BJP’s Domestic Agenda, Kashmir and Pakistan

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After engineering a victory Gujarat state elections, the Hindu extremist party, BJP, has emerged more anti Pakistan as if the previous hatred for the western neighbour not enough. The Pakistan-bashing campaign has passed the test of yielding the desired results for the BJP to win the state election. The Hindu extremist party banked on spreading anti-Pakistan sentiments by using President General Musharraf as a scapegoat to seek better results in elections.

While New Delhi has partially withdrawn its forces from the its border with Pakistan, the BJP leadership does not seem ready to scale down tension with its neighbour at all. Now that the BJP has ensured its win in Gujarat, its rhetoric against Pakistan would last until the forthcoming elections in 10 more states and center in 2003-4. Strangely enough, the BJP posters displayed during the election campaign all over Gujarat projected President Pervez Musharraf and the state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, in adversarial roles. Any outsider could have mistaken Musharraf being an opponent candidate of Narendra Modi.

Modi, while rounding off his campaign, had reportedly declared: “If the Congress wins in Gujarat they will burst firecrackers in Pakistan and if the BJP wins, the entire India will celebrate Diwali. The statement by the sitting chief minister speaks volumes of Pakistan being made a factor in India’s internal politics by its own hard-liners.

Over the past three year, the BJP government hardly brought any change in the life of a common Indian citizen. Neither BJP was able to implement its elections manifesto, nor could it fulfill its pledge to provide good governance. Merely spreading Hindutva teachings failed to impress Indian people who got little comfort out of the rhetoric. Resultantly, the Indian people got turned their back to the BJP polices and voted against its political rivals in last year’s state elections, particularly in UP. The Vajpayee-led party faced an unprecedented defeat in its recent history. Interestingly, the elections result and subsequently held many survey polls showed BJP fast losing political ground all across the country. At the same time, its own ideological mentors of BJP, RSS and VHP, started slating the ruling elite for “deviating from the original agenda to safaranise Indian polity”. Thus, the 21 coalitions partners were also not happy due to BJP’s hard-line polices.

The Bhartiya Janta Party also invited sharp criticism from the opposition after turning a blind eye to attacks on the Gujarat Muslim minority. The riots, which left more than 2,000 people dead, have also destabilized Vajpayee-led coalition government. From the coalition partners to media and vibrant Indian civil society organizations, there was a great disregard and rejection for the hard-liner policies of the Vajpayee regime. Faced with a catch-22 situation, the BJP decided to re-invent its old formulae, the most apt to follow the doctrine: “Indian security is endanger and our enemy is going to ruin India.

An Indian writer, Muqtedar Khan, correctly analysing the situation very noted in research journal Foreign Policy Focus that the BJP, which had lost several regional elections last year, needs a ‘Lewinsky’ to take away the focus from its failure in Gujarat and rally the nation behind it. The prospect of war with arch enemy Pakistan is the answer to BJP’s domestic woes.

It is not new in Indian politics when ruling elite gives space to political violence when it suits its politicians. After the murder of Indra Ghandi, angry mobs ruthlessly killed hundreds of thousands Sikhs families. Consequently, the Congress secured landslide victory in national elections in 1984. It was just a decade ago, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao did let the BJP demolish Babari mosque. Ironically, after few years, Narasimha Rao confessed the blunder and defended his case in a very simplistic way. “BJP was committing suicide, why should I interfere.” In fact Rao saw political gains in the destruction of a mosque at the hands of the Hindu hard-liners who would be rejected by the secular India. On the contrary, BJP replaced Congress in the Prime Minister office failed to earn absolute majority.

Thankfully though, BJP as well as Singh Prewar need a complete majority to implement its agenda to convert the entire minorities into Hindus. Ruling with secular partners and moderate-by-heart Vajpayee is not a pleasant experience for Rashtriya Swan Saveksnagh, its real mentor. The hard-liners have chalk out three tier strategies not only to regain its popularity but also ensure complete hold in and outside the power corridors. To meet their political targets, they had to set on fire the prosperous Gujarati Muslims. Observers believe that the hard-liners have laid down foundations for the future success.

Famous writer Achin Vanaik notes that the BJP needs a war é or at least strong and sustained wartime tensions é before it brings forward the date of the next general elections. “By current reckoning this could well be early next year, although elections for a new Parliament are only due in 2004,” he explained. Moreover, BJP elevated L K Advani to the deputy Prime Minister to send a strong message in the world that Indians do not care for human rights and they are going to experiment the extremist agenda in its full. LK Advani is now acting as a de-facto Prime Minister of India. His background and intentions are very clear and he never ever hides his hatred towards Pakistan. Therefore, the Indian brinkmanship is not for a few months more it will take long to calm down. Even the Indian experts themselves admit the fact that the current crisis may simply be a prologue to the future ones. The Indian government, and a very large section of elite opinion backing it, feels that the recent round of brinkmanship politics has actually paid substantial dividends, domestically and externally.

Another Indian analyst notes that the BJP’s intention to “replicate the Gujarat experience of terrorism” and campaign against Pakistan will continue to dominate its agenda.

Unfortunately, the world community is ignoring the internal dynamics of Indian brinkmanship and unilaterally demanding more and more concessions from Pakistan. Pakistan, rightly points out that any more flexibility is not possible for Islamabad with regard to the Indian demands. The propaganda hype on ‘cross border infiltration’ and campaign against Pakistan’s involvement in IHK armed resistance is purely an attempt to divert attention of the international community from the real contentious issues. The world leaders have been failing to take up issues of reduction of tension and meaningful dialogue with Pakistan because of the noise originating from New Delhi. Pakistan should focus on the core issues and project the same to the world community instead of responding to India’s innovative pre-conditions for return to calm. At the same time, India’s internal political dynamics would remain a key factor in determining its policies and approach towards its western neighbour. Thus, the current scene of India’s internal politics suggests that the situation will last as such for at least another 18 months.

The writer is a specialist on dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir conflict and India-Pakistan relations. He has recently visited Indian-Held Jammu and Kashmir.

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