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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2400

Gujarat Vote Seals Rahul, Modi Fortunes

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

The run up to the campaign for the Gujarat assembly polls was marked by critics describing ‘Vikas’, (development) supposedly the pet theme of Narendra Modi, as having gone ‘crazy’. It was a declaration that the ‘Vikas’ model of the BJP in Gujarat had not delivered. Now towards the end, Pakistan has emerged as the biggest bet of the BJP.

It astonishes that no less a person than the Prime Minister of the country alleges that the western neighbour is conspiring with the Congress to defeat the ruling party. More astonishing is the charge made by Modi in so many words that the former Vice President Hamid Ansari, and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with a host of other prominent Indians citizens had met at a private dinner hosted by diplomat turned Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar to give shape to an alleged Congress strategy to defeat the BJP in Gujarat.

As could be expected, Pakistan was quick to reject the charge, asking India to refrain from dragging Pakistan into electoral rhetoric and contest polls on its own steam. Equally expectedly, the government sought to rebut it by fielding the Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who waxed eloquent on India’s democracy and Pakistan’s penchant for promoting terror without being able to effectively dismiss the allegation of unwarranted references to Pakistan by the ruling party.

Modi cannot be said to have merely used a ‘Jumla’ to run down his opponents during the course of a poll campaign. It is bad enough to find that the prime minister is almost always in a campaign mode, but the prime minister has to observe some decency and seriousness even the hurly burly of electoral rhetoric.

The Gujarat poll campaign has been very intense because the stakes are high: the BJP has to live up to its boast of sweeping the polls with ‘150 plus’ seats in the 182-member state assembly; the Congress and other Opposition groups are trying to break the BJP citadel and thereby shatter the Modi ‘myth’. Despite signs of a decline in Modi’s and BJP’s popularity in the state, most pollsters have already predicted another BJP win. So, why is the prime minister betraying signs of nervousness by resorting to some desperate rhetoric?

There is something to be said about the contention of the Opposition parties that the Prime Minister has spoken less or very little on ‘Vikas’ during the Gujarat campaign, and more on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, often bringing in the asmita (pride) factor as though any criticism of the state, under BJP rule for the last 22 years, amounted to an insult. It also shows that Modi is obsessed with the ‘asmita’ of his native state than the ‘asmita’ of the country over which he rules as the most powerful leader in decades.

Using Pakistan to win elections fits ill on the ruling party. In fact, the BJP can be accused of practicing a double faced Pakistan policy. The official Indian stand seems to be ‘no talks’ with Pakistan. But it has not prevented Modi or the government from trying to reach out to Pakistan. It goes all the way to the ‘crowning’ of Modi in May 2014, his unscheduled dash to the Lahore farmhouse of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif on December 25, 2015 when he celebrated his birthday as well as the nuptials of his granddaughter. Track Two diplomacy is not dead.

Pakistan’s response to Modi’s dash to Lahore was an attack on an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot. The Modi government baffled everyone by inviting a Pakistani team of military and intelligence officials to visit the Pathankot base in the name of gathering evidence of Pakistan’s hand in the attack. An elastic definition, as the government seems to adopt in branding all critics as ‘traitors’ and ‘anti-national’, would suggest that the invitation to an ‘enemy’ to visit an air force station would, let us say, not pass its own test.

It cannot be viewed as a sign of confidence when votes are apparently sought by vilifying the minority community, as has been amply seen in the BJP campaign in Gujarat. Describing your rivals as offspring of Aurangzeb or Babur is a low. The prime minster of a country has to bring together different communities and groups, not divide them by showing disrespect for one section and appealing to baser instincts.

In Bihar, the home state of Federal Law Minister, the BJP leaders had tried to attract majority community votes during the state assembly polls there by warning that a BJP defeat would be ‘celebrated’ in Pakistan. It failed to impress the voters who defeated the saffron party. It is, of course, another matter that the BJP is back in power with the chief minister Nitish Kuma deciding to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

It is said that anything done in excess can and does prove counter-productive. Modi and the BJP have played the Pakistan card and indulged in innuendos against the Muslim community far too long as the best bet to consolidate the majority of Hindu votes. Its more visible result has been a schism in the society along religious lines, which is bad for the country. Even at the height of its electoral triumph, the BJP has been lurking around 30 per cent share of votes in even the states where it scored ‘sweeping’ victory.

- Asian Tribune -

Gujarat Vote Seals Rahul, Modi Fortunes
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