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OPINION| BJP Banking on Nationalism to Trump Other Factors for Victory in Hindi Heartland

But by uniting minority communities and backward castes in an anti-BJP coalition, the grand alliance players in Uttar Pradesh and other Hindi-speaking states will hope to throw a spanner in the works.

Ambikanand Sahay | News18.com

Updated:April 10, 2019, 5:14 PM IST
OPINION| BJP Banking on Nationalism to Trump Other Factors for Victory in Hindi Heartland
Image for representation.

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

Do you know who had asked this question in a moment of exasperation? Any guesses?

Yes, you are spot on. These words were uttered by one of the most powerful leaders the world had seen in the 20th century, Charles de Gaulle, who had virtually rewritten his country’s constitution and founded the Fifth Republic of France.

In the backdrop of President de Gaulle’s quote, can you answer a natural question that crops up: how on earth do you govern India where there are 36 states and Union Territories, 29 languages, seven major religions, 2,000 ethnic groups, and thousands of castes, sub-castes and sub-sub castes?

But let’s not just focus our attention on cheese and bread, idli and sambhar, chholey and bhature, roti and daal, and baati and churma. For, it’s election time. There are more crucial emotive issues that have come to the fore. In the meantime.

Remember, you have got to win elections in this land of socio-cultural diversity before you get to govern India. How do you win elections at a time when you witness a newer realignment of caste/communal forces on the eve of the polls?

And what is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s line of thinking in this regard? He did reveal a piece of his mind in an interview to Rahul Joshi of Network 18. Read this excerpt to arrive at an answer:

Rahul Joshi: Let's talk about elections — do you think the biggest issue today is nationalism? Opposition parties claim that you are trying to divert attention from real issues.

PM Modi: Nationalism means ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’. If I am saying ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ but my motherland is in pain, how is my nationalism justified? If I try to deliver clean India, isn’t that nationalism? If I put a roof over the heads of the poor, isn’t that nationalism? If the poor don’t have the money for treatment in hospitals and face death, is that nationalism? What is nationalism? Should I leave the poor to die or provide them Rs 5 lakh benefit under Ayushman Bharat? Isn’t that nationalism? The farmer can use modern techniques and get full price for their produce, they can get 1.5 times the MSP (minimum support price). Isn’t that nationalism? Isn’t it nationalism if we provide our forces with the latest weaponry? That’s why I say that the definition of nationalism is dynamic. ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is the ‘jai’ of 1.3 billion people in India. If I can provide opportunities to people to improve their lives, that, in my view, is nationalism. And if that is the definition of nationalism, then we are nationalists. Our nationalism is for the benefit of a billion Indians.

It’s clear from the answer given by the Prime Minister that the BJP does think that the issue of nationalism, as per their leader’s definition, would override all other issues. Now read another excerpt from the interview:

Rahul Joshi: Mayawati openly appealed to Muslims to vote for the “mahagathbandhan” and not allow votes to be split. The Election Commission has taken note of this statement. How do you view such remarks?

PM Modi: It is unsurprising that Mayawati is making such statements as she is facing defeat. She is appealing to Muslims to specifically vote for her. This is a matter for the Election Commission to look into. I am less worried about Mayawati. She is part of a sinking ship and is looking to Muslims for support. I am more worried about the secular brigade. Why are they silent? Had someone made such an appeal to Hindus, they would have expressed outrage. The ‘award wapsi’ gang would have returned their awards and a signature campaign would have started. Why is this group silent? This is a worrying subject for the nation. I request you to expose such elements. Why are they selective? Don’t these remarks hurt their secularism? Did this statement boost their secularism? The biggest threat to India are these people who hide behind the mask of secularism. Mayawati is looking for a means to survive in politics. She will continue to try to gather votes by any means.

You may or may not agree with every word that the Prime Minister spoke. But one thing is clear: The BJP, which had literally swept the national elections across the Hindi heartland in 2014 and the UP state assembly polls in 2017 in the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar communal riots, still thinks that the nationalism issue would once again carry the day for them.

But the “mahagathbandhan” players in UP think otherwise. Perhaps, they are relying too much on Choudhary Charan Singh’s theory of MAJGAR (Muslims, Ahirs, Jats, Gujjars and Rajputs). The Rajputs who have, by now, demonstratively moved away to the saffron camp, stand replaced by Mayawati’s Dalits. That’s why MAJGAR has turned into MAJGAD.

For all practical and political purposes, it’s an exhilarating electoral contest being witnessed between the “mahagathbandhan’s” arithmetic versus Modi-Yogi’s chemistry in the land of 80 MPs. To put it even simply, it’s Bua-Bhatija-Chacha Choudhary’s MAJGAD against Brand Modi.

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