The BJP had resorted to a strident Hindutva stance in the run up to elections to five states. Ram Mandir was front and center of the BJP campaign. So much so that some top-ranking BJP leaders wanted the case about the mandir in the Supreme Court to be expedited. Also, they were not ready to accept any other ruling except a permission to construct the mandir. What is more, they didn’t want a mosque anywhere near the Mandir. Doing so, according to Uma Bhakti will “make Hindus intolerant”. No less a person than the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat petulantly sought the enactment of a law to get around the case about the Mandir in Supreme Court. He also threatened an agitation like 1992. In fact, it is wrong to talk about this campaign in past tense. The BJP is still at it and is unlikely to give up on the stance in the run up to the general election due next. The party’s ideological position, on the contrary, might become only shriller.
The BJP is certain to try every trick in its playbook to get back into political reckoning. Having miserably failed on economic and governance front, the party will return to its time-tested Hindutva agenda to fire up its support base. This includes reducing the political discourse to gutter level. It also includes polarization on a mass scale: deploying wedge issues and appealing to basest instincts of the people to try to hone a friendly constituency into shape. Also, the party might also resort to populist economic measures to drum up support. The appointment as RBI Governor of a bureaucrat who oversaw the implementation of the controversial demonitisation and GST measures appears a part of this strategy. We can expect loan waive-offs to farmers and enhancement in minimum support price for the agricultural produce. And above all, we can expect the BJP to use Kashmir for its electoral benefits. So, it is unlikely that there will be any let up in the security centric approach the BJP-led government at the centre has single-mindedly pursued towards Kashmir. The past four and a half years have witnessed hundreds of killings and thousands of injuries in the state as part of the union government’s bid to kill its way out of the Kashmir issue. There has been little effort at a political outreach to the state. This policy is unlikely to change. Similarly, the frozen relations with Pakistan will continue uncharged.
But if the outcome of the elections in five states is anything to go by, such negative politics seems past its sell-by date. And the besides taking concrete steps to improve the state of economy, the BJP will need to engage in a constructive politics to regain the trust of voters. The party can only ignore this message at its peril.
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