The decision of the ruling BJP on Wednesday to field Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon terrorism case of September 2008, is to cock a snook at the country’s democratic Constitution. Ms Thakur has already begun a fiery campaign in Bhopal, where she will take on the Congress’ Digvijay Singh, a prominent public figure and a former chief minister, emotively calling her electoral effort a “dharm yuddh”, or religious war, and a war against those who are against “sanatan dharma”, or the traditional canons of Hinduism.
This is straightforward communal propaganda in a poll to elect the nation’s legislators, but is no surprise coming from a former leader of the ABVP, the RSS’ students’ wing.
Why did it have to come to this for the BJP? To choose someone as rabid as Ms Thakur is to turn the page back on Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign effort to give the impression of the BJP being a party that believed in “achche din”, or good days, for all the people of India, and not only the followers of “sanatan dharma”.
Has the BJP come to this because the party is unsure of its prospects even as it is fighting under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, who many think is streets ahead of any rival in terms of personal popularity as the country’s leader?
Admittedly, in the past five years, the economy has travelled downhill due to many faulty policies and all sections of voters are hurting, not just the poor. To counter this, the PM himself wheeled out the big gun of “nationalism” by pointing to the Pulwama attack and the Balakot airstrikes, and tried to win over the middle class by practically getting them out of the income-tax net by raising collection thresholds in the last Budget of the present government.
After the tax-slash card, and the nationalism card, has come the virulent communal card as the first round of polling on April 11 alerted some of the country’s best-known pollsters like CSDS to conclude that the PM’s personal rating may have slipped by around 19 per cent. It’s to be hoped that the use of the communalism card doesn’t lead to communal violence even in restricted areas. Communal riots preceding elections or while the poll process is on is nothing new.
It’s to be hoped that the Election Commission, whose job is to ensure a level playing field and to provide an environment in which voters can cast their ballot without any sense of fear, and the Supreme Court, will look into the rants of BJP’s Bhopal candidate. Former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti is right. What would have been the reaction if in Kashmir a terrorism-accused person had been fielded in an election?...