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The Rise of BJP

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The use of technology to gather data of people across India was one of the biggest political shenanigans of Modi’s rise. When Modi started campaigning after winning Gujrat Chief Ministerial berth third time, his government started working on his bigger role and used the technology to ensure his obvious win in India’s polity.

Fetching data by means of the ruse was a political agenda and a critical part of winning the election of 2014 with major numbers. Inviting IT pass outs and professionals who were eager to volunteer for BJP and ensure Modi’s win in the 2014 elections. Gradually, BJP learnt how to use technology effectively to gather the data. The Adhaar was born post-coronation of Modi as Prime Minister, to devise the same policy as used during pre-polls to collect data of people and use it to meet the political intentions and objectives and linking data with other areas was the by-product of this scheme in order to have a complete surveillance mechanism in place on the movements of people across the states of India.

Ullekh NP wrote a book on Modi’s rise “War Room” published in 2015, Ullekh was born to a family of politicians in the Marxist hotbed of Kannur, Kerela. NP is a Journalist and political commentator now based in New Delhi. He worked with India’s biggest news publications such as The Economic Times, DNA, and India Today. He writes on Politics, public health and corporate affairs.

 

This book “War Room” is titled after the real war room were set up for BJP workers, technicians and volunteers who were seen working for the Modi’s government tirelessly to make him a face of people and overhaul his blemished political image during the electoral process of 2014 elections, and present him in such a way that he would be seen as messiah for the poor Indians. Off-late he was chosen as the best suitable alternative candidature for the Prime Ministerial berth.

India is a thriving middle-class society driven by the idea of change and modernity besotted with the winds of political change around the world, voters across the spectrum during 2014 election were eager to exercise their choice in a country that prides itself on its vibrant democratic history, the highlights of which is the general election held every five years. The sheer number of India’s democratic machinery is staggering and the frenzy on the streets during election time surpasses that of the world’s biggest carnivals.

The country of 1600 plus languages and dialectics has more than 1500 large and small parties were prepared to pack a punch. Politics anywhere is an exercise in selling, and the value of promotion in India is much-enhanced thanks to the enormity and diversity of its voters. The increasing influence of corporate sector that lavishly funds political parties has distorted India’s secular political tradition, for their part, libertarian’s claim the system is skewed in favour of an ill-informed uneducated majority.

Despite its flaws, the system continues to flourish and inspire innovation. This time around, the elections acquired a techie halo. More than 65 percent of India’s population is aged and elections in India have never been a tepid affair. In 2014, India saw an unprecedented participation in both voting and campaigning.

In the succinct prose, always concise never belaboured, Ullekh NP tells the story of Modi’s ample victory in his book ‘War Room’. The book contains seven chapters all related to the Modi’s rise in BJP and how he was placed in Gujrat strategic geography to lead as a Chief Minister backed by MrAdvani and how did he sever his relationship with family and other relatives in order to do something extraordinary in life.

Ullekh begins his book with the chapter ‘Varanasi’ which is considered as a critical state in terms of political and religious fervor, Varanasi which is an oldest than Jerusalem and Athens continued to be one of the Hinduism’s holiest cities, maddeningly dirty, yet undeniably holy, Varanasi also called Banaras is bound to fascinate any political party that espouses the Hindu religion cause. This place is still a hotbed for upper-caste politics and has seen a shattering of caste hierarchies and the dismantling of Brahmin dominance in most parts. Much has changed from the 1980s in Varanasi, the late Congress Veteran KamalpatiTripathi managed to stay in power using his ties with the Brahmins, a powerful high-class group of opinion leaders that continued to handle the affairs of various affluent temples and wields tremendous influence among Hindu voters. The Ram Janambhoomi agitation of the late 1980s and the early 19902 changed the equations. The agitation called for building a temple in the name of Lord Ram in the place of a disputed sixteen-century mosque at Ayodhya built by Babar, the invader emperor who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. The dismantling of Mosque and set up a Ram temple kicked up the religious passion across the country and especially in the Hindu belt which suddenly catapulted BJP to the mainstream, since then BJP made deep inroads in this town, winning it in all LokSabha elections since 1991 with the exception in 2004. Lately, it after acquiring the huge position at the national level, Kejriwal in the recent election tried to tap Modi in Varanasi but failed to win the election. Modi polled 5, 81,022 votes, securing 56.37 percent of the votes in the constituency. The runner-up Kejriwal got 2, 09,238, Ajay Rai got 75, 614 votes which made Modi’ margin of victory with 3.71 Lakh votes.

