The BJP’s has been a double-deck campaign that is now in its final stages. It was brazenly geared at keeping its core Hindutva base while stoking urban aspirations by insulating, albeit awkwardly, Narendra Modi’s “Gujarat model” of service-delivery and development.
The Congress failed to expose the BJP double-speak, hamstrung as it was by its own semantics. Its campaign was largely defensive, letting pass Modi’s barbs on the UPA’s governance record. The Samajwadi Party was as diffident over the manner it handled the Muzaffarnagar riots.
Only Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) was better heard for it reacted forcefully. The holes it shot in Modi’s bombast over facts of history showed him as a dilettante.
A glaring example of the BJP’s obviously choreographed dissociative identity disorder – or call it a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde act -- was a rally Modi addressed in Agra. The local leadership led by his confidant Amit Shah feted ahead of his arrival the BJP legislators accused of inciting communal tempers in Muzaffarnagar.
It’s hard to believe Modi was oblivious of the planned show. Having failed to utter a word on the riots, he kept the silence, playing instead the good Dr Jekyll: “BJP will follow the vikas (development) mantra to change your lives. You have my word for it.”
Agra actually was Act II of the dichotomous campaign that unfolded in Bihar where the BJP’s Asthi Kalash yatras coincided with Modi’s condolence calls on families of supporters killed in blasts the Indian Mujahideen triggered at his Patna rally. The spectacle barely concealed the agenda to polarise communities over terrorism. It sat uneasy with Modi’s Gujarat project to emphasise national unity by erecting the world’s tallest statue in memory of Sardar Patel.
The saffron campaign was a please-all fusion of pretence and reality. But when the mask slipped it exposed the party’s historical social bias for the religious majority. The illusory tactics aimed at barricading Modi against allegations of communal mobilisation while its leaders in UP and Bihar went about doing exactly that.
Quite noteworthy in this context was the VHP’s abortive chaurasi kosi yatra and the BJP’s UP chief Laxmikant Bajpayee’s description of legislators ‘complicit’ in the Muzaffarnagar ferment as saviours of the Hindus.
The alacrity with which Modi retracted his comments making fun of the Sadhu who predicted a gold haul in UP showed the leopard hasn’t changed spots. He also got a rap on the knuckles by his minders in the Sangh for his pahle sauchalya phirdevalaya flourish. Such third-party interventions made one wonder whether Modi indeed was a free agent he made himself out to be. Was he enacting a role scripted for him in faraway Nagpur?
In Bihar, the BJP averred its marches in the aftermath of the blasts were for fostering communal accord. The claim lacked credibility. None of its yatras with the victims’ ashes was led by Shahnawaz Hussain, an MP from Bihar who is the party’s sole Muslim member of the Lok Sabha.
Rahul Gandhi’s formulation on the vulnerabilities of minorities alienated by communal violence was well conceived but poorly worded. The Sangh shared his apprehensions. But in another display of a split personality, the BJP used it to incite the Congress’s Muslim base. As much ammunition for it were the SP’s crude overtures to mollify the minorities after failing them in Muzaffarnagar.
About time the “secularists” realise that they aren’t facing one but two BJPs — their strings held by a common puppeteer.