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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Chosen poison: Editorial on PM Modi’s mangalsutra remark and the polarisation card

There is reason to believe that BJP is now falling back on its tried-and-tested polarising policy that always yields dividends. This merits speculation about the likely causes of this shift

The Editorial Board Published 24.04.24, 08:01 AM
Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi File Photo

Cometh the hour, cometh the polarisation card out of the prime minister’s pocket. At an election rally in Rajasthan, Narendra Modi stated that the Congress intended to confiscate citizens’ assets, including the mangalsutras of women, and redistribute them among Muslims. He also added that the former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had said that Muslims had the first right over national resources. Incidentally, while speaking in Aligarh a day after, a constituency with a sizeable minority population, Mr Modi presented himself as a benefactor to Muslims, carefully editing out his targeted vitriol against the same community. The prime minister, as is his wont during the poll season, is guilty of distorting facts. The Congress manifesto addresses income inequality, one of the ugly legacies of Mr Modi’s regime, and does not make any mention of the redistribution of wealth. Mr Singh’s speech was also bent out of shape by Mr Modi: the former had alluded to the enlightened principle that the marginalised — not just Muslims — had the first right over the nation’s resources. As if on cue, Mr Modi’s lieutenants — the Union home minister and the BJP party chief are examples — have junked the rhetoric of ‘Viksit Bharat’ and ‘Chaar sau paar’ to concentrate on divisive undertones in their speeches. But then demagoguery and dog whistles are the forte of Mr Modi’s government given the seemingly benign disposition of the Election Commission of India towards the prime minister and his peers when it comes to breaching the red lines of the Model Code of Conduct. The Opposition has, unsurprisingly, made noises to the EC about Mr Modi’s divisive remarks. Conscientious citizens have censured Mr Modi. But none of this will make a difference unless the people choose to resist this kind of choreographed hate-mongering.

There is reason to believe that the BJP is now falling back on its tried-and-tested polarising policy that always yields electoral dividends. This merits speculation about the likely causes of this shift. Does the feedback from the ground suggest that the first round of polls did not meet the party’s expectations? Is the Opposition’s thrust on bread-and-butter issues beginning to bite? The Opposition would do well not to fall for the BJP’s bait of diversionary tactic — the latter is a master in this game. Its electoral interests would perhaps be served best if it continues to press on with its agenda of amplifying the people’s distress. That could be one way of striking a chord with the electorate.

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