BJP’s Communication Error!

The nature of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s election manifesto for the ongoing parliamentary elections clearly highlights a major communication lapse, leading to communication error in this party’s understanding of Indian socio-political pulse. The party’s decision to “explore all possibilities within framework of Constitution to facilitate construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya” is equivalent to BJP adding religious fervour to its political aim of assuming power at the Centre. BJP leaders are apparently over-confident that this “religious” move, viewed by critics as extremely communal, will help the party secure Hindu-majority votes and thus win parliamentary elections.

BJP leaders have apparently lost track of the hard reality that this is 2014 and not 1980s. Earlier, the common Indian voter tended to go by what was communicated to him by their leaders. Three decades ago, communication had not reached the peak in India that it has in the present period. Television, in black and white, during that period played a major role in having a strong impact on people’s psychology. Thus when the only channel, government-controlled Doordarshan telecast a serial, based on Hindu epic Ramayana, viewing it for majority of Hindu viewers was a religious exercise. Many actually worshiped the actors playing the roles of Hindu deities as actual religious figures.

Nowadays, religious serials telecasts no longer hold the viewers as spell-bound and religiously-aroused as was the case thirty years ago.

The decision of BJP to specifically mention the controversial Ayodhya-issue in its manifesto indicates that this party is still hopeful that usage of this religious-card will help it gain significantly in elections. BJP’s decision to fall back on this card raises the question as to whether the party is no longer very optimistic about its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi faring extremely well in the polls? Or perhaps, Modi himself does not want to take the risk of not playing this Hindu-card? Despite opinion polls and political analysts painting a rosy picture of BJP emerging as the winner, Modi is probably not too confident. Thus, he has gone a step further by highlighting the Ayodhya-issue in BJP’s election manifesto.  

Definitely, BJP leaders are entitled to be as religious as they desire to be. But there is a difference between their being religious and their exercising religious card with extremely communal overtones. How can it be forgotten that when Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished by BJP and its saffron brigade associates, on 6 December, 1992, communal riots targeting Muslims erupted in most parts of the country. BJP had tried then, using its communal designs, to promote its Hindutva-agenda - which included construction of Ram temple in place Babri mosque, to emerge as a prominent political party.

Communal designs, marked by major riots, gave BJP in the international media the label of a Hindu-extremist party and also a terrorist group.

Therefore, BJP’s decision to include the controversial issue in its manifesto has naturally raised eyebrows across the country and the world.

Observers are now having doubts about this party and Modi’s “secular” aims. Politically and socially, the BJP has certainly erred in falling back on using its Hindutva-card. Communication revolution has had a very, very strong impact on the common Indian’s mindset. Three decades ago, there prevailed the strong option of his being strongly influenced by religious cards used by political leaders. Today, a common Indian does not want to be a participant in communal fervour aroused by politicians. He is well aware that riots can prove to be economically damaging to his own professional and economic pursuits.

If 2002 Gujarat-carnage had not occurred, the BJP-led coalition may not have been pushed out of power in 2004 elections. The majority of Indians did not want Gujarat-carnage to be repeated in other parts of the country and so they voted against BJP and helped Congress return to power in 2004. Considering that Muslims constitute less than 14 percent of country’s population, only their vote could not have pushed BJP-led government out of power. India would not have been a secular country in spirit if the majority of Hindus entertained extremist and communal designs.

Even in the demolition of Babri Masjid, less than one percent of the country’s Hindu population participated. From this angle, the international media erred then in labelling Hindus as communal and/or terrorists. Similarly, by highlighting a disputed, communal issue in its election manifesto, BJP cannot claim to speak for the entire Hindu community. What is more important is that thanks to communication revolution, each individual is politically more conscious and critical than was the case thirty years ago.

From its angle, BJP may be trying to arouse voters by using a communal card. The party has forgotten that today’s Indian is strongly concerned about his religious as well as secular leanings, which he is least likely to abandon to help Modi and BJP promote their communal agenda. Even if polls favour BJP, the party will have put its communal agenda at the backburner to succeed in forming a coalition government. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2014 on page no. 11

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