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Modi’s politics of ‘us versus them’: Human development, economic growth take a back seat in Indian election

News Analysis |

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is all pumped up as the biggest election exercise on the planet is currently underway in India. In an astute election strategy, he has labeled political opponents the Congress “sympathizers of terrorists”, and has managed to project his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as “vanguard of Indian, especially Hindu identity”.

Speaking at a rally in Maharashtra recently, Modi once again tried to use public sentiment to win votes saying, “I want to tell the first-time voters: can your first vote be dedicated to the veer jawans (brave soldiers) who carried out the air strike in Pakistan. Can your first vote be dedicated to the veer shaheed (brave martyrs) of the Pulwama (terror attack).”

“Congress and its allies are contesting the Lok Sabha election to give a free hand to terrorists. Rahul Gandhi is washing the sins of his father every day,” the Indian prime minister said.

Rahul Gandhi, head of the Indian National Congress (INC), has still not been able to establish himself as a stalwart in the political paradigm of India.

Unlike Pakistan where a caretaker government assumes power as a buffer to ensure neutrality, the Indian government continues its term before it is replaced by a new government when the election is over. The reason attributed to it is the relatively more fair and independent Election Commission of India (ECI). The ECI’s powers are so diverse that to ensure political neutrality it has banned Narendra Modi biopic under the assertion that it might be an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of the sitting prime minister.

It is not unusual to malign the opposition in the name of patriotism in the subcontinent politics. However, during the reign of Narendra Modi, he has repeatedly tried to portray himself as the last hope for the Hindus of India. The BJP has nurtured its political prospects using the fear of Hindu right-leaning faction of the Indian population against foreign threats such as terrorism, and domestic, – the growing Muslim population of India.

Read more: Communal violence & Hindu supremacy: Modi’s India unsafe for minorities

Surprisingly enough, back in 2014 the BJP and Narendra Modi decided to use the precarious state of unemployment and poverty issues to gain political momentum. Five years into power, where they should have been presenting stats and facts as to what the BJP government has contributed towards the promised agenda of 2014, the debate has been diverted to the anti-nationalist narrative. The recent standoff with Pakistan is also seen in the same pattern as Narendra Modi needed to sidetrack the general political discourse in his country away from genuine issues.

Is the Strategy Working for BJP?

Even before the Balakot incident, experts were predicting that the BJP would once again lead the polls simply because the option other than Narendra Modi is not worth considering. Rahul Gandhi, head of the Indian National Congress (INC), has still not been able to establish himself as a stalwart in the political paradigm of India.

It ultimately became the reason why the BJP received more donations to contest the election than other six major parties, including Congress, combined.

In fact, in order to sway votes in their favor, Congress had to announce that Rahul Gandhi would not be their candidate for the premiership if the party won the majority of Lok Sabha seats, such is the low approval ratings of Rahul Gandhi.

Capitalizing on the opportunity where Indian politics lack a substantial figure to counter him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi further maneuvered the public sentiments into its favor taking a hard stand against Pakistan and presenting itself as the champion of Hindu nationalism. It ultimately became the reason why the BJP received more donations to contest the election than other six major parties, including Congress, combined.

Read more: Modi Sarkar involved in money laundering: Congress politician

Being an outside observer, one can comment all day long about how wicked and ill-intended the scheme to garner votes this is, but it seems to be doing the trick for Narendra Modi and his party.