With the inevitability of an unwritten law, come elections and the political parties of every hue and colour seem to fall back on the deplorable tactics of playing the communal card for petty electoral gains. If the blatant and undue harassment of an IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh, ostensibly in the name of minority appeasement, was not enough, throwing the sectarian dice has become the lowest common denominator in terms of deciding the poll-bound strategies of the politicians of various ranks and affiliations.
While the Samajwadi Party-led UP government found it easier to suspend an honest bureaucrat for doing her duty because it inflamed some imaginary sentiments of the Muslims in the state, on the opposite side of the spectrum, leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are drumming up the previously spent cause of building the Ram Temple, thus raking up old graves in the chequered history of the country’s religious divisionism. Reports are pouring in of the VHP leaders meeting the UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, otherwise known to put up a secular front and going to extreme lengths to ensure Muslim vote banks in the Assembly polls, in order to resurrect the previously discarded Ramjanmabhoomi issue, in a bid to cosy up to each other before the 2014 general elections. Of course, when it comes to Mulayam Singh’s party, such oscillations are common, and he’s known to fluctuate and keep either parties guessing until the last minute before announcing his decision.
But it gives SP’s secular credentials a big dent, needless to say, even though the parties are maintaining that the meeting had been conducted to discuss the logistics of the yatras to be undertaken by the leaders of the saffron camp, and the only help sought from the chief minister and the ruling party was merely logistical.
But of course, stirring the Ram Temple issue carries a distinct anti-secular burden, and the BJP is expected to play it to the hilt in order to fire up its decidedly hardline cadre base across swathes of north and west India. Evidently, BJP is wielding a double-edged sword in the form of their campaign chief, Narendra Modi, who’s harping on the planks of development and high growth rate on the one hand and appealing to the basest of communal feelings on the other. It is obvious that the stir around the disputed Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya is pitted to combat the recent successes in apprehending some of the key players and masterminds of terrorism in India, particularly the version that is sponsored from across the Line of Control.
However, combined with the anti-Muslim sentiments that are sure to be churned up in the wake of the latest arrests, given the deeply sentimental place that the 1993 serial blasts and the 2008 Mumbai attacks have in the collective heart of the nation, the latest bid by the saffron brigade to inflame passions of majoritarianism and unleash the brazen forces of communalism has the potential to cause serious setbacks to the secular constitution of the country. Along with the recent communally-driven violence in Kishtwar, the current efforts at playing the religious card to score pre-poll points with the illiterate and deprived masses must be condemned under all circumstances.