BJP speaks with forked tongue ~ kalyani shankar
Is the BJP back to its old game of talking with a forked tongue? While BJP President Rajnath Singh goes all out to proclaim that the party will fight the 2014 polls on the development plank, it is clear that the emotional issue of Ram temple at Ayodhya and other core issues are also lurking in the background. Is this a crafty strategy to lure the conservative and liberal segments of voters?
The BJP put the three contentious issues of Ram mandir, Article 370 and uniform civil code on the back burner on account of the NDA allies these past two decades. Even during the 2009 polls they were not projected because of secular NDA allies like the JD (U). But for 2014 it is a different kind of strategy as the BJP is left with no secular ally after the departure of the JD (U) recently.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has been made the campaign chief of the party, is obviously wearing two masks – one of development and the other of a Hindu nationalist which he proudly declared in a recent interview. While Modi was chosen to help garner votes of the upwardly mobile urban middle class with the development plank, the RSS is also feeling the need to invoke Hindutva sentiments to penetrate across the rural voter base. The RSS is convinced that a hardline Hindutva stand will help the BJP to re-gather a large traditional vote bank, rendering allies unnecessary.
Soon after Modi&’s appointment as the chief of BJP’s campaign committee at the party&’s Goa national executive, it was expected that he might resurrect the Hindutva agenda but he has realised that the electorate today wants development and hence this decision to speak with a forked tongue.
That the BJP has not given up its core issue is evident from the frequent utterances of its top leaders. Former BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu recently announced the party would scrap Article 370 of the Constitution under which Jammu & Kashmir is enjoying autonomy, ban religious conversions and cow slaughter and bring in the Uniform Civil Code if the party comes to power.
The fact that the BJP was looking at the mandir issue was evident during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad where the VHP had declared that it would agitate for the construction of the temple. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat declared the organisation would take up mass recitation of a ‘Vijay Mantra’ to build a glorious Shree Ram Mandir. The BJP chief Rajnath Singh, who was also present at that meeting, was quite categorical that the temple was a national issue and not a political one. What does all this mean?
Modi may or may not aggressively campaign for Ram Mandir but he has delegated the propagation of Hindutva agenda to his carefully chosen team led by his close aide Amit Shah. Modi is using Shah to do what he was reluctant to do. Shah, BJP&’s Uttar Pradesh poll in- charge, has recently reiterated the party&’s pledge to build a “grand Ram temple” at Ayodhya and “restore Lord Ram to his rightful place”. Resurrecting the emotional issue is perhaps to regroup the BJP&’s disenchanted core voters, many of whom have shifted to other parties like the Congress, SP and the BSP in recent Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
The million-dollar question is whether this temple strategy would work in the 2014 polls at all. The moderate elements in the BJP are convinced that it will not. 2014 is not the same as 1992. Moreover, it has not always helped the BJP as the issue has already lost its impact on the electorate. The party lost the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat earlier and the Ayodhya Assembly seat in 2012 polls. In the nineties the Ayodhya effect was able to consolidate Hindu vote bank and the liberal face of Mr. Vajpayee could mobilise the anti-Congress political parties. Modi is not Vajpayee as he is a divisive figure. The moderates know that the BJP may need allies in the post poll scenario and do not want to scare away the future allies by invoking these core issues.
Does it mean that there are two sets of plans for the party? On the one hand Modi will continue to talk of development and good governance as a harbinger of change while on the other hand Ram Temple and Article 370 will be propagated by others and will be firmly back on BJP agenda after a lapse of many years. Is there not a basic contradiction between these two issues as the middle class, which favours development, can hardly be expected to go along with the whipping up of communal frenzy?
The BJP has to introspect carefully. Times have changed now. First of all, the electorate today consists of more youth who want jobs, good life and development and Ram mandir has no relevance for them. Secondly, the BJP itself has changed from its hardliner image of the nineties as new faces have joined the party. Thirdly, it is a coalition era and the BJP needs allies in the post poll scenario and has to look at the NDA plus. Fourthly, if the BJP wants to come back to power it should not split the anti–Congress votes. Above all the party has put all its eggs in the Modi basket, which may or may not click, as he is untested outside Gujarat. The BJP might think that the electorate could be fooled with this double face but the voters are intelligent enough to see though this game.