BJP’s Kashmir yatra: provocative, self-defeating adventurism (Comment)

By Amulya Ganguli, IANS
Friday, January 28, 2011

It is difficult to understand why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should have suddenly adopted a combative patriotic posture on Kashmir in the midst of its fairly successful campaign against the Congress on the corruption issue.

Prima facie, it is a self-defeating move. It has been criticised not only by its political opponents and the mainstream media but also by its ally the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) while the Akali Dal has maintained a studied silence.

The reason for the criticism is not far to seek. For one, the choice of the present time for beating the nationalist drum was deemed inopportune because the valley was slowly returning to normalcy after a summer of turmoil when more than 100 people, mostly young men, were killed in police firing during the stone-pelting agitation.

For another, such adventurism is always inadvisable because of the still unresolved problem of alienation of a large section of the people in the valley. It is all the more so now when the separatists have admitted, for the first time, that some of their top leaders died as a result of internecine warfare or and were not killed by the security forces, as was earlier alleged.

If the BJP still felt a need to display its patriotic fervour by marching to Lal Chowk in Srinagar to hoist the national flag, the explanation perhaps lies in its conviction that the party needed a new, preferably emotional issue since its anti-Congress campaign was reaching a dead end. The fact that the Left has said that the parliamentary proceedings cannot be held up indefinitely means that the BJP may not be able to carry out its earlier threat to disrupt the budget session as well after having stalled the entire winter session.

As it is, the BJP’s anti-corruption plank was a weak one because of the charges of nepotism against the party’s chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, in Karnataka. Even the party chief, Nitin Gadkari, has admitted that the chief minister is morally in the wrong in his land deals even if these are not illegal. The Yeddyurappa factor forced the BJP to keep him, along with all its other chief ministers, including the party’s showman, Narendra Modi, out of its rallies directed against the Congress. But the pointed exclusion only underlined its vulnerability on this score.

It was possibly to chalk out a new course in the event of a faltering anti-corruption agitation that the BJP played its favourite patriotic card. Since the party and the Sangh Parivar led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been forced to moderate their anti-minority rhetoric in recent years because of electoral compulsions, the Kashmiri separatists remain the only Muslim groups it can openly castigate.

Yet, the renewal of the demand for the scrapping of Article 370 conferring special status on Kashmir means that the BJP is reviving its pro-Hindu agenda relating to the Article and also to the Ram temple and uniform civil code, which it had shelved in 1996.

It is not impossible that the adoption of this Hindutva plank of cultural nationalism - one nation, one people, one culture - is a defensive reaction against the adverse political fallout from the implications of the court cases on saffron terror implicating the RSS and another militant outfit, the Abhinav Bharat, linked to the relatives and admirers of Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.

Since the Congress has seemingly decided to make this issue one of its propaganda points in the coming days, as its senior general secretary Digvijay Singh’s comparison of the Hindutva groups with the Nazis showed, the BJP has probably decided that it, too, has to rev up its Hindutva campaign, at least on Article 370 if not on the two other issues.

The focus on Kashmir is perhaps also necessitated by Narendra Modi’s decision to turn away from minority-bashing to development. However, it is also indicative of the party’s leadership deficiencies, especially since it is forced to deny Modi a major role at the national level so as not to antagonise important allies like Nitish Kumar, who kept the Gujarat chief minister out of the Bihar poll campaign.

It is not without significance that the yatra to Lal Chowk was organised by the BJP’s youth wing under Anurag Thakur, son of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, while senior leaders like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj later clambered aboard Thakur’s bandwagon.

However, neither Jaitley nor Sushma Swaraj, both of whom were denied the top party position by the RSS in preference to Gadkari, has shown any great leadership potential. In fact, the parliamentary logjam favoured by them may ultimately prove to be hurtful for the BJP. So may the current espousal of xenophobia although Jaitley had ascribed the 2009 poll defeat to such shrillness.

To the anti-minority world view of its predecessor, the Jana Sangh, the BJP has added violent anti-Muslim and anti-Christian tactics, evident in the Babri Masjid’s destruction in 1992, the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the burning of churches in Orissa in 2008. Its new focus on Kashmir, therefore, has worrisome portents.

(29.01.2011-Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at

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