Millennium Post

Religion and caste factor

With Lok Sabha polls almost coming to an end, the political parties have already started looking ahead for a post poll scenario. While the general expectation is that there is not likely to be a decisive verdict, the track record shows that there could also be some surprises. In 2004 the ‘India shining’ ad blitz adopted by the BJP created an impression backed by several poll surveys that it was coming back to power. But even to the surprise of the Congress, the UPA came to power. In 2009 also, the expectation was the NDA might come back to power and to the surprise of all, the UPA-II came back. Now the media and the BJP have created hype that Modi-led BJP will form government.

The poll predictions so far have also been that the BJP is likely to emerge as the single largest party. Therefore it stands to reason that it should look for allies to make up the magic number of 272. Strangely as the elections are coming to a close, the political discourse has reached a new low with negative and personalised campaign adopted by not only the BJP and the Congress but also by the regional players showing desperation on their part.

Of late perhaps buoyed by reports of a BJP swell, Modi has launched sharp attacks against regional satraps taking them on in their own turf. BJP’s initial reluctance to attack them had been attributed to the calculation that it would not like to shut the option of post-poll deals. Is he being over confident that the BJP may not need the allies and the Modi magic would work on its own? Or is he making an effort to get the undecided voters?

For instance, Modi has targeted the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu after the BJP had formed a five party alliance consisting of smaller parties like the PNK, MDMK, DMDK and others. The BJP itself does not have a base in the state. The AIADMK and the DMK have their committed votes while the Congress has hardly four per cent vote share. While it was expected that the AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa would come to the rescue of the BJP in the post poll scenario, she has declared her own ambition of becoming the prime ministerial candidate in case of a hung Parliament.

Modi’s efforts to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar by demanding a Bharat Ratna for him has angered the Dalit queen Mayawati who has hit back at Modi and the BJP. The yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who is batting for the BJP too has angered the Dalits by talking loosely with the result the Election Commission, has banned his rallies till the end of the elections. Maya has declared that she would not support a Modi led government.

Modi’s decision to turn up the heat seems to flow from the assessment that BJP might be able to pick up a few seats in Odisha and West Bengal where the party has been weak. Last month he singled out Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik for some tongue lashing ‘Does your CM meet you? Do you need such people? ... You have tolerated a person for 15 years who does not understand your language,’ Modi said.

While the BJD had been an NDA partner earlier, since they parted ways Naveen Patnaik has made it his mission to finish the BJP in the state. Now the BJP thinks that it can get a few seats riding on the Modi wave.

With the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Modi is having a running battle in the past few weeks as compared to his earlier’ Didi for Bengal and Modi for Delhi ‘ statements. His accommodative tone has now evaporated.  Modi has provoked Mamata in many ways. He was also critical of her not fulfilling the ‘parivartan’ she had promised. The fight between the TMC and the BJP has reached a lowest level with the TMC calling Modi a butcher and Modi pointing a finger at Mamata for selling her paintings at Rs 1.8 crores to the Sharada scam accused.

One cant’ blame the BJP for its strategy as the regional satraps too are apprehensive of the Modi effect in their backyard. Jaya is said to be livid that Modi had befriended her enemies like the PMK, MDMK, DMDK and other smaller parties. Modi’s meeting with the Tamil super star Rajnikant has made the AIADMK supremo livid.

Mamata too is provoked because the BJP has promised Gorkhaland, which she has been opposing tooth and nail. In any case she has to guard her Muslim votes and cannot seem to be soft on the BJP. A rise in BJP votes could benefit the Left and reduce Trinamool seats. In Odisha, while Patnaik was convinced that he had finished the BJP, he has to contend with the BJP revival.

As for Mayawati and Mulayam Singh, they fear that the BJP, which was in the third or fourth position, now wants to march ahead by polarising the electorate, particularly after the Muzaffarnagar riots. Diverting from Amit Shah’s narrative of badla for the insult suffered by Jats in Muzaffarnagar, Modi has attacked Singh for the death of infants in relief camps and being soft on rapists. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) President Pravin Togadia and the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bihar, Giriraj Singh, have given a definite communal turn to the political discourse.
These statements have come at a time when the Lok Sabha elections are entering a crucial phase. Development issue have been sidelined. Religion and caste issues are in the forefront.

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