Communal card is back on the table
It seems parties across the board are falling back on communal tactics as last ditch measure to rev up the electorate. If rabidly hateful speeches – by henchmen in all camps, including BJP’s Amit Shah, Congress’ Imran Masood, among others – are anything to go by, political figures of all hues are trumping the other and going to extreme lengths to achieve maximum polarisation along bitterly divisive lines. Stoking the worst fears, in regions both vulnerable and relatively stable, parties are playing off communities against each other, and are busy projecting the ideal of secularism as an antiquated principle, long past its political use value. In difficult and wounded terrains like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, BJP, SP as well as Congress are outdoing each other in raking up old skeletons and wielding some new ones, to divide the electorate into starkly opposing camps. Giving vent to the basest of communal instincts, the parties intend to bake the electoral cake while taking the acerbic pitch of the poll campaign to an all-time high, turning identity politics into the core issue and taking spotlight away from pressing questions on development, human rights, gender equality, income gap and a host of other crucial matters. So much so that the BJP manifesto, released only on the first day of the nine-phased general elections, strategically converts the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya into a matter of preserving cultural heritage, while their idea of uniform civil code becomes all about delivering ‘gender equality’ to beleaguered Muslim women, portrayed as victims of religious injustice. On the other hand, the Congress chief appeals to a top imam to declare that Muslims should only vote for the grand old party and Trinamool Congress, given their secular credentials. In the end what we get is collective bunkum when when we really need is freedom from political bombast and sheer hypocrisy.
It’s excruciatingly difficult to fathom how, right in the middle of the general elections, parties have upped their communal ante to an unprecedented level, and expect to exploit the demographic dividend to that end. In fact, what we can see is a coordinated effort on the part of the entire polity to hijack electoral issues as charted in the party manifestos, and transmogrify the communal tensions into a gigantic shadow from which voters must seek refuge under one or the other camp. Even mainstream media has a definite role to play in orchestrating this stark divide, with reputed editors openly declaring that BJP does not need a manifesto since it has Narendra Modi as its primary icon. Despite strict instructions from the Election Commission, the BJP manifesto was publicised by broadcast media on election day, when Assam and Tripura held polls in some parliamentary seats. Not only was this violative of the model code of conduct, it further fragmented an already splintered electorate into isles of confusion in a sea of rabid communalism. Looks like pandering to the worst is the only card left to political players now.