BJP’s forays into the North Eastern States and its anti-minority agenda

Written by Ram Puniyani | Published on: March 20, 2018
In last couple of decades, one has come across the pamphlets, leaflets and other material containing propaganda that Christian missionaries are converting the people at a rapid pace. The examples provided have largely been those of the North Eastern states. This propaganda has been extensively used at a pan-India level, particularly ahead of elections in most of the states. It is this propaganda that formed the base of hate against Christians, and we witnessed the ghastly murder of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains, the horrific Kandhmal violence, and low-intensity anti-Christian violence and attacks on churches in different parts of the country. So how is it that the BJP, the party flaunting its Ram Temple, its 'Mother Cow' and Hindu nationalism could make inroads in an area where Christianity has a good presence, where beef-eating is part of the people’s dietary habits, and where different tribes with diverse and clashing political interests articulate their aspirations by forming various groups that have been asking for separate state for their tribes?

BJP in North East

While the situation in each state is different, there is a pattern of the BJP’s strategy, which in a flexible manner, supplemented by massive resources, near-perfect electoral machinery and the backing of its parent organisation’sswayamsevaks is reaping electoral benefits in state after state. In Assam, it focused mainly on the Bangladeshi immigrants, the Muslims swamping the state and threatening that Hindus will be reduced to a minority. It was clever enough to strike alliances even with separatist organisations. Most of the regional organisation in the area looks at Congress as the party that has not focused on development; the BJP, while at one level abuses those differing with its ideology as ‘anti nationals’, has no compunction at all in allying with those who have been talking of separate state or even secession. In Tripura, the left government, despite its clean record, failed to fulfil the aspirations of tribal people and OBCs in matters of reservation. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth, which gave the ground to the BJP to promise and create the illusion of development.

The BJP mainly harped on two major factors here. One is the promise of development. Although by now its claims of development across the country stand exposed as mere vote-catching slogans, in the North East they could still sell Prime Minister NarendraModi as a development man. ManikSarkar’s failure to implement the new pay commissions must have hurt large numbers as they are still stuck at fourth pay commission while talk of seventh pay commission is in the air. In Tripura, they could also emphasise that ‘Hindus are Refugees: Muslim is infiltrators’ to influence the Bengali Hindu votes. In tribal areas, RSS swayamsevaks working consistently by organising religious functions, opening schools etc. for a long time have succeeded in turning the tables, as ManikSarkar’s government failed to address the needs of tribals in matters of opportunities. In matters of beef, the BJP openly took the hypocritical stance that their ban on cow slaughter and eating beef, which is being imposed in different parts of country, will not be enforced in the North East. Like most of the issues raised by RSS-BJP, the holy cow is a political tool for dividing society and when the crunch comes they manipulate the issue as they have done in Kerala and Goa on the issue of beef and cow slaughter.

Towering over Christian voters, Modi talked of rescuing 46 nurses from ISIS captivity in Iraq and Father Alex Premkumar from Taliban captivity. What can one say on these issues? Were they rescued as they were Indians or were they rescued because they belong to a particular religion? As is the wont with Modi-type politics, these situations are exploited in a crass political manner. Despite the fact that their ideology regards Christians and Muslims as foreigners, they at the same time manipulate these identities for electoral gains. In Tripura, the majority of Congress and TMC MLAs migrated to the BJP, and electoral support also shifted to the BJP. What worked for BJP here was the anti-Bangladeshi sentiment along with the illusory promise of development.

In Meghalaya, the situation is different. Though Congress emerged as the single largest party and logically should have been given the chance to form the government, the Hindu nationalist Governor thought otherwise and the second-largest party, in alliance with practically everybody including the BJP, is going to form the Government. Here the failure of the BJP to win over the electorate is writ large on the results; what is putting them in the camp of power is the alliance with a regional party, which has had amicable relations with the Congress. The role of the BJP’s clout, including money and muscle, is the undercurrent of the story.

There are a lot of lessons for the left in Tripura to learn, with the issue of addressing the problems of the youth, tribals and the OBCs being paramount. Moreover, the issue of the BJP manipulating all possible ways to come to power is something that can be ignored only at the risk of severe declines in the electoral power of the left and other parties. What is being labeled as Karat line, not allying with Congress, will surely decimate the left in the times to come, probably sooner rather than later, as this line underestimates the potential and deeper agenda of BJP-RSS. It ignores the threat of the powerful electoral machine built by BJP over time, and its capability of manipulating issues like beef, and the conversion by Christian missionaries, and taking two different positions in different parts of the country and getting away with it.

The emotive politics unleashed by the BJP-RSS is visible again through the attack on Lenin’s statue and the attacks on CPM workers. What is in store for future of the region if democratic forces don’t rise to the occasion is anybody’s guess.