. While its PM candidate chants the development mantra, the BJP in the key Hindi state facilitates party leaders accused of inciting riots in Muzaffarnagar to fight what they called the minorities’ ‘love jehad’ against Hindu girls.
At least two such leaders were feted at a rally Modi addressed in Agra last November. They left the stage before his arrival. But questions lurked whether the drama could have been enacted without a nod from the top.
Answers have since come with three similarly accused BJP leaders becoming the party’s candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.
The implications of the electoral face-off now building in western UP, and to some extent in its eastern parts bordering Bihar, leave little to imagination. The Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh had courted a controversial Muslim cleric in Bareilly the day the BJP decorated its religious warriors in Agra.
The SP chief has moved since to contest from Azamgarh to counter Modi’s candidature from Varanasi. The tussle for eastern UP gives one a sense of déjà vu. God forbid, a no holds-barred contest in the region could replicate the 1990s when fundamentalism of one kind fed on another.
That was when the BJP first took out asthi kalash yatras of people killed in police firing during the Ram temple movement in Ayodhya; the experiment it repeated late last year in Bihar in remembrance of those killed in blasts at Modi’s Patna rally.
Forked tongues cannot broker social reconciliation. To make people live down memories and move on, the political class must first emerge from the warp of time.