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BJP whisper: Thank God for Hindutva

The poll setbacks might now persuade the government to try to enact a pro-temple law or at least issue an ordinance

By J.P. Yadav in New Delhi

  • Published 12.12.18, 4:29 AM
  • Updated 12.12.18, 8:10 AM
The BJP headquarters in Delhi wears a deserted look after the party's dismal show in the Assembly elections.
The BJP headquarters in Delhi wears a deserted look after the party's dismal show in the Assembly elections. PTI

The polarising Hindutva factor was why the BJP was spared pulverising defeats in two of the three heartland states despite the widespread economic hardship, agrarian distress and simmering anti-incumbency, several party insiders acknowledged.

A drubbing was expected in all three states but the BJP was neck-and-neck with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh till late Tuesday evening and had earned a “respectable defeat” in Rajasthan. The party was routed only in Chhattisgarh.

“In the past four years, the Sangh-BJP has succeeded in identifying the party with Hindu pride in the popular imagination. A large section of Hindus now believes that Hindu pride would suffer a blow if the BJP loses,” a party source said.

He said this Hindutva factor had saved the BJP’s blushes in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

During the Madhya Pradesh campaign, the BJP had painted the Congress as a “pro-Muslim” party, using a leaked video that purportedly showed state Congress chief Kamal Nath seeking Muslim support at a closed-door meeting with community leaders.

In Rajasthan, this correspondent came across many voters, particularly in the urban and semi-urban centres, who identified terrorism and the Ram temple as their reason for backing the BJP although they acknowledged their economic hardships and the state government’s many failures.

A report in this newspaper had quoted Rajesh Kumar, a taxi driver in Kota, as saying that most people had initially decided to vote out the Vasundhara Raje government but as the elections drew near, many began wondering if a BJP defeat would make the country vulnerable to terrorism.

“People have begun to say that under Narendra Modi and the BJP, there have been no bomb blasts; the country has been secure…. People have begun rethinking,” Rajesh said.

Rajesh had predicted a narrow victory for the Congress in Rajasthan. By Tuesday evening, the Congress and its allies had just about managed to reach the majority mark (taking both wins and leads into account) in the 200-member Assembly.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had been deployed in the campaign to polarise the electorate with his hard-line comments, such as terming the election a contest between “Ali and Bajrangbali (Hanuman)”.

In Madhya Pradesh, where the Sangh-BJP has deep roots, their foot soldiers held a series of informal meetings to try and persuade Hindus to back the BJP despite their grievances, party insiders said.

The Congress manifesto’s promise to ban Sangh events in government offices was used to paint the party as “anti-Hindu”.

Sangh parivar outfits have already fastened on the Ram temple issue, hoping it would kick up a frenzy and help Narendra Modi ride back to power next year. They have publicly demanded the government enact a law to pave the way for immediate construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya despite the land dispute being before the Supreme Court.

As a united Opposition gears to highlight the farm distress and joblessness, the BJP is expected to go full throttle on the Ram temple.

There’s a feeling in the BJP that the Assembly poll setbacks might now persuade the government to indeed try to enact a pro-temple law or at least issue an ordinance.