January 21, 2020
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The Terror Bogey At Poll Time

At times it has worked in the past. And at times, it has not.

The Terror Bogey At Poll Time
The Terror Bogey At Poll Time

When It Worked

  • 1984 General elections: In the aftermath of the Indira Gandhi assassination and the anti-Sikh riots that followed, the Congress unleashed a campaign with the subtext that the Sikh next door could be a terrorist. The Congress won a landslide victory.
  • 1995 Maharashtra polls: The Shiv Sena-BJP combine won this election, which came two years after the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. Its electoral campaign promised to book those guilty of terrorism and was marked by strong Hindutva and anti-Pakistan rhetoric.
  • 1998 General elections: After the Coimbatore blasts, which had L.K. Advani among its possible targets, the BJP capitalised on the terror plank and ended up winning five Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu for the first time. It also released an ad asking people if terrorists should be fed biriyani (a reference to the government's poor handling of the siege by Kashmiri militants of the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar). The BJP came to power, winning 182 seats.
  • 1999 General elections: Riding high on a nationalist plank after the Kargil war, the BJP won 182 seats. Its campaign promised a tough state that would crack down on infiltrators and anti-nationals.
  • 2002 Gujarat assembly: Held after the Gujarat riots, this election was dominated by Narendra Modi's personality. With Godhra as pretext, he directed his anti-terror rhetoric against Pakistan and Muslims. The BJP won 127 of the 182 assembly seats.
  • 2008 Karnataka assembly: BJP released an ad campaign trying to capitalise on terror incidents in the state like the attack on the Indian Institute of Science. It managed to come to power in the state.
When It Didn't
  • 2002 Punjab elections: The BJP's campaign revolved around terror after the December 13 Parliament attack. But it won only three seats.
  • 2007 UP elections: The BJP tried to whip up voter sympathy by raising the terror attack in Benares as an issue. It came a poor third behind the BSP and the SP.
  • 2008 Delhi and Rajasthan elections: Post 26/11, BJP failed to wrest Delhi from the Congress despite its "blood-stained" campaign focusing on the government's failure to prevent terror attacks. In Rajasthan too, it lost.


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