Can a Leopard Change His Spots: BJP’s History of Hate Mongering at the Polls

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: April 16, 2016

For decades now, the Sangh driven BJP has blatantly challenged the Rule of Law with Election Campaign(s) that are Polarising and Divisive, especially in Uttar Pradesh (UP)

Over the past few days, in 2016, Uttar Pradesh, the state that signals the political fortunes for the country, was agog with yet another potentially divisive controversy stoked by the Sangh-inspired Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A Poster of UP BJP Chief, Keshav Maurya as Lord Krishna was spotted in many parts of UP; it uses, yet again, religious symbols as a start up to its campaign ten months before the state elections due anytime before February 2017, signalling the beginning of a campaign that will bank on polarising the voter on religious lines.

This poster, that was spotted in Varanasi, prime minister Modi’s constituency, depicts UP BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya –a man with reportedly several criminal cases pending against him -- as ‘Lord Krishna’ and other politicians including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as ‘Kauravas’. Such imagery blatantly violates the law on mis-using religion for political gain. The election law, Section 123a of the Representation of People’s Act becomes effective once an election is announced; so chances are that we shall see more of the same provocative electioneering as dates for the crucial state elections draw near.
 
This peculiar brand of politics and campaigning has been, for several decades now, BJP and the Sangh’s USP (unique selling point). Gujarat or Delhi, Maharashtra, Assam or Kerala, its singular success has been the defiance of Indian law to galvanise votes on religious lines.
 
Ten years ago, in the run up to the UP elections of 2007, the party had been severely reprimanded by the Election Commission of India (ECI) that had even directed that an FIR be filed against senior BJP leaders, for a CD containing targeted hate mongering released by the BJP's state unit at the instance of the central leadership. The Election Commission at the time had directed the filing of an FIR against senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders -- Lalji Tandon and others -- involved in the production of the controversial party election CD allegedly making a reference to Babri and Godhra train arson of 2002. The CD had been officially released and widely circulated.
 
The issue is still open as allegations of deliberate delays into the investigation by the ruling Samajwadi Party have been alleged. As recently as November 2013, the Election Commission had sought information from the Uttar Pradesh administration on investigation(s) and prosecution into the case. This followed a petition filed by one Hansraj Jain in 2010, before the Delhi High Court against Chief Election Commissioner that raised the issue of tardy investigation into the offence(s). He had also alleged that the CD had not been sent for forensic examination.
 
The contents of the CD brazenly released by the BJP's state unit -- that claimed it had got the clearance of the central leadership -- were found to be so offensive that independent citizens groups as well as political parties had appealed to the EC to de-recognise the BJP. The Commission had issued a show-cause notice to the BJP on the matter.

The controversial CD was first released at the party's national council session in December 2006
 
The controversy broke out in April 2007 following television channel, CNN-IBN's airing the hate ridden CD, and widespread condemnation of the same, followed, The BJP, predictably, disowned the communally inflammatory compact disc released to the media at a press conference in Lucknow, but owned up as "official" another CD released at its Lucknow conclave in December 2006.
 
"Yes, the CD released by the party and given to the media at the party's national council session in Lucknow is official party material," party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar had then said in response to a pointed question. The fact is that this "official CD" was also found to be offensive and anyone seeing it — as this reporter (The Hindu, Neena Vyas) has — would note that it is calculated to create hatred as it shows Muslims slaughtering a cow in a gruesome and primitive manner. This "official" CD also has footage on