Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee despite giving a solid foundation to a robust economy and development process lost elections. Although his government’s campaign “India Shining” was innovative and reassuring, it wasn’t enough for his party to retain the power in 2004. In 2014, it was the reassertion on Hindutva and the promise to provide a corruption free government, by and large helped BJP register a resounding win. On the run to the 2019 general elections BJP not only can showcase its achievement in taking the corrupt by horns (although there are small aberrations like 2G culprits walking free) but also reaffirm and reassure their commitment to the Hindu cause on the whole.
10 long years of UPA government saw corruption growing, policy paralysis affecting smooth governance and terrorism escalating. This was not all; the desperation to label Hindus as terrorists and persecuting people from the Hindu community on the basis of alleged terror activities were the hallmark of the UPA rule. UPA Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde coined the phrase “Saffron Terrorism” when Indian Mujahideen were blasting bombs all over the country at will. When Shinde was replaced by P.Chidambaram , the latter literally breathed in and out anecdotes of an imaginary Saffron Terrorism. According to a cable in 2009 by then U.S ambassador to India Timothy Roem which was released by wikileaks, Rahul Gandhi then vice president of the Congress party told the former that Hindu terrorism was bigger threat than aggression unleashed by any Pakistani grown terror outfits. The nationalists in the country were taken aback by the stand taken by the UPA in Batla house encounter that happened in 2008. Police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma who was martyred in the encounter was blatantly dubbed as a criminal by the Congress, BSP, SP and a section of the main stream media. While doing so they forgot that they were insulting a much-decorated police officer who had won 9 gallantry medals from the President of India. The slain terrorists were not only glorified but the Congress leader Salman Khurshid also went to the extent of claiming that his party president Sonia Gandhi bitterly cried after seeing the images of the terrorists being killed in the encounter.
Minority appeasement through persecuting people from Hindu Community was a regular affair during the UPA tenure. When Indian officials were working hard to expose the Pakistani hand in the 29/11 Mumbai attack in 2009, the carnage was dubbed as “RSS Ki Saadish” or RSS conspiracy by none other than senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh. Swami Aseemanand who was acquitted of charges in the Mecca Masjid case early this year had to languish in jail for donkey years enduring to unending brutality on him by the investigating officers. Similarly Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit who was released on bail this year had to undergo nine years of torture in custody without trial for his alleged involvement in the Malegaon blasts. The name, “Indian Mujahideen” that is rarely seen or heard for the last 4 years was a regular entry in the headlines during UPA tenure. There were 18 major terror attacks, mostly in Metros, during the UPA rule. At an average of 757 people lost their lives every year when Manmohan Singh was at helm. The government then refused to take concrete actions against Islamic terrorism fearing backlash from the minority community. Under the pretence of ‘inclusiveness’ the UPA government tore the fabric of social harmony. Instead of applying ‘secular’ criterion like income, geographical location, parental literacy etc, the prime minister and his government went around dividing the social ills and problems on a minority/majority basis.
Narendra Modi’s persona during the 2014 election campaign, reassured the Hindu Community of correcting the deliberate atrocities committed by the previous government. The manifesto released by BJP’s Prime Minister candidate Modi , promised construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya which was longstanding demand of a good chunk of people from the Community. Although a section of the community who voted for BJP in 2004 especially for demands like Ram Mandir now seems to be unhappy. The reason for unhappiness is obvious. Some of the promises aren’t still fulfilled because cases dawdling in Courts. A win-win situation for BJP, however, would be favourable verdicts from the Supreme Court on the issues of Article 35A , which would counteract Article 370, and the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute — two scenarios that would revive the Hindutva wave.
The major factor that is going to matter in 2019 apart from the popularity of Narendra Modi will be the strategy that would be adopted by the Chief Minister of India’s biggest state in terms of Loksabha seats, Yogi Adityanath. Yogi assumed power with a resounding victory in 2017. The campaign for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election saw many issues being debated and discussed, but the charisma and the Hindutva image of Yogi stood tall among those. The previous governments in the state were synonyms for corruption and ineptness in bringing communal riots/ criminal activities under control. Illegal immigrants from Bangaldesh and recently Myanman settled in various pockets in the state have been alleged of adding fire to prevalent commotions and the governments by and large were mute on this. Yogi’s priority would be to tackle issues pertaining to such nuisances to reaffirm his commitment to national security. Yogi Adithyanath has taken the criminals, the rioters and the corrupt by the horns and has put the basics right for future development activities. Yet it is the Hindutva image that is going to get the final call. Yogi Adithyanath is an icon for youth and more importantly Hindutva. 2019 and beyond, he getting his act together, could be the key for the BJP.
Finally, on the run to the 2019 elections both Modi and Yogi will adopt a strategy that will strike a balance between political and governance instrumentality and ideologically. Showcasing good governance and reassertion on Hindutva will have to go hand in hand for the BJP to retain power.