Giving a Damn to EC Notice, BJP’s ‘Star’ Campaigners Continue to Echo PM Modi’s Overtly Communal Remarks

TCN Special Correspondent

New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that it is confident of winning third consecutive national elections, and this time with more than 400 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament). It appears to have adopted a ‘divide and conquer’ approach — presenting Modi as the protector of majoritarian Hindus and criticising minorities to whip up support.

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“If the Opposition led by the Congress party comes to power, it will distribute the country’s wealth among those who have more children. They will snatch the gold and even mangalsutra of mothers and sisters and give it to infiltrators. Should your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators?”

At a packed rally in Rajasthan on April 21, Prime Minister Modi mentioned “people with more children” and “infiltrators” in an apparent reference to Muslims.

He drew criticism from a large section of the society, with people asking the Election Commission (EC) of India to act against the alleged hate speech. Instead of issuing a notice directly to the alleged violator of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), the poll panel reluctantly asked his party (the BJP) to reply to the allegation.

Interestingly, the notice has no mention of PM Modi’s name. The EC wrote identical letters to the presidents of the BJP and the Congress on April 25, three days after Modi first made the comments at a rally in Rajasthan’s Banaswara, denouncing the star campaigners’ violations of the MCC. The letters refer to “some of (the party’s) star campaigners” rather than naming the alleged violators.

Even after the bizarre notice, prominent campaigners for the BJP — such as party president JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh — have continued to echo Modi’s overtly communal remarks.

The Congress manifesto does not even talk about redistribution of the country’s wealth. It also does not mention Muslims expressly while discussing employment, reservations, implementing the Sachar Committee’s report, bringing back triple talaq or legalising cow slaughter.

However, ‘star campaigners’ of the saffron party continue to amplify false allegations — claiming it is there in the Congress manifesto.

Repeating Modi’s controversial remarks, Nadda in a video speech on April 26 accused the Congress of attempting to “snatch the rights of SC,ST and OBCs” and give them to Muslims.

“The covert goal of the Congress and the INDIA alliance (a coalition of Opposition parties) is to take away the rights of SC, ST and OBC and give them to Muslims. According to the Congress, Muslims have first right over the country’s resources. However, Prime Minister Modi says that the poor of this nation have the primary claim to resources,” he said.

Like Modi, Nadda made a false reference to a 2006 speech of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Manmohan Singh did deliver the speech by mistake; it was not an error. He did so knowingly and with a purpose. He reiterated his statement in a press conference in 2009, saying that minorities, especially Muslims, should be given precedence. Through the Sachar committee report, false claims were made that Muslims have a worse situation than Dalits. This indicates that the Congress has been laying the foundation for Muslims to be recognized as SCs in order to grant them the reservation that Dalits are entitled to,” he said.

In addition to Nadda, other prominent campaigners of the BJP, such as Shah and Rajnath, have also been repeating Modi’s statements since then.

Rajnath also mentioned Manmohan’s address on April 23 at a rally at Uttar Pradesh’s. “He (Manmohan Singh) stated at a national defense council meeting in 2006 that minorities, particularly Muslims, have first right to the nation’s resources. It was, not us, who said this. Ever since the prime minister (Narendra Modi) referred to his (Manmohan Singh’s) statement, the Opposition has been creating a commotion,” he said.

Union Home Minister Shah, while addressing a rally on April 26 at Bemetara in Chhattisgarh, openly lied to people by alleging that the Congress had stated in its manifesto that it would impose Muslim personal laws and govern the nation as per “Sharia law”.

“Read the Congress party’s manifesto carefully; they have promised to reinstate personal laws. Why are they introducing Muslim personal laws? Can Sharia law be imposed in this country? Can you please bring triple talaq back? The Congress party intends to push Muslim League’s agenda. But Rahul Baba, you won’t be elected, nor will you be able to bring triple talaq back. Article 370, the CAA and triple talaq will not be touched,” he added.

He reiterated the assertion at another rally the same day.

“Take a look at the Congress party manifesto. Go through it carefully. They have said that they will enforce personal law. They seek to enact personal law for Muslims. Can Sharia law be implemented in this country? Can you please bring triple talaq back? Rahul baba, you are free to satisfy yourself as you like. Personal laws will not be allowed as long as the BJP is in power. The country will run as per the UCC (Uniform Civil Code). We will implement the UCC throughout the country, as promised by PM Modi, as we have brought it in Uttarakhand,” Shah said.

At a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah on April 27, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the Congress and the Samajwadi Party would give reservations to Muslims.

“They will include Muslims in the 27% reservations for backward castes. Will you accept this? Can there be reservations on the basis of religion in India? Ambedkar had opposed reservations on the basis of religion, and now they want to do this by attempting to divide the country,” he said.

He continued by saying that the Congress party manifesto says that they would not stop people from eating what they like. This — according to him — implies slaughtering of cows and that the Congress is “playing with people’s faith”.

“The Congress manifesto contains some dangerous promises. After dividing the country in 1947, they now wish to carry out an X-ray and survey of properties owned by Indians and then redistribute them. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party will take control of your ancestral land. It seems they are saying that they will allow minorities to eat whatever they want. Do the majority and minority populations in this country eat different foods? The majority of our country does not eat or butcher cows. Now, they want Muslims to be allowed to butcher cows. Will you accept it? Is it not like playing with your faith?” he said.

The communal angle in elections is brought with a purpose and political objective.

“There are a lot of welfare schemes in India where Muslims are a beneficiary. So, at the policy level, there is no discrimination. But at the political level, a very conscious attempt is made to otherize Muslims and seek votes in the name of religion,” said veteran journalist and political commentator Rasheed Kidwai.

Surveys show the BJP currently has around 40% of the vote share. It is hoping to expand its geographical base beyond the northern and western parts of the country, pushing its Hindu nationalist ideology of Hindutva and brand Modi.

Supporters of Modi are happy that he delivered on promises of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya on the site of razed Babri mosque and revoking Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status. They also applaud him for proudly wearing his politico-religious identity on his sleeve in a secular country.

Muslims who make up 14% of the country particularly fear this polarisation. The most important issue for them is their safety.

Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (together will all, development for all) or inclusive development for all had been a key slogan of the Modi government. But the BJP accuses the Congress of minority appeasement and uses language that keeps the sectarian divide open.

The Opposition parties have been forced to peddle a kind of soft Hindu nationalism even as their leaders accuse Modi of attacking India’s secular principles.