Addressing a rally in poll-bound Bihar, the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah, has said that if his party loses in the state by mistake, then though victory or defeat will be in Bihar, crackers will be burst in Pakistan. There are two components to his rather unnecessary assertion. Firstly, he uses the word ‘mistake’. This presupposes the divine right of the BJP to win the ongoing poll and makes rather arrogant comments on the electorate by labelling their decision as ‘wrong’. The basic tenet of a democracy is that political leaders must respect the people’s mandate even if it is against them. Voters, if they reject any party, cannot be accused by it of not having the ability to make the correct decision. Moreover, they also cannot be accused of being guided by extraneous factors while making up their choice.
Secondly, Shah mentions Pakistan needlessly. However, this has two connotations – at one level the BJP president is projecting his party as one which the ruling establishment in Islamabad will want defeated. This presupposes that Pakistan has a ‘preferred’ party and another which it is ‘afraid’ off. It needs to be examined if the BJP led NDA government has done anything since it assumed office to be ‘feared’ by Pakistan. Similarly, what did the UPA regime led by Manmohan Singh do to become a party that Islamabad would want to eternally rule India?
At another level, Shah’s mention of celebrations in Pakistan insinuates that a victory of the Maha Gathbandhan or Grand Alliance would herald celebrations across the border because of linkages or sympathies. Making such a suggestion is unfortunate because Shah is claiming that anyone who is not with the party is with the enemy. These arguments reflect scant regard for democracy and suggest a preference for a totalitarian order.
This is not the first time that the BJP has invoked Pakistan in an electoral campaign and suggested that its adversaries in India are aligned with Islamabad and terrorists with bases in that country. In 2002 when Prime Minister led his party for the first time in an assembly election, he routinely made references to Mian Musharraf and suggested that those who were opposed to the BJP were in fact henchmen of the then Pakistan president and terrorist groups. In the same breath he had referred to relief camps as ‘baby manufacturing factories’. Though no direct allegations were levelled, there was no escaping the links that Modi tried alluding at that time.
In the course of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, Modi alleged that linkages existed between Pakistan, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders. In a campaign speech he had said that Pakistan was trying to destabilise Indian with three kinds of AKs in India: the first was the obvious AK-47 - the assault rifle; the second was Congress leader AK Antony and the third was Arvind Kejriwal. Not only was this in poor taste but also began the process of polarisation in the middle of an electoral campaign.
In India terrorism has been a scourge for more than three decades and in the two main episodes – the one in Punjab and the subsequent one that began in Jammu and Kashmir and then spilled over to other parts of India, the ‘foreign hand’ has been all too obvious. But to repeatedly link this with domestic forces that are political inimical to a ruling party is suggestive of political intolerance.
One can understand the growing desperation among BJP leaders as the fear of the party not doing too well mounts. The way the campaign had panned out so far, the BJP’s biggest hope now lies in polarising the electorate on every possible line. So why not try out the old strategy and liken the adversary within to the enemy outside? Very rarely has a campaign by a party ruling at the Centre that began by talking about development gone so astray!
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