Maharashtra and Haryana are very different places, separated by a distance of more than 1,000 km. What they have in common is both are run by the BJP and both are overwhelmingly Hindu-majority states. Perhaps it is this which has given top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the confidence that in both states the electorate will respond to the same stimulus when it casts its vote for its state Assembly on October 21.
For this reason, it seems that the saffron party is pinning its hopes on a strongly pitched pseudo-nationalist narrative. A reference to Ayodhya is naturally avoided. The issue has been milked for votes countless times and the matter is now before the Supreme Court. In the circumstances, harking back to the mosque-temple question may just cause mirth.
Such an appreciation of the situation seems to have led to a re-calibration of tactics, with pseudo-nationalism still being kept at the centre of BJP’s election pitch. This is the extent to which hyper-Hindu nationalism has invaded the minds of the ruling party leadership, with questions pertaining to its governance record being totally excluded in the debate by those who were elected to power five years ago.
Currently, the saffron party’s perceived strong suit is the decision taken on August 5 last to emasculate Article 370 of the Constitution for the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state, in which the political focus was on the demolition of the personality and psychology of the Kashmir Valley, which is practically entirely Muslim.
This was in keeping with the RSS’ ideological approach since the late 1940s. The justification of the Centre in taking the ill-considered step it took in August — framed in terms of economic development and the ending of terrorism — was conceptually spurious, and is turning out to be just that as the weeks roll by. The nation may rue this in time, but for now the BJP evidently believes that harrumphing around Kashmir has the potential to take the party home in both Maharashtra and Haryana.
Campaigning in Maharashtra earlier this week, the PM invited the Opposition to “doob maro” (drown itself in disgrace) for questioning the Centre’s desperate Kashmir move. Kashmir has been the BJP’s focus in Haryana as well. Perhaps still not sure that this would do the trick, Mr Modi appeared to be clutching at any straw — referring to the Hindutva ideology propounded by Savarkar, with its strong militarist streak. Not stopping there, the PM has also recalled the medieval regional warrior Shivaji, whose challenge to the authority of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is easily recounted at the popular level. Such elements lend the BJP’s campaign a deeply divisive, communal colour.
If the imperatives of the Constitution had been kept in view, the governments of Maharashtra and Haryana would have to explain to voters their actions in the past five years. The record is an unflattering one. Kashmir, Savarkar and Shivaji Maharaj appear to be distractions....