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Consolidation of minority votes, farm protests worry Sangh ahead of elections

The Sangh, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ideological fount, distances itself from electoral politics. But its cadre plays a key role in drumming up support for the BJP. Elections are due in 2022 in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa, Punjab, and Gujarat
PUBLISHED ON JUN 22, 2021 10:00 AM IST
Members of various farmers organisations protest against the three farm laws, near BJP office in Amritsar on June 5. (File photo)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is concerned about the impact the coalescence of the minority vote, which is believed to have contributed to the Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s win in West Bengal, and the continuing protests by a section of farmers against the new farm laws will have on the upcoming state elections, people aware of the matter said.

The Sangh, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ideological fount, distances itself from electoral politics. But its cadre plays a key role in drumming up support for the BJP. Elections are due in 2022 in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa, Punjab, and Gujarat.

Sangh has denied holding meetings on the elections particularly in Uttar Pradesh. But people aware of the matter said there is a concern that “regional considerations in politics could override national concerns.”

“The inability of the Congress government in Punjab to control the farm agitation is an example of parties opting for narrow considerations above national issues. There is also a concern about religious polarisation and the impact that it can have. In West Bengal for instance, BJP supporters and those sympathetic to the Sangh are being targeted,” said a functionary.

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The consolidation of about 30% Muslim votes and the transfer of votes from the Left and the Congress is believed to have helped TMC to sweep back to power by winning 213 of the 292 seats. The BJP, which won 77 seats, has been complaining about violence against its cadre in the state since the election results were announced on May 2.

The issue of post-poll violence was also raised by the Sangh, which has blamed the “radicalised” elements for the attacks. Response by the state governments to protests against central laws such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that fast tracks citizenship to persecuted minorities from the neighbourhood is also cited as a reason for concern. “There is a clear difference in how the state governments have handled agitations. While the Congress government in Punjab has not yet managed to get the farmers to call off the agitation though their concerns have been addressed by the government, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh dealt with the anti-CAA protests swiftly,” the functionary quoted above said.

The Uttar Pradesh administration attached the properties of those who allegedly damaged public property during protests against the CAA as part of the measures it took to control them.

Retaining Uttar Pradesh, where the construction of the Ram Temple is underway, is also critical for the BJP and the Sangh. “The Sangh does not want a change in government to create impediments in the construction of the temple, which has been its long-pending dream,” said the functionary quoted above.

In Punjab, the Sangh has been concerned by the resurgence of the separatist movement, which it believes has used the farm agitation to get a foothold in the state. The issue of religious conversion by missionaries, particularly in the border areas of the state, is another issue that has been flagged by the Sangh.

Gujarat-based political analyst Hari Desai said the Sangh’s concerns are not only Muslim consolidation but the inability to consolidate the Hindu votes. “TMC did not win only because of the Muslim votes; a sizeable percentage of the Hindus voted for them too. The Sangh recognises this and therefore, you see them aggressively pushing ahead in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat,” he said.

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