Victimhood may rescue BJP, again
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Victimhood may rescue BJP, again

The BJP is happiest when it can play victim because that is how the party gains electorally. This trend goes back to the 1980s, when L.K. Advani portrayed the mild-mannered Hindu who was driven to anger by the Congress’s shameless pampering of Muslims, writes Vir Sanghvi.

india Updated: May 04, 2009 00:26 IST
Vir Sanghvi
Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times

The BJP enters the week with a spring in its step. It believes that the campaign went its way last week, that the gap with the UPA has narrowed and that things can only get better from now on.

This claim is sought to be substantiated with an optimistic projection of how last week’s polling went. But it is really based on a feel-good factor. Suddenly, BJP spokesmen seem more confident and act as though they finally have the electoral issues they were looking for.

These issues are, of course, the withdrawal of the Red Corner notice against Ottavio Quattrocchi and the Supreme Court order on Narendra Modi.

Sceptics may wonder how these issues benefit the BJP. Does anyone still care about Bofors? And surely the Supreme Court order is a slap in Modi’s face?

The BJP does not see it that way. As Mukul Kesavan perceptively notes, the party is happiest when it can play the victim. BJP spokesmen only come into their own when they seem like men with grievances.

And over the last week, victimhood has been the BJP’s theme song. Indians are being discriminated against to benefit Italians, it says. The Congress is plotting to send me to jail, claims Narendra Modi. (He even suggested they were going to hang him). And so on.

If you think about it, the BJP has always gained from the pose of victimhood. In the 1980s, L.K. Advani portrayed the mild-mannered Hindu finally driven to anger by the shameless pampering of Muslims by the Congress. The Ayodhya movement was about redressing the humiliation of Hindus at the hands of Muslims.

That theme continues to the present day. Anybody who talks about terrorism talks about strengthening the intelligence services and equipping security forces. But the BJP talks about reviving POTA. Why should this be so? Well, because it claims that the only reason the Congress ever withdrew POTA was to appease Muslims (“vote-bank” in BJP-speak). So the real reason we face a terrorist threat is because secular politicians have put Hindus at risk by pampering Muslims. And that’s a major grievance.

Even newcomers to the BJP have picked up this trait. At his rallies in UP, Varun Gandhi declares that while Ajmal Kasab is being pampered in jail, he (poor Varun) was arrested under NSA. Can this be fair?

You can argue that this is really disguised communalism and xenophobia (BJP grievances are usually framed in terms of Muslims and foreigners) but there’s no denying that most of the time it appears to work. Right after the Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi linked Indian Muslims to the evil designs of “Mian Musharraf” and won by a landslide.

That’s why the BJP thinks it is on a roll. Never mind the complexity of such issues as the Supreme Court order. As long as they allow the BJP and Narendra Modi to play victim, that’s all the party needs.

Out of grievances — real or manufactured — come the electoral victories.

First Published: May 04, 2009 00:21 IST