Things are playing out just as the script ordained. From the day Narendra Modi led the BJP to a spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha elections, disoriented sections of Opposition parties and the intelligentsia started scouting for issues with which to put BJP on the back foot and destabilise the NDA government. The idea was to build up a stack of incidents that would put the government on the defensive, play up the negatives and suppress the positives. In a rare convergence of tactics, mass protests got linked up with legislative blockage.
On the face of it, there is nothing in common with the murder of a Muslim youth in Bishada village in Western Uttar Pradesh allegedly for stocking beef in his refrigerator, the ongoing disturbances on the Hyderabad University campus which have hogged national headlines for the past week, and the stalling of parliament, particularly the Rajya Sabha, to forestall passage of important Bills such as GST. But deeper reflection would reveal that all these developments are connected at a political and strategic level. Each of these had a common target: the Narendra Modi government and the BJP, the purpose being to make the government look inept and, by extension, India appear ungovernable.
The strategic thinkers figured at the very outset of the Modi regime that the BJP had two weak links in its chain of support. First the minorities, particularly Muslims, who are traditionally antithetical to the party, there being is a long history of mistrust between them dating back to the Jana Sangh days. The other weak link is the Dalit community, which has always supported the Congress in the mistaken belief that the Gandhi-Nehru party is inherently sympathetic to the downtrodden and has given the community many benefits.
Upper castes, mainly Brahmins, supported the Congress for long, so much so that when OBCs made their political mark in the late 1960s, two commonly heard slogans were: "Brahmin-Harijan (Dalit) bhai bhai/Ye pichhdi jati (backward classes) kahan se aayee?" Sometimes, in place of Brahmin-Harijan, the latter was substituted with Muslim. But since the Ram Mandir agitation of the 1990s, the upper castes steadily gravitated towards the BJP, robbing the Congress of a sizeable support base since the trader communities were traditionally linked to the Jana Sangh/BJP.
This background is important to understand the contours of the conspiracy to encircle the BJP socio-politically. Narendra Modi's phenomenal victory alarmed the anti-BJP parties because they realised that this scale of victory (especially 71 seats from UP) would not have been possible without a significant chunk of the Dalit vote going in its favour. Since winning the Lok Sabha election, the BJP on its part launched a systematic campaign to deepen its inroads among the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, highlighting the contribution of Dr BR Ambedkar in the freedom struggle and in shaping the Constitution. A panicky Congress began to accuse the BJP of "stealing" its icons. This indicated an admission of SC votes steadily slipping away from the Congress net.
As far as Muslims are concerned, Prime Minister Modi has gone out of his away to convince them that the BJP is not their enemy. A succession of economic schemes for minority welfare focused on educational improvement and skill development appear to be cutting some ice with the Muslims. This trend was all the more alarming for the so-called secularists since many Dalits were already lining up with the BJP.
So the Opposition strategists decided that the trends had to be arrested and reversed. Akhlaq's murder on the beef issue came in handy to consolidate Muslim support. And the Hyderabad University affair was a God-sent opportunity to reassert the BJP's alleged antipathy towards Dalits, although the party had nothing to do with the Dalit student's angst or suicide. In reality, the BJP has never been antagonistic towards Dalits. The philosophy of Antyodaya (or uplifting the most downtrodden in society) of its foremost ideologue, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, speaks eloquently for its inclusive social vision.
So the BJP's opponents needed an emotive issue to rally Dalit communities under an anti-BJP platform. In politics, it is a cliche to say perceptions matter more than reality. Thus, the suicide of one Dalit student of the Hyderabad Central University after his expulsion by the authorities along with four others was just the emotional stick needed to put the BJP on the defensive.
The timing gives the BJP-baiters' game away. It has now been revealed that seven out of the at least nine students who committed suicide during the last decade on the Hyderabad University campus were Dalits! Where were the anti-BJP groups then? It is common knowledge that many students of this university are influenced by radical Left ideologies, but they never mounted such a feisty nationwide campaign when those Dalit students took their lives. Why would they? After all, the Congress was in power at the Centre for ten full years from 2004 to 2014 May. There was no need to play on Dalit students' sentiments since that would have gone against the UPA government, of which the CPI(M) was an ally for four years, and Left parties as a whole broadly supportive, for the rest of its tenure.
This is not the place to delve into the merits of the matter. From all accounts, the BJP ministers at the Centre had played by the rules. If there had not been a larger anti-BJP conspiracy playing out, their actions would not have been subject to such wild criticism. Nor would their comments and statements been taken out of context to inflame passions recklessly.
It is clear every few weeks that anti-BJP forces led by the Congress and the Left will invent or exaggerate incidents that suit their strategy of sowing mistrust against the BJP among major social groups like Muslims and Dalits. Significantly, there has been no outrage over other murders or student issues anywhere else in India, although many similar incidents have happened in the last 20 months. Such things have been commonplace in contemporary India but we know that unless fanned by politicians with the aid and abetment of a section of the media which is pathologically hostile to the BJP, such incidents peter out in a few days. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee's term too, similar attempts were made to incite castes and communities against one another to give the impression of widespread instability.
"Secular" strategists reckon that by creating continuous unrest, the belief will grow that the BJP is incapable of governing. In fact, the more accolades the party gains at home and abroad, attempts at destabilisation will increase and intensify. Congress and Left-oriented groups are remarkably adept at propaganda. They continue to retain their hold on academics and intellectuals who enjoyed the crumbs of office as long as the Congress was in power. Now they are behaving like fish out of water and thereby destabilising the bowl itself.
In other words, once media fatigue kills the Hyderabad University issue, just as the Akhlaq murder has died a natural death (puns unintended), a new disturbance targeting the BJP will crop up somewhere else. I hope the Prime Minister will tackle them with a firm hand to nip the mischief in the bud.
(Dr. Chandan Mitra is a journalist, currently Editor of The Pioneer Group of Publications. He is also BJP MP of the Rajya Sabha.)
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Hyderabad Unrest Is A 'Secular' Conspiracy