How the Message from Bihar is seen by the BJP and the Tipu controversy

Girish Nikam

Flashback to February 10 2015—the results of the elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly start pouring in and within a couple of hours it is clear that the AAP Juggernaut has washed away everything in its way. BJP ends up with just three seats and Congress nil.

The analysts and commentators start looking for the reason for the debacle of the BJP. Prime Minister Modi who was till then seen as invincible after his amazing performance bringing his party to power in Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and the remarkable victories in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand and even in Jammu and Kashmir, had been stopped in his stride.

It was well known that the strategies for the Delhi elections were drawn by three people—PM Modi himself, his protégé Amit Shah and his confidant in the cabinet, Arun Jaitley. Initially it was ModiVsKejriwal, which towards the last stages of the campaign was converted into KiranBediVsKejriwal. The campaign apart from abuse and mockery of Kejriwal also saw subtle communal messages.

Anyway once the results came and stunned everyone, the BJP leadership promised a thorough analysis of the reasons behind such a humiliating debacle. The Local leadership of the party was hoping some heads will fall, as they had been hopelessly sidelined during the campaign and had been left guessing about the strategies adopted. However when the post mortem( or rather what apparently was post mortem) was done the entire central leadership was absolved of all blame. And everything was back to square one.

Cut now to post-Bihar results Parliamentary Board meeting of the party, apparently to take early stock of the debacle in the much more important Bihar. A sense of déjà vu if one hears the spokesmen about the outcome of the meeting is inevitable.

The debacle has nothing to do with any mistakes committed by the leadership or their strategies or any campaign goof ups. It was simply the caste arithmetic of the Mahagatbandhan(MGB) we are told, that resulted in the landslide defeat for the BJP+. The stalwart of the party who is known as a “wizard” in electoral planning and execution (see his track record and how many elections he has won, we are reminded) cannot be blamed, it is declared, as it was a collective decision with the active participation of the local leaders. Which means it was the local leadership’s inputs which had resulted in only two stalwarts, the PM and Party President being projected for large part of the campaign as the party faces.

The communalization of the campaign, according to the spokesmen, had no role to play in the sound defeat of the party. All those statements about reservation quota being taken away to hand it over to the minorities or Pakistan celebrating if MGB wins or the beef debate also had no impact on the voters of Bihar. Neither The RSS Chief queering the pitch with his statement on reservation also had no role to play too in the defeat, we are told.

The Bihari voters bamboozled the BJP by voting in caste terms and the yadavs and kurmis came together so smoothly and defeated them, we are told. So the underlining message is the casteist Biharis did the BJP in, while nothing else matters to them.

The Bihari voters therefore were not sending any message about the communalization of the campaign, the Parliamentary Board felt. Which means that the party is free to use the same strategies in future. Hindutva and minority bashing can therefore continue to be a potent weapon. This was what was witnessed after the Delhi debacle, and this is the underlying message which is coming out now also from the party leadership and its conclaves.

It cannot be more evident than the way in which the communal pot has once again been lit up by the BJP and its sister organisations on the Tipu Sultan Birth anniversary celebrations issue in Karnataka. Kodagu has already witnessed conflagrations with the VHP leading the protest in which one of its members and another died today.

The BJP leadership in Karnataka is up in arms against the Congress government for launching the celebrations. For them Tipu was a tyrant, a religious bigot and unworthy of being celebrated. The exact opposite is the view of the historians, many of them Hindus, who feel that Tipu was a secular King and the first to take on the British and in a way the first of the freedom fighters.

But historians’ views have no value for the BJP and its sister organisations, which sees in the Tipu issue another opportunity to communalise the atmosphere. That it is happening just a couple of days after the Bihar debacle means that no lessons have been learnt from it. In fact there is no lesson to be learnt, as far as the BJP is concerned.

During the campaign in Bihar and soon after the Dadri incident, much was being written and hoped that word will come from the top to tone down the communal campaign. Those who have been expressing concern about the intolerance being witnessed, continue to call for a Prime Ministerial diktat for a halt to it.

With the post mortem of Bihar now virtually giving a clean chit for every one of the central leadership, and the Tipu row threatening to escalate beyond the borders of Karnataka, we are set to witness a continuation of politics tinged with majoritarianism and anti-minorityism. Even as the desperate hopefuls look upto 7, Race Course Road to bring it all to a halt.