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Such reactions over divisive issues, the BJP believes—and not just the BJP, a nervous, ideologically bankrupt Congress now promises its voters cow shelters—pays electoral dividends. That is why the BJP used the supreme court’s order allowing women of menstruating age to enter Sabarimala as an opportunity to get a foothold in a state that has consistently rejected the party. “Everyone followed the agenda we had put forward,” Kerala BJP chief PS Sreedharan Pillai was heard saying in a leaked audio. “One after another, everyone exited the scene after surrendering before us.”

There is little doubt that the BJP and its chief campaigner, Narendra Modi, are unlikely to repeat the electoral sweep of 2014. While Modi remains the leading choice for prime minister, his aura has considerably dimmed and the party’s vote shares appear to be falling.

The BJP’s dimming electoral prospects are linked to a stuttering economy, joblessness, overblown promises—a Modi lookalike has joined the Congress, saying people who once loved him are now abusing him, asking where are Achhe Din, or good times, the ruling party’s 2014 slogan—and the crippling blow struck two years ago by demonetisation.

Demonetisation is a particular example of the willingness that Modi and his party have shown to act against national interests. Despite the advice of the Reserve Bank of India that “black money” and counterfeit notes were no justification for demonetisation—the central bank’s directors, however, said the move was “commendable,” as the Indian Express reported this week—Modi used exactly those words to justify his step into anarchy. Hailed by his supporters, including eminent economists, as a masterstroke, demonetisation crippled the economy, led to a few hundred deaths, and threw millions of people out of work, especially in the informal sector and on farms. Many of those jobs never returned.

So, Modi and the BJP have abandoned the promise of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas—solidarity with everyone, progress for everyone—and returned firmly to the issue that first brought them to national attention and power, from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 282 in 2014: religion.

The dangers of playing with religious fire in India are apparent in Assam, one of the country’s most diverse states, where a tenuous peace has been disrupted by the BJP’s impossible promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants (which the Assamese enthusiastically believed) and its attempts to fast-track citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants (which the Assamese, as hostile to Bengalis or Bangladeshis, Hindu or not, virulently reject).

It isn’t clear if the BJP will succeed in its attempt to further cash in its dividend of divisiveness, communalise politics, and whip up Hindu sentiments, which appear to be subject to the law of diminishing returns. The desire for peace is strong and in a nation beset with problems greater than Muslim-sounding names of ramshackle towns and cities, there are greater concerns.

What is clear is that by bringing short-term Hindu interests to the forefront of public discourse and the electoral race for 2019, the BJP risks tearing apart India’s syncretic fabric and, in so doing, the national interests of the ancient country whose glories its leaders claim to celebrate.

This piece was first published on We welcome your comments at

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