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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 33 New Delhi August 6, 2016

Politics of Polarisation is Recoiling on BJP

Wednesday 10 August 2016


The politics of communal and caste polarisation, relentlessly pursued by the BJP from the time it came to power on its own in 2014, is now recoiling on itself. First, the party’s UP Vice-President Dayashankar Singh had to be expelled for his obscene comment in public that Mayawati, the Dalit leader and BSP supremo, was ‘worse than a prostitute’. Even if the so-called expulsion was meant for public consumption in a poll-bound State, it failed to cut any ice with the Dalit community not only in UP but the country as a whole.

Then came the flogging of seven members of a Dalit family in full public view at Una in the Gir Sommnath district of Modi’s Gujaratfor skinning a dead cow. It is the family profession of these people. They were falsely accused of skinning a living cow. The falsity of the charge was exposed in no time but the self-appointed vigilantes of the gau raksha samity had neither remorse nor regret. The attempt at suicide by several other Dalits immediately after the flogging incident, added fuel to fire. The State Government, headed by Anandiben Patel, did not react for the first few days. When Dalit anger had exploded in the streets of Gujarat, the State Government seemed to have been taken unawares. It was then that it stirred into action. By then the Muslims had come forward to express their solidarity with the Dalits,

The BJP had already alienated the influential patidar community by coming down heavily upon its movement for inclusion in the OBC category. The leader of the movement, 23-year-old Hardik Patel, was arrested and put behind bars. He was released only last month. By that time the Anandiben Government was in full retreat and had already withdrawn 90 per cent of the cases started in connection with the movement. But it was too little too late. The hot heads of the Sangh Parivar had by then queered the pitch for the BJP in yet another poll-bound State.

Faced with growing isolation from different sections of the people and fearing a defeat in the coming Assembly elections in a State which it had ruled for fifteen years at a stretch, the BJP started a belated damage control exercise. Chief Minister Anandiben Patel was quietly eased out. Till the time of writing, her successor has not been named, though the possibility of party President Amit Shah himself taking over the responsibility from Anandiben is not being ruled out.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar threatened to ‘teach a lesson’ to actor Aamir Khan for saying some time last year that intolerance was growing in the country. Ironically, Parrikar did not notice that his comment was itself a corroboration of what Khan had said. It is clear that the BJP is indulging in anti-Dalit abuse deliberately as a matter of policy. Close on the heels of Parrikar’s comment, a BJP MLA of Hyderabad, Raja Singh, put out a video on his Facebook page, calling Dalits as galeez or filthy and justifying the flogging of the Dalits at Una. According to him, those who indulge in cow slaughter and take cow meat deserve to be beaten and what had happened at Una was a good thing.

The two-year rule of the BJP has brought Indian democracy face to face with a danger that it has never seen before. The democratic space is shrinking. The freedom of the democratic institutions and constitutional bodies is being constantly eroded. Now the freedom of the higher judiciary is also being sought to be curbed. If the attempt succeeds, the last resort of the people against arbitrary acts of the government will be gone.

On the economic front this government’s perfor-mance has been a dismal failure. Prices of all commodities are sky-rocketing. There is no sign of economic recovery. Though the government has thrown open all sectors of the economy to foreign investors, very little FDI is coming. Recession continues. Unemployment, even of technically qualified people like doctors and engineers, is on the rise.

To cover up its failure, the government is blatantly resorting to jingoist and ultra-nationalist propaganda. An influential section of the electronic media is acting as the handmaiden of the ruling party. These mediapersons have gone to the extent of openly urging the government to take action against those sections of the media which have refused to fall in line with the ruling dispensation, to toe its line. For the first time a threat to the freedom of the press is coming from within the media.

There is time yet. If the democratic and secular forces unite, as they did in Bihar, the forces of intolerance, of parochialism, of communal fascism can be defeated. The huge public response that Sonia Gandhi’s road show evoked at Varanasi last Tuesday is indicative of the simmering mass discontent. As the procession, joined by ten thousand motor bikers, meandered through the lanes and bye-lanes of Varanasi, its size swelled. Hindus and Muslims in thousands came out to greet her. For a party which, till the other day, was said to be vying with the BJP for occupying the third place after SP and BSP in next year’s Assembly elections, it was an electrifying experience. The scorn and contempt for the road show that the BJP spokespersons later gave vent to in the TV channels proved that the message had gone home.

The UP experience underlines the need for forging an all-in unity of parties, organisations and individuals—from the Congress to the CPI-M—that transcends party barriers and identities. If the democratic and secular forces cannot unite at this hour of crisis, they will only pave the way for the eventual rise of an authoritarian Hindu Rashtra.

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