Union Home Minister Amit Shah kicked off the election campaign in Uttarakhand with an acerbic barb on the Congress for allowing the blockade of national highways on Fridays for Muslims to offer namaz. There are countless reasons for the BJP to attack the Congress and the appeasement of minorities has obviously been one of their pet themes, but Shah’s criticism was more about Muslims than the Congress.
He is mature enough to understand the purpose of dog-whistle politics and was clearly catering to Hindutva supporters by suggesting that Muslims won’t be allowed any undue privilege as long as the BJP was in power. It is clear that the top BJP leadership is aware winning elections without an emotionally surcharged political ambience could be difficult. The Hindutva thrust is more than apparent in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh as well.
The wily politician that Shah is, he must not forget that he is the home minister too, and cannot allow political exigencies to override constitutional obligations. It is not an unfortunate aberration as Shah’s electioneering in Delhi reflected this prejudiced mindset; he not only made the Shaheen Bagh protest the centrepiece of his discourse but also used indecent language, by appealing to the voters to give electric shock to the anti-CAA protesters. That’s beneath the dignity of the high office he holds.
Even his use of the namaz metaphor betrayed a disturbing attitude; if highways are indeed blocked for offering namaz every Friday, he could have tackled this problem as the home minister with greater sophistication, instead of sending negative vibes to a section of society. Apart from constitutional principles, these barbs aren’t in tune with the BJP’s own ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and ‘sabka vishwas’ rhetoric. No government can win the trust of minorities with such crude discourse.
These apparently minor issues cause serious concerns because of the blatant communal overtone of discourse on social media, the flood of toxic material emanating from organised WhatsApp groups of RSS-BJP ecosystem. The Prime Minister and the home minister must not ignite passions and accord legitimacy to the divisive politics that can vitiate India’s social fabric.
All the political parties should run their campaigns on people’s core concerns of livelihood, safety and progress, instead of resorting to emotive issues. The ruling party has the greatest responsibility of running a constructive and meaningful discourse and to set an example for other parties.
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