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BJP's balancing act at Deoband

india Updated: Oct 10, 2012 22:50 IST
Vikas Pathak
Vikas Pathak
Hindustan Times
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Keen to project a secular face and attract voters of all shades in the next polls, the BJP on Wednesday sought to balance secularism and Hindutva at party president Nitin Gadkari's rally in Deoband, a western Uttar Pradesh town known for the influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom.

While Gadkari spoke of secularism and development, party leader Vinay Katiyar was fielded to reiterate the promise of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Significantly, the venue had cutouts of both the leaders, suggesting an attempt by the BJP to combine contradictory politics of "development" and identity-centrism.

This is Gadkari's first rally after the party's recent national council - the last rally marked the end of the event at Surajkund - an occasion when senior party leader LK Advani urged the BJP to re-project its "commitment to secularism" to expand the NDA and assuage minority fears.

But Katiyar's speech - that drew cheers from the modest crowd - here was reminiscent of the hardcore Hindutva days.

"Deoband's message goes to the whole Islamic world. So, when I said that it should not provide inspiration and support to terrorists, what wrong did I commit?" Katiyar asked.

Renewing the BJP's Ram temple promise, he said, "If we don't make a Ram temple there (Ayodhya), will we make it in Pakistan?" His speech began and ended with the slogan 'Jai Shri Ram'.

Gadkari's message, which came immediately after Katiyar's speech, was precisely the opposite.

"We believe in social harmony and justice for all castes and religions. Worship of any God leads to the same result," Gadkari said. "The BJP condemned a movie made against Prophet Mohammad made in the US."

Clearly, the party is trying to be all things to all men, though it remains to be seen if such ideological ambiguity will work with the voters.