Modi’s was unbeatable despite saddled with the infamous Godhra Riots and wearing the saffron non-secular and often berated body of thoughts that are synonymous with bigots like RSS, it was hardly possible to inherit an India, with its multitude of peoples and diversities, unless there were many other factors that came into play, prior to the 2014 elections.

Ullekh NP states that the campaign for Modi followed the American – style Presidential Elections. More than two years ago, at the back end of the BJP Offices, a war was already afoot, making Modi the most preferred candidate for the PMO, in India.

The figures were well known – the Digital cascade had already happened in India; it was known that 65% of the electorate were under 35 years of age and 35% of these were first time voters, in the age group of 18 – 21 years. The Smart Phone users were growing at an unprecedented number in India than it had done in any other part of the world. And almost all of the 65% of the electorate were on mobile devices and certainly on the internet. They were young, hungry for change; they needed jobs and to get onto the fast track. They were tired of seeing men – and women, with grey heads and bulging paunches whom they could not identify with, and they were very tired of corruption. They had put all their eggs on a young Leader, ArvindKejriwal who promised a corruption-free society, in Delhi, but had been lead down by his resignation in 49 days, after being elected as CM in Delhi. They might have enjoyed an elite Rahul Gandhi, but he was too much of a Mamma’s boy and could hardly be considered a PM candidate, even if all his party people, to please his mother, Sonia Gandhi said so. Moreover, after having one highly educated but a non-vocal puppet – down – Sonia Gandhi’s – string, as PM, they certainly did not want another ‘Madam’s’ boy around. They wanted to make sure that their choice made the difference in India and they were the Change Leaders of India. Their voice resounded on Social Media, and even before the war was won on the ground, the Modi Wave had swept the Digital space to a landslide victory.

It was strategy, excellent communications, use of technology to the hilt to reach far-flung areas of India, with new ideas like ‘Chai par Chacha’ and Piyush Pandey’s ‘Abki bar Modi Sarkar’, catch lines and deliverables, that caught the imagination of the youth which eventually saw a change maker who promises to take India on a growth path like never before. It is in this background that NarendraModi, who once helped his father to sell tea at railway stations, came to power.

In the last chapter, Ullekh explains that how Modi supporters in diaspora helped him to build his image in the remote villages in India. Many NRIs fly into India with an intent of doing what it calls “save” (service) and would work for weeks long among Dalits of central Uttar Pradesh to highlight NarendraModi’s achievements in Gujrat where Modi had been Chief Minister since late 2001. The strong base in abroad gave Modi a kick start to his popularity. His ninety minutes address at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden on 28, Sep 2014 was a stunning hit, with the packed crowd of more than 18,000 people chanting his name and missions of others watching it all over the world. His overhauling image abroad was reminiscent of the foreign relations obsessed PanditJawaharLal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. He began to travel many countries, later on, and pleaded the NRIs to come back and build India, but failed in his attempts to what he promised including creating new jobs, and Make in India, bringing back black money and using the tactics of demonetization subsequent to which GST regime implementation crumbled the business community of the India which eventually faded his aura.
(Altaf Bashir is a South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation Fellow, he has recently completed his Master’s In International Relations Major’s In Peace and Conflict Studies. Feedback at: isaismoon@gmail.com)


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Opinion

Not in the Mahatma’s name

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By Apoorvanand

The recent uproar over the glorification of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, NathuramGodse, by the BharatiyaJanata Party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur has forced her party to tick her off. It should be a solace for us that there is at least one non-negotiable in Indian politics, that the political cost of the celebration of the murder of the Mahatma is formidably high! But now we would be told to let the matter rest as she has been chided even by her mentors.

Let us look at the implication of this approach, that Ms. Thakur, sans this statement, should be acceptable to us as a potential representative in Parliament. She continues to be the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, as she claimed Prime Minister NarendraModi had said of her. Our satisfaction over the condemnation of Ms. Thakur makes us forget that she is being audaciously presented as the most fitting answer to secular politics, which holds that a person accused of attacks on Muslims cannot be a people’s representative in India.

