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4 Times When Modi's Hindu-Muslim Rhetoric Backfired

April 25, 2024 10:40 IST
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Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ does a deep dive into four elections when Narendra Modi resorted to anti-Muslim fervour and points out that Hindu-Muslim politics does not necessarily mean victory for the BJP.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra D Modi at the election meeting in Banswara, April 21, 2024, when he castigated the Congress for planning to give away the nation's wealth to Muslims. Photograph: ANI Photo

Narendra D Modi shocked the nation on Sunday when he targeted the Muslim community in his speech at Banswara, Rajasthan.

In his election speech, Modi referred to the Congress manifesto and said that if that party comes to power they will redistribute the nation's wealth to 'people with more kids' and 'illegal infiltrators'.

Dr Manmohan Singh during his tenure as prime minister had said that 'Muslims have the first right over the country's resources,' Modi alleged.

Even as a ballistic Congress party joined issues with Modi and accused him spreading lies and resorting to hate speech, the point remains, why is Modi making anti-Muslim speeches even while upholding his government's 'Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas' principle since 2014?

Does making anti-Muslim statements benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party electorally? Cynics may say, 'Yes'.

They may quote the example of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections of 2017 when Modi made his infamous comparison of 'shamshaan aur kabristan', which resulted in a huge sweep for the BJP.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ does a deep dive into four elections when Modi resorted to anti-Muslim fervour and points out that Hindu-Muslim politics does not necessarily mean victory for the BJP.

Bihar assembly elections, 2015

Modi was at the peak of his popularity as it had only been a year since he won a clear mandate in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

In Bihar, the BJP had won 22 of the state's 40Lok Sabha seats.

BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party won six seats and another ally, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, won three, taking the National Democratic Alliance tally to 31 seats.

Hence it seemed like a cakewalk for the BJP in the assembly elections conducted a year later.

One problem, however.

The BJP faced a formidable challenge from the alliance of Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United.

In an election rally in Buxar on October 26, 2015, Modi said, 'Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav want to take away five percent of quota from Dalits, Mahadalits, Backwards and Extremely Backwards to give another community.'

Urging the people to vote for the BJP, Modi added, 'We will not allow anyone to take away reservations and give it to another community. Modi will defend your right to reservation with his life.'

When the results were declared the BJP lost badly, winning only 53 seats out of 243.

The RJD won 80 seats and the JD-U won 71 seats to form the government in Bihar.

Jharkhand assembly elections, 2019

The protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that began on December 15 at the Shaheen Bagh in Delhi caught the attention of the international media too as many elderly Muslim women came on the roads in the national capital to hold a dharna against the Modi government.

The CAA quickened the process of granting Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Protestors, among whom the majority were Muslims, feared the CAA would be followed by the National Register of Citizens as Home Minister Amit Shah stated in his famous 'chronology' statement which he backtracked from later.

Muslims felt the NRC would result in them being thrown into detention centres if they were found with invalid citizenship documents.

At a rally in Dumka, Modi commented that arsonists and rioters could be recognised from their clothes, referring to the burqa worn by Muslim women and the kurta-pyjama sported by many Muslim men.

Modi even blamed the Congress for supporting the anti-CAA activists and called them 'arsonists'.

'CAA law will give dignity to refugees, but what is the Congress doing? They are instigating violence.'

However, the voters were not swayed by Modi's words and ousted the BJP government led by Raghubar Das.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in alliance with the Congress and other allies formed the government by winning 47 out of 81 seats.

Delhi assembly elections, 2020

The Jharkhand polls were followed by the Delhi assembly elections in February 2020.

This time, too, Modi came down heavily on the Congress and other Opposition parties over the CAA protestors of Shaheen Bagh.

At one of his election rallies, Modi came down heavily on protestors of CAA stating, 'Be it Seelampur, Jamia or Shaheen Bagh, protests are held over the past several days regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Is this just a coincidence? No. This is an experiment. There is a political design behind this which has plans to destroy harmony in the country.'

Home Minister Amit Shah followed up on this statement.

'Delhi should press the EVM button with such anger that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh,' Shah declared.

When the results emerged, it was the BJP which was shocked.

Aam Aadmi Party won 62 out of 70 seats with 53.6 percent votes whereas the BJP won only eight seats with 38.5 percent votes.

AAP understood the politics of the CAA and kept a distance from the Shaheen Bagh protestors and refused to comment on the issue or get involved in it.

Karnataka assembly elections, 2023

The Congress scored a self goal when it released its election manifesto for the Karnataka assembly elections.

In it, the Congress equated the banned outfit Popular Front of India with the Bajrang Dal, stating that such organisations promote enmity and hatred among communities.

Modi saw an opportunity and spun a narrative to the voters of Karnataka by portraying the Congress party as being against Lord Hanuman as it wanted to ban the Bajrang Dal.

In an election rally at Hospet, Modi said, 'I came to Karnataka to pay my respects to Lord Hanuman's land and the Congress manifesto has decided to lock up Bajrang Bali.'

He then told voters to press the button in the polling booth, punish (the Congress) by saying 'Jai Bajrang Bali'.

The Congress went on to win Karnataka by pocketing 135 seats and an overall vote share of 42.9 percent.

The BJP got a respectable 36 percent votes, but the party's seat count was reduced to 66 from 104 in 2018.

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