'Ghori, Ghazni, Akhilesh Ali Jinnah': BJP’s rallies have gotten coarser
Party leaders regularly pepper campaign speeches with sly and brazen Muslim references in bid to draw Hindu votes
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya grabbed the headlines last week by saying ‘lungi-clad goons’ used to ‘roam’ the streets of the State before 2017, when the BJP came to power.
“Who in skull caps used to threaten the traders while carrying guns? Who used to encroach upon your land and threaten you to not go to police? Remember all this,” he is reported to have said at the Vyapari Sammelan event in Prayagraj.
As the nation gets set for the politically-charged Uttar Pradesh Assembly, a no holds barred battle is on display. The Yogi Adityanath government in the State has to fight not only anti-incumbency but also the aftermath of a year-long farmer protest against three Central laws that is suspected to have created deep discontent in western UP.
No holds barred battle
The BJP sees a religiously polarised election as a sure-fire way of retaining its hold on the Hindu vote bank, and the quickest way to do it is to bring down the threshold of electoral decorum. Phrases and terms that were earlier never openly aired — mostly related to Muslims — are now commonplace at poll rallies, media interviews and on social media feeds.
Apart from his ‘lungi-clad’ and ‘skull cap’ references, Maurya, a senior party leader, said Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) president, ought to be renamed ‘Akhilesh Ali Jinnah’. The SP leader would go to any lengths to appease the Muslim voter, said the BJP leader.
While Maura likened Akhilesh to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, UP BJP chief Swatantra Deo Singh said the preceding SP rule over the State was akin to the regimes of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Ghori. “Like Ghazni and Ghori, these people (SP) have also looted the State and attacked our religious identity,” said Singh. “The Hindus had to plead with the officials to allow them to make a pandal for Durga Puja.” He further referred to Akhilesh as a ‘seasonal Hindu’ who changed his leanings per situation.
Several other BJP leaders campaigning in UP have similarly pulled out all the stops. There are frequent references to cow slaughter, love jihad and forced migration of Hindu families, which allegedly took place during SP rule.
Setting an example was Adityanath who, in September, said that before he took over the State’s administration, only those who’d say ‘abba jaan’ would get ration. This had abba jaan, a term used by Muslims to address their fathers, trending on Twitter for a couple of days. Indians — including a large number of non-Muslims — shared pictures of their own abba jaans and recalled how much they cared for their families and the society.
Banking on anti-incumbency
The SP, meanwhile, is hitting back, with concerted efforts to tap the anti-incumbency sentiment. “Not just in the State, but in the entire country, minorities have been harassed by the BJP,” media reports quoted Rafiq Ansari, the SP MLA from Meerut, as saying. “They are only counting days when they can vote the party out.”
Further, ST Hasan, an SP MP, observed, a large section of Uttar Pradesh’s lower middle class and poor voters were disenchanted with the BJP, cutting across religious and caste lines. The Dalits are upset because the State government is favouring the Thakurs and no development plan has benefited the ‘lower’ castes, said Hasan, as cited by media reports.