 

The idea that a Hindu can never indulge in a terror act is, in fact, another way of saying that terror acts are always committed by non-Hindus. Or, by Pakistan, which for BJP leaders is a proxy for Muslims. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while talking about the Samjhauta Express blast case acquittals, claimed that it was unimaginable to accept that Hindus could be involved in such acts, and that he believed that in all such crimes there was the hand of Pakistan. A crime has been committed, and since the Hindu suspects cannot (being Hindus) do it, it can only be Muslims even if they are not caught — this is the underlying assumption.

It is this theory which is being thrown at us by the BJP by presenting Ms. Thakur as its choice for the electorate of Bhopal. It has another sinister aspect. She was selected knowing well that she could not be a choice for Muslims. Her selection is therefore a message to Muslims that by not voting for her, they disregard the sentiments of Hindus, thus showing intolerance towards the majority.

By supporting her, the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, they have a chance to endear themselves to the Hindus. If they don’t, they would always be a suspect.

This argument is not new. Many pundits, while accepting that Mr.Modi was a divisive figure, urged Indians to choose him as he was the best bet for the economic development of India. So, can Muslims be so sectarian as to think only about themselves while the greater national interest is at stake?

The swift and determined move by the BJP to reject her statement on Godse is a clever ploy to make this issue irrelevant while judging her. It is as if we are asked to judge Godse, setting aside the act of murder of Gandhi by him. There are ‘respectable’ people who feel that Godse spoilt his case by murdering the Mahatma. They regret this folly as they believe that there was strong merit in his ideological stance. According to them, he rightly opposed the Muslim appeasement of Gandhi, his anger at the dangerous friendliness of Gandhi towards Pakistan is correct, and his impatience with the unwise and impractical pacifism of Gandhi is to be understood if we want to make India strong.

We are asked to understand that there was a reason Godse was forced to kill Gandhi. We are asked to not treat him as a simple criminal. He was driven by high ideas. To make him a man of ideas, he is constantly humanised. We have seen over the years people talking about his childhood, his education, his editorship. Gandhi must have done something really horrible to provoke a thoughtful human being to turn into an assassin. If anything, they imply, he was a just assassin!

So, we are asked to move away from the trivia, that is the act of the murder, to the substantive, the issues raised by Nathuram in his ‘brave defence’ in the court, which had moved people to tears even then.

The RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), unlike the Islamic State and the Maoists, understands it well that an individual and identifiable act of violence makes it abhorrent and repulsive for the masses, whereas anonymous acts of violence are always more palatable. It was therefore important for Savarkar to distance himself from his disciple, Godse, to remain respectable. For the RSS it was necessary to disown Godse to be able to keep working on the majoritarian ideas he shared with or had learnt from Savarkar and the RSS. No known RSS hand soils his hands with blood; yet it is the politics of the RSS, not at all different from Godse’s, which makes blood flow.

Gandhi had said again and again that it would be better for him to die if India were to become inhospitable to Muslims. He was talking to those who were objecting to the recitation from the Koran at his prayer meetings. Death he could accept but not the narrowing of his heart! Neither bowing to threats or force! In the same invocation, he said, if you ask me to recite the Gita at gun point, I would refuse to obey you.

Gandhi told his audience, your heart is also large. Don’t constrict it. It is this challenge which needs to be accepted. It requires immense bravery of intelligence and humanity to be able to hear Gandhi. This intelligence would tell us that the distancing from the murder of the Mahatma by the co-travellers of Godse is in fact a strategy to enlarge the space for majoritarian ideas and draw more and more Hindus towards them, thus making Gandhi irrelevant while keeping his facade decorated.

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Why I want Pragya Thakur to win

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By Saba Naqvi

Regardless of whether NarendraModi remains Prime Minister or not I want terror accused Pragya Thakur to win from Bhopal. The esteemed leadership of India’s pre-eminent political party chose a terror accused as a candidate and they must endure her tenure as MP.

