July 24, 2021
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The Modi-Shah Poll Tunes

The Modi-Shah Poll Tunes
The Modi-Shah Poll Tunes

Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph: His Master's Voice

The difficulty with believing the BJP’s new ‘governance’ anthem is that Modi and his right-hand man, Amit Shah, chose during their election campaigns to sing a succession of the sangh parivar’s oldest tunes. As political disc-jockeys they showed a marked preference for the BJP’s bloodiest hits. In Bihar, Modi made speeches where he re-mixed the cow-slaughter theme song under a new title, the ‘Pink Revolution’. The lyrics of his cover version went like this: the Congress government had subsidized cow-slaughter, butchers had grown rich on the back of meat exports, did Yadavs really want to make common cause with people who killed the sacred cow?

Amit Shah, hand-picked to deliver Uttar Pradesh to the BJP in 2014, made even more viscerally provocative speeches. Majoritarian parties are founded on a narrative of resentment, in which the majority, the People, tried beyond forbearance by a devious, predatory minority, strikes back. Last week, Amit Shah played variations on this theme of vengeance in speeches in western UP. 

...Shah and Modi performed a kind of jugalbandi during their election campaigns across UP and India. They are masters, both of them, of the sangh parivar’s favoured musical instrument, the dog-whistle. Sometimes, though, as in Bijnor, the dog-whistle was set aside and Shah plainly voiced the ugly rage that defines majoritarian politics, its loathing of minorities and its willingness to shape that hatred into a political instrument.

Vandita Mishra in the Indian Express: With fear and favour

... the Modi mix is not as sanitised or wholesome as it is promoted to be, and that there is more give and take than is made out between “temple” and “economic growth”.

In the campaign for western UP, anxieties stoked by Modi’s prime ministerial candidature and the Muzaffarnagar riots were feeding each other in unchecked ways. Amit Shah’s vicious talk of “izzat (honour)” and “apmaan (insult)” and “badla (revenge)” was echoed in the local BJP candidates’ campaigns that sang exultantly, threateningly, of their leader’s machismo. “Sadak nahin, swabhiman”, declared BJP candidate and riot-accused, Sanjeev Ballian, in Muzaffarnagar, as supporters roared “Har, har, Modi”.

The coarsening was visible on both sides, as much in the speeches of the BSP’s Muzaffarnagar candidate, Qadir Rana, also a riot-accused, and in the Congress’s Saharanpur candidate Imran Masood’s swaggering talk of “lathi (stick)” and “goli (bullet)” before his arrest for hate speech against Modi, as in the fevered whispers of “love jihad” and vile videos featuring meat, bearded men and Modi, circulating anonymously.

...Yet, Modi must take responsibility for the brutal communal campaign for western UP in his name. To challenge it, to be true to the promise he seems to make in his own speeches that by and large skirt Hindutva themes, he would have to address the Muslim community, speak to it directly. By remaining unseeing, as his lieutenants and footsoldiers actively stoke insecurities and hate, he lets them, and the ghosts of 2002, do the talking.


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