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Vikas Licks Its Wounds As Hindu Takes Centrestage

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By Sidharth Mishra

A few weeks back in these very columns, at the height of debate on Vikas (development) agenda, your reporter had penned that it was only matter of time when the “Hindu issues” could come to take the centrestage. The tone and tenor of the election campaign in the past week has shown that characters like Aurangzeb and themes like sacred thread are dominating the script. While the attempt from the Congress is to stop polarisation of votes on communal lines, the BJP is finding the new avatar of the rival quite amusing.Development is something on which Prime Minister NarendraModirode to power at the Centre in 2014. Development is something about which he talked about at the beginning of both the 2007 and 2012 assembly poll campaigns in Gujarat. But subsequently, the narrative on both the occasions turned towards communal polarisation.

Communal divide helps BJP no-end, something which has been proven time and again. In the past few years, the poll strategists from the saffron camp have managed to win a crucial battle of perceptions. They have succeeded in getting the attempts of their rivals to woo minority votes painted as “anti-Hindu” agenda.
Further this "anti-Hindu politics" has come to be interpreted as concurrent with anti-India politics, at least this happened during the polls in the politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh earlier this year.In the past few years the failure of the Congress party to take a stand independent of those taken by the Left activists on such issues too has hurt the chances of its political survival more than anything else.
In sharing dais with activists in JNU, Congress president-in waiting Rahul Gandhi ended up ceding a large chunk of the nationalist turf to the BJP. Communal divide helps BJP no-end, something which has been proven time and again.
Coming back to Gujarat, while addressing Gujarat GauravSammelan in Gandhinagar in October, Prime Minister NarendraModi had remained focussed on the work done by the BJP (read during his tenure as chief minister) in the state. Countering the social media campaign of “VikasPagal Ho Gaya Hain” (development has gone bonkers), Prime Minister chose to go hammer and tongs on the issue of development and Congress’s alleged negative approach towards progress of Gujarat.
But even at that point of time the Prime Minister had given an indication that if needed,the scheme of campaign could be changed as he played on Gujarati psyche and sentiments claiming that the Congress always insulted and ignored Gujarat and Gujaratis. This is something which he not managed to do so far.
As a veteran Gujarat poll observers points out that the BJP camp especially the Prime Minister is waiting for a “MautKaSaudagar” kind of spark to start the much needed fire to propel the campaign. Rahul Gandhi so far has managed not to give any such opportunity to the rival camp; probably learning from the mistake his mother Sonia Gandhi committed in 2007 by calling then Chief Minister NarendraModi names.
While the Congress has chosen the strategy to not overtly pan to the Muslim community, the minority community too has restrained itself from getting provoked and causing any communal tension so far. A recent newspaper report quoting an engineering student said, “The Congress talks of looking after our interests but in reality they are much too scared to raise their voice. It’s now all about who gets the Hindu vote.” But his community elders see the situation differently. They say, “In this election Muslims are keeping quiet and refusing to be provoked even when threatened. We counsel our community not to act in rage, not to hit back, because this only inflames the situation.”
This is a situation, where the Muslims have chosen to make themselves politically irrelevant, to which the BJP campaigns are not tuned to. Modi all these years has thrived on his strong Hindu identity especially in Gujarat. Whether it was refusal to wear the skull cap or calling Congress veteran Ahmed Patel, Mian Ahmed Patel, he has all these years assiduously worked towards consolidating his Hindu fellowship and following.
His ‘Hindu leader’ image emerges sharper when he spars with the minority appeasement issues. This is not happening this time despite the AmitMalviya-led IT cell of BJP playing tricks with the blabber of Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on Aurangzeb and succession in Mughal dynasty.
Modi also has to focus energy on bridging the divide within the Hindu votes especially ensuring that Patidars don’t vote for the Congress. For the youth of the community, many of them first time voters and second time voters, a communal riot which took place 15 years ago doesn’t really ring a bell anymore. This is something which worries BJP camp about the consolidation of Hindu votes.
But will all this be sufficient to dethrone BJP from power in the state. Despite the points enumerated above, defeat of BJP in Gujarat is a very unlikely situation. In defeat of BJP would be loss of prestige for Prime Minister NarendraModi. Will the Gujarati voter embarrass the Prime Minister to that extent? The voter has to be really mad with anger to do so. 
(Sidharth Mishra is Editor & CEO CapitalKhabar.in)

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