BJP exploits Islamophobia to win elections

31st May 2019
BJP exploits Islamophobia to win elections

India PM Narendra Modi (Photo: Mir Ahmad Firooz/Anadolu Agency)

Sajeda Haider

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have repeatedly illustrated utter disdain for the country’s 180 million Muslim electorates by fusing their election campaign with blatant Islamophobia.

The world’s largest democracy has just finished a particularly protracted, gruelling and vitriolic general election involving 900 million electorates. Modi has been campaigning for the last two months seeking a second term on the basis of national security and fighting the enemy both outside and inside the country — Pakistan and Indian Muslims respectively.

Modi won the last election in 2014 on a platform of national development, kick-starting a sluggish economy and ending the ‘corruption’ of the then ruling Congress Party. For 13 years prior to 2014, Modi was the Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat where 3,000 Muslim men, women and children were killed in a targeted pogrom, and hundreds of thousands more were made homeless and forced to live in refugee camps in 2002.

This all happened under Modi’s watch who is accused of initiating the massacre.To date Modi has not expressed condemnation, regret nor remorse for the pogrom carried out by cadres belonging to the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Modi became a pariah in the rest of India and in many western countries including the UK. In 2013 when the RSS made him their prime ministerial candidate, Modi was rebranded as a strong, clean leader who was going to bring development to all Indians irrespective of religion and caste. He did not speak even once of ‘Hindutva’ — the BJP’s ideology which wants India to be a Hindu country with all religious minorities relegated to second-class citizens.

Under Modi’s Premiership Muslims have been vilified, abused, attacked, lynched and effectively marginalised to the fringes of society. They have lived in a constant state of fear and insecurity. Ironically the BJP/RSS has sold the persecution complex to large sections of the Hindu community in which the majority feel a false sense of insecurity at the hands of the minority.

The Modi Government has monumentally failed in delivering its economic manifesto. Unemployment is at a 45-year high; inflation is uncontrollable, the economy is slowing down and farmers are committing suicide. Hence, in this election neither the BJP nor their star campaigner could boast of their Government’s performance, so they fell back on what Modi does best – Islamophobia and religious polarization.

Modi made his main poll plank national security and his chest-thumping speeches sounded as if India was at war with Pakistan. In an election rally, he talked about using nuclear weapons against Pakistan, a particularly loose comment coming from a prime minister of a nuclear power state with a nuclear opponent.

Modi, from his Gujarat days, has always used Pakistan as a euphemism for Muslims in India. Due to a model code of conduct that bans the use of religion in election campaigns, Modi has found a way out of not using the word Muslim. He refers to Pakistan but actually is means Indian Muslims, and is virtually calling them traitors who owe allegiance to the enemy.

In all previous elections the subtext to the BJP’s, and particularly Modi’s campaigning has been demonizing Muslims and scaremongering so that the Hindu community, unites and is frightened into voting for the BJP. This also has the added advantage of diverting the voters’ attention away from the real issues of inflation, unemployment, economic recession and agrarian crisis.

This election saw the worst use of this tactic. It has been the most religiously polarized and Islamophobic general election that India has seen sinc¬e it became a nation in 1947. No matter who wins, the damage that Modi has done to the secular fabric of the country will take a long time to repair.

“Infiltrators (Muslims) are like termites in the soil of Bengal. The BJP Government will pick up the infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal”, said by Amit Shah, national President of the BJP.

“Congress has been suffering from the green virus, it has got infected by it”, said Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, about Rahul Gandhi, President of the Congress, courting Muslim voters in Kerala.

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