Editorial: Genuine outreach or electoral strategy?

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, January 23, 2023, 09:20 PM IST
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Representational Pic | File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call to BJP workers to reach out to the minorities and the marginalised is clearly a tactical move, given the huge electoral stakes for the party in 2024. The BJP cadres, who have unfailingly decried attempts to pander to the minorities, received a lesson in inclusiveness and amity from the Prime Minister who urged them to include Pasmanda Muslims, Dawoodi Bohras, professional Muslims, Sufis as well as backward and marginalised communities in their contact programmes. The saffron party has made some progress in its outreach to Christians in Goa and the Northeast as well as to Sikhs and Parsis. Now the BJP Minority Morcha has identified 60 constituencies in 10 states and a Union Territory where minorities comprise more than 30% of the population. The party plans to launch a four-month programme here to spread the message of the Modi Government’s welfare schemes.

Although Mr Modi said this should not be an exercise to garner votes but to ensure that all sections of Indians receive the benefits of development, the electoral message is clear. Among the constituencies being targeted is Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad. The Bharat Jodo Yatra, launched by the Congress leader to counter what he calls an atmosphere of hate being created by the BJP/RSS, has rattled the ruling party with the unprecedented response it has received not only in the Southern states, but also in the Hindi heartland.

It remains to be seen if Mr Modi’s warning to the cadres at a closed-door session of the BJP’s National Executive meeting last week, to avoid speaking on contentious issues and stop criticising every new movie, is heeded. For the past several years, motormouths and so-called fringe elements in the saffron brigade have made the most outrageous comments and heinous attacks on minorities. Ahead of the Assembly election in Karnataka this year, where the narrative seems to be increasingly polarised, will the Prime Minister’s appeal to reach out to the minorities be complied with? After all it is the state where anti-minority rhetoric has peaked on issues such as hijab, ‘love jihad’, and a ban on Muslim traders outside temples. Violence is rampant in some communally tense districts. Mr Modi must ensure that the cadres do not pay mere lip service to his appeal but actually implement his wishes. Only communal amity can ensure that India achieves its potential.

Take a bow, Jacinda

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s surprise announcement that she is stepping down on Feb 7 shocked the world because it is so rare for a politician to opt out voluntarily. More often than not, they have to be pushed out. Ms Ardern’s explanation that she has “no more fuel in the tank” is not being taken at face value, but while the media and analysts figure out the real reasons for her shock exit, one should commend her courage and timing. Ms Ardern, unlike most politicians and sportspersons, decided it was better to leave the field when people ask why, rather than wait for them to ask when she would step down. Her decision is something many Indian politicians would do well to emulate.

Ms Ardern has had to battle her share of misogyny and sexism, but she brought a rare sensitivity to her role as leader of her country as evidenced in her initial handling of the Covid pandemic, the attacks at two Christchurch mosques, and a devastating earthquake. She was only 37 when she took over as New Zealand’s premier and has the distinction of being only the second PM to have a baby while in office. Her appearance at the United Nations General Assembly with her three-month-old daughter hogged the headlines in 2018. At a time when the world was ruled by populist leaders like Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Jair Bolsanaro with their gung-ho style of politics, Ms Ardern brought grace and a quiet dignity to her office. She symbolised optimism and strength and belongs to that rare breed of politicians who walk the walk.

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