The last couple of decades one has been coming across pamphlets, leaflets and other material containing the propaganda that Christian missionaries are converting the people at rapid pace; the examples given have mostly been those of the North Eastern states. This propaganda has been extensively used at pan India level, particularly before elections in most of the states. It is this propaganda which formed the base of hate against Christians and we witnessed the ghastly murder of Pastor Graham Stuart Stains in 1999, the horrific Kandhamal violence in 2008, and in recent years the low intensity violence and attacks on Christians and churches in different parts of the country. So how come BJP, the party flaunting Ram Temple, Mother cow and Hindu nationalism, could make its inroads into an area with many states where Christianity is the majority religion, 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 which have been asking for separate state for their tribes.
While the situation in each state is different, there is a pattern of BJP strategy, which in a flexible manner, supplemented by massive resources, near perfect electoral machinery and the backing of its parent organization’s swayamsevaks is getting the cake 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 organizations. Most of the regional organization in the area looks at Congress as the party which has not focused on the development work, and the BJP, while at one level abuses those differing with its ideology as ‘anti-nationals’, has no compunctions 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 tribals and OBCs in matters of reservation. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth which gave the ground to BJP to promise and create the illusion of development.
BJP here mainly harped on two major factors. One is the promise of development. By now its claims of development stand exposed as mere vote catching slogans all over the country; in North East, they still could sell Modi as a development man. Also, Manik Sarkar’s failure to implement the new pay commissions must have hurt a large section of the State’s population who are still stuck at fourth pay commission while talk of seventh pay commission is in the air. In Tripura, they could also harp on ‘Hindus are refugees: Muslims are infiltrators’ to influence the Bengali Hindu votes. In tribal area, RSS swayamsevaks working consistently by organizing religious functions, opening schools etc. from long time have succeeded in turning the tables, as Manik Sarkar Government failed to address the needs of tribals in matters of opportunities. In matters of beef, BJP openly took a hypocritical line that their ban on cow slaughter and eating beef, which is being imposed in different parts of country; will not be enforced in North East. As such, one also knows that like most of the issues raised by RSS-BJP, holy cow is a political tool for dividing the 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.
In a very loud manner, towering over Christian voters, Mr. Modi talked of rescuing 46 nurses in 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, they do take advantage of these incidents in a crass political manner. Despite the fact that their ideology regards Christians and Muslims as foreigners they do at the same time manipulate these identities for electoral gains. In Tripura the majority of Congress and TMC MLAS migrated to BJP as well as the electoral support shifted to 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 did emerge 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 BJP are going to form the Government. Here the failure of BJP to win over 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 not been having amicable attitude and relations with Congress. The role of BJP’s all round clout including money and muscle is the undercurrent of the story.
The Left in Tripura has lot of lessons to learn. The issue of addressing problems of youth, Tribal and OBC are paramount. In addition, the issue of BJP manipulating in all possible ways to come to power is something, which can be ignored at the risk of severe declines in the electoral power of the Left and other parties. What is being labelled as Karat line, not allying with Congress, will surely decimate the Left in times to come, probably sooner than later, as this line underestimates the potential and the deeper agenda of BJP-RSS. It ignores the threat of powerful electoral machine built by BJP over a period of time and its capability to manipulate issues, like beef and conversion by Christian missionaries, in different parts of the country, taking two opposite positions and getting away with it!
The emotive politics unleashed by BJP RSS is visible again in the form of attacking Lenin’s statue and 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!(Published on 26th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 13)