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The BJP’s slip is showing

india Updated: Apr 13, 2007 00:36 IST

Just when the going is good for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it has blotted its copybook by allowing its prejudices to show. First, it issued a controversial CD aimed at painting Muslims in a bad light during campaigning for the UP assembly elections. That backfired badly when a complaint was made to the Election Commission, forcing the party to hastily withdraw the CD. The BJP sought to distance itself from the CD by saying that it was not an official one and that new people in the party had distributed it. We can only assume that the party president and chief ministerial candidate Kalyan Singh’s writ does not run among the rank and file. That the BJP’s intentions were not entirely aboveboard is clear from the fact that after withdrawing the CD, it has now issued an advertisement that targets Muslims.

The BJP’s assertion that it is doing the nation a favour by informing it of the rotten apples within does not wash. Rather, it is doing this cynically and with an eye to political gain from communal divisions. The ad that subtly says that Muslims are anti-India is being used to show that the Congress, SP and BSP are protecting anti-national forces. Irrespective of the EC’s decision on the offending CD, the BJP has not displayed tremendous political acumen in raising the Muslim bogey. It has tried this in the past with dwindling results. This is why it made strenuous efforts to recast itself into a responsible and inclusive party of governance. Communal politics may win the party a few extra votes here or there, but this will not be a decisive factor in these elections.

The BJP’s savvy election managers should know better than to resort to the communal card. To an extent, this betrays a bankruptcy of ideas. The senior leaders who are out campaigning should have been more vocal in condemning this brand of politics. The controversy has given its rivals a stick to beat it with. The party should not have fallen into this trap. If BSP leader Mayawati can so effortlessly expand her constituency from the Dalits to include the Brahmins, surely the BJP can try to broaden its vote-bank instead of limiting itself to the politics of Hindutva. It should understand that in today’s fractured polity, no section should be alienated, howsoever small. Hindutva may have been the BJP’s core competence, but it is one that has run its course.