Can BJP's Ayodhya gambit work again? - Saudi Gazette

Can BJP's Ayodhya gambit work again?

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THE more things change for the BJP and its Parivar, the more they remain the same. When in doubt or facing slightest rough weather, it reverts to the reassuring comfort of its tried and tested Hindutva agenda.

What else would you expect when the economy is in doldrums and elections are due in a number of states this year and next, not to mention the 2019 General Election, which is less than a year and half away?

A couple of weeks back in these columns, I had suggested that the tide of public opinion is turning against the BJP. Popular anger over the deepening economic mess amid disappearing jobs and rural distress has been so overwhelming that the ruling party has been finding it difficult to face the people even in Modi’s home state of Gujarat that goes to polls by year end.

The origins of the viral joke on social media ‘vikas pagla gaya hai’ (development has gone nuts!) which in turn has spawned millions of memes and jokes on the Net are also traced to ‘vibrant Gujarat’. It’s even funnier in Gujarati but unfortunately can’t be reproduced here for its ‘un-parliamentary’ nature!

Another sign of changing times is the unprecedented response Rahul Gandhi has been receiving in Gujarat and elsewhere. The Congress scion has sensed it too and is getting more aggressive in his attacks on Modi, with his witty one liners being lapped up by rapturous crowds. The Congress leader, often trolled by abusive Modi fanatics, has even surged ahead of the PM in the number of Twitter retweets.

No wonder the BJP apparently leaned on the Election Commission to delay the Gujarat polls. If this is the state of affairs in the PM’s home state and the Hindutva laboratory, you can imagine the mood of the nation.

Is it any surprising then the BJP has gone back to Lord Ram and its core agenda with the likes of Yogi Adityanath, the saffron robed Uttar Pradesh chief minister, and Sangeet Som, the BJP rabble-rouser known for his role in the 2012 Muzaffarnagar carnage, leading the charge.

Being the disciplined, ideology-driven party that it is, everyone plays and enacts their role in perfect sync and harmony, even though they might appear as if playing their own tune.

So there’s a reason if the BJP is queering the pitch by absurdly attacking the iconic Taj Mahal, which attracts millions of foreign tourists and foreign exchange every year, as something built by “traitors” and as a “blot” on the country’s image.

Again, if the BJP government has suddenly remembered Lord Ram after 3 years in office and decided to light up the temple town of Ayodhya with unprecedented celebrations led by Adityanath and the entire state machinery, amid the talk of building the Ram temple, there’s a perfect explanation.

The party knows it is in a bad shape and has difficult electoral battles ahead, the toughest being the 2019 general election. As the pain inflicted by the economy deepens, hurting the poor and middle classes, things could only worsen in weeks and months ahead.

As if the trauma of disastrous demonetization wasn’t enough, this government rolled out the haphazardly executed GST amid great fanfare, comparing the occasion to India’s ‘freedom at midnight’ celebrations.

Clearly, even the BJP feels that only a miracle can save it now and who better to deliver it than Lord Ram himself! After all, he has repeatedly saved the saffron party, taking it from a 2-member outfit in Parliament to the status of the natural party of governance. Only communal polarization could revive the sagging morale of the party and rally the crowds behind it.

While the past three years of this government have been nothing but an endless nightmare for the Muslims, with the BJP politicians and their extended clan leading the frequent lynchings and mob attacks on the community, the BJP needs a major emotional issue to polarize the electorate in time for 2019.

The revival of Ayodhya row with the leading lights of the BJP openly threatening the Muslims to “accept” the Ram temple at the site where the 16th century mosque stood once, coupled with this huge Diwali jamboree by Adityanath is a step in that direction.

The deliberate targeting of the Taj — and by extension the Moguls and Muslims — is part of the same agenda to demonize the beleaguered minority.

Who would remind these fruitcakes that Delhi’s Red Fort from where the Indian PM, including the current one, addresses the nation on the Independence Day was also built by the self-same “traitors”. Even the palatial Hyderabad House in Delhi that is used to entertain foreign dignitaries was built by a “traitor”, the Nizam of Hyderabad, as Majlis leader Asaduddin Owaisi points out.

The portrayal of Muslims as “foreign invaders and destroyers of Hindu temples” and attacking the celebrated national monuments like the Taj Mahal as illegitimate and oppressive is also part of a wider Hindutva project to denigrate the Muslims and question their “Indianness” and legitimacy, as Kuldeep Kumar suggests in the Wire.

Denying a people’s identity is the first step to delegitimizing and wiping them off. If you think that is a far-fetched idea, look no further than the neighboring Myanmar and its persecuted Rohingya Muslims to know what I mean.

If the world can stand and stare while the Burmese state turns its full wrath on a minuscule, oppressed minority, burning village after village with its inhabitants, driving nearly a million people into Bangladesh, anything is possible.

Who would have believed that after seven centuries of Muslim rule over Spain, the Moors would disappear as if they never existed?

Who would have believed that nearly 14 centuries after Muslims made India their home and enriched it in a myriad ways — from culture and arts to architecture and food, they would be told that they do not belong here? Not only is the Muslim influence found in every sphere of activity, India would be incomplete as a nation and civilization without its Muslims.

On the other hand, the association with India and Indian culture has also enriched the Muslim civilization in numerous ways. Taj Mahal is perhaps the finest example of this multicultural Ganga-Jamuna tahzeeb and Islamic-Indian encounter.

The Taj is not just the symbol of Mogul emperor Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz, it is also a celebration of the romance between India and the Islamic civilization. As historian Rana Safavi argues, celebrating the best of Islamic and Indian architectural heritage, a Taj Mahal could have only happened in India. Is India prepared to do away with this rich harmony of cultures and celebration of multiculturalism for the chaos and cacophony being promised by the saffron fascism?

There is still time and opportunity to correct the blunders of recent past. If India’s reasonable majority does not act to correct the course and soon, the great democracy may end up paying an incalculable price.

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf based writer and former opinion editor of Khaleej Times.


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