Pragya may be a poisonous vendor of hate and violence but she is not a hypocrite. Ever since she spoke her mind on describing NathuramGodse, the individual who shot MK Gandhi to death, as a patriot, the BJP national leadership has claimed to be disturbed. The Prime Minister spoke up after her statement, saying, he would never forgive her for what she had said and the party stated that it had initiated disciplinary action against her.

 

But by the time the party took this position, many members of the BJP had come up with twisted arguments somehow justifying Pragya’s validation of the assassin of a figure many revere as a Mahatma or Great Soul. Party members exposed their own problematic ideological heritage that included non-participation in the freedom movement led by Gandhi. Some of them could not help but reveal their own natural impulse to drop the veneer of falsehood and come clean on how they do indeed believe that Godse was a patriot despite having killed Gandhi.

The Godse remark in just two days exposed the ideological underbelly of the ruling party that does indeed have members who believe that Gandhi was a villain who loved Muslims and Pakistan. That’s why Godse, by his own account in a famous trial, shot him. A must-read for those who wish to engage with this debate is the book titled “The Men Who Killed Gandhi” by ManoharMalgonkar.

Seventy-one years after that crime on January 30, 1948, we have come to the point where a candidate contesting in an election for Parliament embraces the Godse world view. What’s more, a member of Modi’s council of ministers, AnantkumarHegde, endorsed her position. The MP from Karnataka had earlier kicked up a storm when he had said that “we are here to change the Constitution”. Yes, the same Constitution he took an oath to protect.

Hegde’s also received a show-cause notice to explain his position and on May 17 BJP president Amit Shah said the party’s disciplinary committee would submit a report on the matter in 10 days, after the election verdict, that is. There was more: the BJP media cell chief in Madhya Pradesh, the state from where Pragya is contesting, was brazen enough to say that Gandhi was the father of the nation of Pakistan. The BJP suspended him.

So how do we read the ideological contortions ever since Pragya uttered the “Godse is a patriot” words? One could say that the BJP is trying to occupy the space of both extreme and moderate in a national ideological pendulum that has shifted right-wards. It’s not a bad ploy—the ideological family plays to the more core beliefs, that are to be revealed step by step, and just in case some voters find them unpalatable, there are the “reasonable” elements as well.

And, voila! Modi becomes a moderate who is being stern with the fringe! That is a useful projection at a time when there is the possibility of needing some allies post-23 May. The BJP has made this ideological journey before, of being all things to all men. Earlier, former Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee was offered up as the moderate to LK Advani, the architect of the Ram temple movement, who brought the BJP to national prominence. Today Modi today is the moderate who is speaking up against the hardliners, who are called “fringe” by those who believe it’s all part of a great national purpose.

It’s not. The “fringe” has been mainstream for some years now. Much before Pragya was presented to the nation as a candidate for parliament, the BJP leadership chose an unabashed Muslim-hating monk of a religious order to be the chief minister of India’s most populous state. All these debates about ‘moderate’ and ‘hardliner’ are a farce designed to make the BJP constituency feel better about themselves. It’s part of the good cop/ bad cop tactic.

To conclude, therefore, I want a terror accused to win, just so that we can, as a nation, get a reality check on where we have landed up. And just in case someone wants to ask me about whether I am afraid, here is my reply: I am so certain about the courage of my convictions, that there is no fear, although I do feel some shame for those who have tied themselves into knots over something about which there should have been no ambiguity. Bring on Pragya and let’s see what happens next.

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The ‘unpeople’ of India

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Abdul Khaliq

Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims.

I fear for our future as a secular, multicultural country that once celebrated a richness of culture and tradition. Till not long ago we affirmed our common humanity even as we celebrated our differences. Our nation represented diversity, kindness, compassion and a revulsion of extremist views. But, over time, our collective souls have been deadened by violence, deepening communal and caste divides and the most perverse thinking. The cosmopolitan spirit has been throttled by hyper nationalism, populism and a deep distrust of the liberal values of tolerance and inclusion. A creeping majoritarianism is spreading across the land.

 

In this overheated, protracted election season, Muslims are up against it, caught between a rock and a hard place. Theirs is an Orwellian world where they are the “unpeople”— a term coined by George Orwell in his scary masterpiece 1984, to define those whose names and existence had been erased because they had incurred “Big Brother’s” ire. Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims. What makes their plight infinitely worse, is the fact that even the major allegedly secular party has consigned Muslims to social invisibility. Can one trust a party that is afraid to even allude to the Muslims’ problems, let alone address them?

