The election season brings out the worst instincts of political parties. Higher the political stakes, murkier the campaign gets. After losing power in five States in the last one year, the saffron party is desperate to seize the narrative in the upcoming Assembly polls in Delhi. As a result, the campaign has hit a new low with the saffron party leaders making rabidly communal and highly provocative statements. Communal polarisation is the name of the game while issues of development take a back seat. And, Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the national capital, has become the target of vile attack. Though the Election Commission has ordered the BJP to drop Union Minister Anurag Thakur and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma from its list of star campaigners for using provocative and offensive language during rallies, it is simply not enough. Prime Minister Narendra Modi must rein in the motormouths in his party and send out a clear message that this kind of hate-filled rhetoric has no place in a civilised democracy. The party’s rabble-rousing campaigners have been trying to project the anti-CAA protests in the Muslim-dominated neighbourhood as acts of defying the sovereignty of the country. Last week, BJP’s Kapil Mishra called Shaheen Bagh “a mini-Pakistan” and compared the election to an India-Pakistan contest, prompting the EC to ban him from campaigning for two days. On another occasion, Amit Shah exhorted the gathering at an election rally to “press the button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh”.
The BJP, which does not have a CM face against the incumbent Arvind Kejriwal, appears to be using divisive rhetoric to consolidate Hindus. Thakur was heard saying to a gathering, “Desh ke gaddaron ko…” and egging on them to reply in unison “…goli maro…” For a minister to have raised such a slogan is outright unconstitutional, and can be read as an open incitement to violence. This is in line with an attempt to paint all opposition to the BJP as “anti-national”. It has no patience for either peaceful political dialogue or due process. Instead, it encourages vigilantism to get rid of all those seen as adversarial. His party colleague Parvesh Verma came up with a bizarre allegation that Shaheen Bagh protestors could “enter homes, rape and kill people.” Such remarks are repulsive and have no place in a civilised society. Unfortunately, brash and rabid Hindutva that revels in the binary narrative of nationalism versus ‘tukde tukde gang’ has now come to occupy the centre stage of the ruling party’s ideological positioning. It would be foolish to believe that such hate and trash talk will translate into votes.