What will be the poll plank of the BJP and PM Narendra Modi for the 2019 parliament elections? Development and corruption were two major poll issues in 2014 when Modi was packaged as Vikas Purush (messiah of development). Both these issues have lost their sheen. Development or “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” have not reached the subaltern while corruption slogan has lost its shelf life. The BJP itself has made a mockery of anti-graft crusade by not enacting the Lokpal bill and enrolling corrupt leaders from Trinamool Congress, Congress, Bellary Reddys and B S Yeddyurappa, and its covert outreach to YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy fighting corruption charges. Four years down the line questions are being asked: Was Modi’s development mantra a fig leaf and the real agenda communal polarisation? None other than senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has confirmed this.
Once firmly ensconced in the driver’s seat Modi took a detour, puzzling even the corporate world and the economic Right, towards an ideologically laden terrain. Many state elections after 2014 have witnessed aggressive pitching of divisive issues rather than development. Even during the Gujarat election, Modi’s own state, the PM spoke less of development and harped more on the communal narrative. Same was the case in Bihar in 2015 and Karnataka in 2018. That the polarising project has been a carefully crafted strategy fine-tuned way back in 2012 was revealed by Swamy. During a television talk show on May 5, BJP’s stormy petrel spilled the beans without batting an eyelid.
Swamy said that the BJP strategy has been to reverse the Congress’s winning electoral strategy, that is to divide the minorities and unite the Hindus and that “Hindutva” will be used for the 2019 polls. Participating in a NewsX Roundtable discussion moderated by its executive editor Priya Seghal and attended by senior journalist Arati R Jerath, policy analyst and political commentator Sanjay Baru and Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Swamy, answering a question on why the BJP was looking backward and why its entire focus is on history, said “I have studied elections since 1952 and peripherally economic issues come up.” Adverting to former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee, he said “modern” outlook is not of much use and that BJP cadre is not enthused “unless we bring in Hindutva and corruption.” It is not clear if he is saying that Modi’s lack of “modern” outlook is helping the BJP.
Patting himself Swamy said “I would not have been in BJP today…I would be like Ram Jethmalani and Arun Shourie and others but for the fact that there is a lot of support for me in BJP and that is why I am in BJP and get away with what I am saying from time to time.”
He said: “Our analysis, of the so called Sangh type intellectuals, first of all, is that for years, the Congress winning formula has been that to create division in the Hindu community and unite the minorities and we came to a conclusion, I think in 2012 in a think tank meeting, that we should reverse this, you know, our appeal to Hindutva is well recognised and then this Hindu terror happened and there was this threat of putting all top people in Jail (read RSS leaders)…even Mr Chidambaram had issued a warrant against my name for writing a book on “Deterrence Against Terrorism”. So, the feeling was very strong that we should now try to unite the Hindus and divide the minorities to the extent we can and the process is continuing, the Triple Talaq has divided men and women in the Muslim community, we saw that in UP. The Congress has been trying to divide the Hindus on caste, which is more dangerous thing, we were trying to unite Hindus saying caste is not important, what is important is that Hinduism is in danger…Today we would think if Congress comes to power it will be catastrophic for us, so, therefore, this Hindutva thing will be done in 2019.”
Call it intellectual dishonesty or dim-witted analogy, Baru was the only participant who endorsed the Hindutva project. “I think Mr, Swamy was honest in saying… to mobilise the cadre you have to assert your ideological commitment which is true in any political party. I mean, the Left for example — the message to cadre is always hard core Marxism, but to attract the non-committed vote, general vote, you have to then talk about the future, the aspirational issues, so a platform that appeals to your own cadre mixed with the platform that appeals to the general voter is not a contradiction. It is a natural way in which ideological based political parties try to, for example take caste based parties, Mulayam Singh Yadav, he has to first appeal to the Yadavs and then he can look for the Muslim votes, Dalit votes or the other votes, if the Yadavs ditch him, he is gone”. Not an intelligent comparison; did the Left or the Samajwadi Party ever preach hatred against fellow citizens, advocated majoritarianism or changing the Constitution?
Events that unfolded between 2012 and 2014 may corroborate Swamy’s disclosure about the think tank meeting. A multitude of websites and outfits such as India Against Corruption, Save Democracy, Rashtriya Sainik Sanstha, Youth For Democracy, Truth about India Corruption, to name a few, sprung up to bolster the anti-Congress campaign; Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal were drafted to lend moral credibility to the movement. Hazare sat on dharna demanding the Lokpal — billed as a panacea for corruption. Such was the success of the strategy that divergent forces — Bollywood actors, corporate honchos and even anti-corporate social activists like Medha Patkar, Communist and Church leaders flocked to Hazare at Jantar Mantar. Rest is history. Kejriwal became CM, Kiran Bedi became Governor, some other “crusaders” including journalists are gainfully employed by the BJP dispensation, Lokpal given a decent burial, graft is back with a bang; over to 2019.
Kay Benedict is an independent journalist.