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Internal Security: BJP’s last card in UP
By Syed Shahabuddin

Thanks to Pakistan-based terrorist attack on the Parliament on 13 December 2001, the BJP has found a new card to play in the coming Assembly election, a card of Internal Security.

The BJP’s essential electoral strategy remains unchanged: Communal polarization and Hindu consolidation. It has always projected imaginary and exaggerated threats to the Hindu Samaj with a view to inject fear in the Hindu mind, incite distrust, hatred and anger against the Muslims who are depicted in RSS demonology as religiously ordained to establish Muslim dominance and, therefore, serve as willing tools in the hands of Pakistan for destabilizing and Balkanizing India. Such an approach nurses the spirit of aggressiveness towards Pakistan, places secular forces on the defensive, and hopefully adds to the ‘Hindu’ vote bank.

Ever since his installation as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the fourth in five years, Rajnath Singh has played various political, economic and social cards but all these have failed even to stop the erosion of BJP votes, far less add to them. The BJP has already written off the votes of the Muslims, the Forward OBC’s and even a section of the SC’s. It tried to win the support of the MBC’s among the OBC’s and of non-chamars among the SC’s but partly due to lack of credibility and partly also because of judicial intervention this has made no substantial difference. The BJP’s vote bank mainly consists of high castes, the Brahmins, the Rajputs and the Vaishyas. They also constitute the middle class but this class is nursing many grievances - poor governance, rising corruption, breakdown of civic services, deterioration of law and order and practically no development. Rajnath Singh tried to court various professions and occupations - the kisan, the labour, and the teachers. But his announcements were never translated into practice. In sum, his bid to project the BJP as a national political party serving the interest of all communities, classes and castes never took off. The BJP has no option but to go back to its ideological roots, the philosophy of Hindutva, that proclaims that India is a Hindu country and the Hindus have the responsibility to protect it from external and internal threats and that the BJP, as the political arm of the RSS, alone has the will and the capacity to perform the national duty.

The Hindu option was always there. During the last five-years the Muslim community has been demonized, as never before. Its religious institutions, Masjid and Madrasa, have been depicted as the dens of the ISI, projected as omnipotent and omnipresent, operating in this ‘Hindu’ country with their support. Individual and collectively Muslim Indians have been targeted. The use of state power against Muslim protesters in Kanpur, the partisan role of the administration in various communal clashes, some deliberately engineered, their continuous harassment and humiliation, the desecration of Masjids and Qabristans which were ignored, the distribution of trishuls and arms training to Hindu youths by the Bajrang Dal, were all meant to keep up the spirit of Hindutva forces and to browbeat the Muslims. Even the infamous bill, restricting construction and even repair of religious institutions, though it failed to find a place in the statute-book, thanks to collective Muslim response with the support of the secular forces, served its purpose to highlight what the BJP government thought of Muslim institutions. Similarly, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has enjoyed full freedom to mobilize support for its Mandir campaign, in defiance of the law, using anti-Muslim rhetoric. Taking its cue from the Government and building on odd individual cases the mass media, particularly the government-controlled and pro-BJP electronic media have created a general suspicion in the Hindu community against the Muslims and their Madrasas and Masjids. Then came the Central Government Report on Internal Security which put its seal on this thesis, the ban on SIMI and the POTO!

In the meantime, the Sangh Parivar found to its dismay that there was not much popular response to its project for the construction of the Ram Mandir on the disputed site in Ayodhya in defiance of the order of the Supreme Court. Even the Central Government found it difficult to accede to the VHP demand for the transfer of a major part of the acquired land for the construction in accordance with its illegal site plan. The VHP had taken pains to synchronize its mobilization campaign with the electoral campaign of the BJP, to reach its climax in March 2002, when the Assembly election was likely to be held. But the Election Commission decided to prepone the election to mid-February and thus deprived them both of a great opportunity. Even Prime Minister Vajpayee has now appealed to the VHP to place the mandir issue on the back burner for the present. The VHP will nevertheless carry on with its programme to keep up the spirit of the hard-core, knowing that the Hindu sentiment so generated can only help the political cause of the BJP.

Since 11 September the RSS and the BJP have also been strenuously playing the Kashmir card, by demanding army rule in Jammu and Kashmir, ‘hot pursuit’ of terrorists into POK, pre-emptive attack on training camps there, and in Pakistan arguing that if US President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon could act in Afghanistan and Palestine, why India could not! Happily those in power in Delhi know their limits, and, therefore, have ignored the plea of the Sangh Parivar, while intensifying anti-terrorist action. This, in any case, serves the purpose: the Kashmiri terrorists are Muslims, so are Pakistanis, so are other foreign terrorists, and, therefore, it was alleged, they enjoy the sympathy, support and active help of the Muslim Indians. Thus BJP scored another point for raising communal passions. 

Then came the terrorist attack on the Parliament on 13 December, 2001. Pakistan-based militant outfits were held responsible for the outrage. Justifiably there was a national uproar. Once again the Sangh Parivar seized the occasion to make electoral capital. It pushed the Government to punish Pakistan and attack it, if did not take appropriate action against the terrorist organizations which were openly raising money, recruiting men, and training them for terrorist action in Jammu and Kashmir and in the rest of the country. The resulting tension, confrontation and war hysteria between the two nuclear powers forced the world to rush in and urge restraint. The RSS piped down but again the electoral purpose was served to depict the BJP as nationalist and patriotic which brooked no non-sense like the ‘so-called’ secular parties and even risked nuclear war to defend the sovereignty of the nation. Effective intervention by Bush, Blair and Co. have now made war a distant possibility and consequently, the National Executive of the BJP decided to shift focus from external to internal security, for which, as stated above, the ground had been already well prepared.

Today the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh are in a state of siege in Uttar Pradesh. Even in Muslim-concentration areas, fear and apprehension and panic are palpable realities. No one knows what terrible situations they may have to face by the time the election is held. It is obvious that the BJP campaign on internal security will target Muslim Indians as Pakistan’s fifth column in India and itself as the only virile party prepared to take hard decisions and act mercilessly against the enemy and its sympathizers in India. This line of approach has already made some impact on the average Hindu so much so that both the Samjawadi Party and the Congress which bank on Muslim support have found it safer to adopt evasive postures, and take a hard line on Pakistan. Democracy being a game of numbers, neither party would like to lose any Hindu vote by appearing as weak or vacillating or compromising on question of national security. The BJP has nothing to its credit for its five year rule in Uttar Pradesh and has, therefore, decided to play up the Hindu sentiment in a situation of national crisis. Survival in victory matters, above every thing else. 

In this environment, no one has the courage to stand up and defend the honour of a community which is being projected as anti-national and as a bunch of terrorists. No one has the courage to ask whether a nuclear war between India and Pakistan serves the interest of the people of the Sub-continent. But BJP must win the next war in Uttar Pradesh at any cost! Fortunately, most observers believe that like the Mandir card, the Kashmir card, the War card, the Internal Security card also will fail. Nothing can save BJP.

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