When the PM evoked the 1984 mass slaughter of Sikhs and quoted Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous justification about the inevitable effect of the falling of a big tree, why did the Congress president not hit back by recalling the 2002 Gujarat riots and Modi’s Newtonian observation justifying the killing of hundreds of Muslims as a reaction to an action? He refrained, not for any ethical reason, but simply for fear of being seen as empathetic to Muslims and their problems and of equating the two tragedies. Caught between the flagrant hostility of the right-wing and the fraudulent concern of the secular front, Muslims are India’s outcasts.

In today’s India, where all issues across the political spectrum are seen through the lens of identity politics, Muslims are vilified for their custom, dress and tradition. They are physically attacked for the food they eat, discriminated against in employment, housing, and even civic amenities, and, they are routinely victimised by law-enforcement authorities simply for being Muslim. Social media is awash with the most hateful, stereotypical portrayal of Muslims as terrorist sympathisers, baby producing factories and worse. Although India has been the home of Islam and its adherents for much more than a millennium, Muslims today are constantly pilloried about their loyalty to the nation.

All assessments about Muslims are universalised, in black and white and deeply problematic. In a conversation with two CRPF sub-inspectors who have recently returned from Kashmir (I did not reveal that I was Muslim), I was told that “these Muslims are a nuisance as even their women throw stones at us.” Please note that the stone-throwing by the disgruntled Kashmiris is perceived as a common trait of Muslims — all 190 million of them. Their other complaints were that Muslims support Pakistan and insist on eating only halal meat. When I asked how the civil unrest in Kashmir could be resolved, I got an answer that stunned me: “Make sure that the police force in Kashmir is recruited only from the Shia community and they will teach these Sunnis a lesson!” How well have the British taught us the art of “divide and rule” and of polarising communities! The conversation filled me with anguish at the gratuitous distrust and hatred for Muslims. The animosity runs deep and is expressed by ordinary citizens in a matter-of-fact tone that is unnerving.

I recall clearly the sense of cautious optimism among Muslims when NarendraModi assumed power in 2014. His swearing-in was a strikingly symbolic moment, epitomised by the presence of the Pakistani PM that signalled hope of rapprochement with Pakistan (Indian Muslims know through experience that their well-being is linked to this crucial relationship). The PM represented a more decisive polity that promised an equitable social order expressed most eloquently in the Socratic slogan, “Sabkasaathsabkavikas”. This slogan encapsulated this nation’s foremost mission of fostering social solidarity based on the principle that every human being matters. Minorities felt reassured by the PM’s emphatic assertion in 2015 that “my government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.” He repeatedly made appeals to preserve our core values of diversity, tolerance and plurality, calling on Hindus and Muslims to work together to fight poverty instead of fighting one another. His stunning embrace of Nawaz Sharif on Christmas Day 2015 filled everyone with hope.

On the ground, however, India began witnessing a deepening cultural mutation as vigilante squads terrorised and lynched Muslims in the name of protecting the cow, launched “gharwapsi” campaigns that have all but ended the freedom to choose one’s faith and used “love jihad” to stifle any kind of solidarity between the two communities. Minorities began to believe that the present dispensation’s aim is to convert India into the Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva where Muslims and Christians would live as second-class citizens. The current election rhetoric has only exacerbated those fears. The BJP LokSabha candidate for Barabanki boasted that “NarendraModi has made attempts to break the morale of Muslims. Vote for Modi if you want to destroy the breed of Muslims.”

We are on the cusp of having a new government at the Centre. Opinion polls and the most reliable — the bookies — predict victory for the NDA, but with a reduced majority. Ironically, the return of Modi as PM is the best hope for peace within the country and the neighbourhood. Imran Khan was right when he said that only Modi could help resolve Kashmir. He is the only leader with the power to rein in the lunatics whose purpose in life is to polarise communities and engage in eternal war with Pakistan. In any case, the new government’s first task would be to combat the overpowering atmosphere of distrust and hate bedevilling society which constitutes the foremost threat to the nation, more so than terrorism. The creation of a truly secular society free of prejudice and discrimination must be the prime mission.

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