ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The BJP Fringe

An election campaign on development has done nothing to change its Hindutva core.

The Narendra Modi-for-prime minister campaign has been managed so tightly with a single-minded focus on “development” that many observers have been surprised that in recent weeks there has been a sudden resurgence of Hindutva voices sending out messages of violence and hate. First, there was the speech by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Uttar Pradesh in-charge and Modi loyalist, Amit Shah, calling upon the Hindu voters of western Uttar Pradesh to take revenge on those who had violated the honour of their womenfolk (which is normal Hindutva code for Muslims). This was followed by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi claiming that the BJP will build the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Then BJP’s Jharkhand and Bihar leader, Giriraj Singh, warned that once Modi becomes the prime minister, all those who oppose him (referring to the Muslims, yet again, but also to “secular” Hindus) will be sent off to Pakistan. If former BJP president Nitin Gadkari shared the stage with Giriraj Singh while he made these comments, Narendra Modi himself smiled benignly in Mumbai when Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam called Muslims traitors and warned that they will be taught a lesson once Modi assumed power. There have also been exhortations that if Hindus do not vote for Modi this time then their existence is threatened. The media outing of the speech of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia calling on Hindus in Bhavnagar to usurp Muslim property was yet another example of an anti-Muslim tirade, even if it was not part of Modi’s election campaign.

It must be remembered that while these statements have taken the focus away from the development slogan, Modi’s election campaign has always existed on a bedrock of Hindutva support. The makeover of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from aggressive Hindutva icon to a proponent of “development” can be traced back to about 2007. That was when the international public relations firm APCO was hired by the Gujarat government to market the state as a preferred destination for capital and to promote Modi as “business-friendly” development-oriented administrator. It was thereafter that the line of top Indian industrialists started the “Modi-for-PM” chant. Not surprisingly, each of those who joined this chorus had received exceptional incentives from the Modi dispensation in Gujarat – land at throwaway prices, government support in “clearing” environmental and labour protection rules, tax breaks, etc. Already, by the 2009 elections, there was a demand that Modi be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, but it was still not strong enough to steamroll opposition within the party.

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