In an attempt to focus on core vote banks, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stepped up its Hindutva rhetoric, which is likely to appeal to its Hindu vote base in a multi-cornered contest. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which maintained a low profile has become active at present. It reportedly issued a whip to its shakhas (branches) to mobilize the cause of Hindutva. Narendra Modi established himself as the Hindutva mascot before moving on to the development plank in Gujarat.
In December 2013, Modi iterated the need for a debate on whether a separate status for Kashmir (Article 370) had benefited the common man. The controversial issue was kept on the backburner by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1998 to 2004 to retain the National Democratic Alliance partners. The BJP’s game plan is to revive contentious issues to regroup its core voters, many of whom had shifted to the Congress (in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections), Bahujan Samaj Party (2007 assembly polls) and the Samajwadi Party (2012 assembly elections).
“The BJP did not push its Hindutva agenda at the eleventh hour of the poll campaign. It was very much in the forefront. In his election campaigns, Narendra Modi repeatedly challenged the ‘Delhi Sultanate’ — a term he used to describe the Congress and its government at the Centre. Pouring vitriol on the Congress vice president, Modi continuously addressed Rahul Gandhi as ‘shahzada’ (prince). And if we deconstruct Modi’s speeches we see a similar pattern. Modi had linked three AKs — AK-47 rifle, A K Antony and Arvind Kejriwal — with Pakistan. It is a blatant form of Hindutva campaign to maximize the votes. Earlier, it was latent and now it has become overt to polarize communities at the grassroots,” observers Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.
Modi followed the dictates of the RSS by slamming the Congress for allowing beef exports. He did so at a meeting in an area dominated by Yadavs, who belong to the caste which has traditionally been associated with the rearing of cattle as milkmen. For the BJP and the RSS, the tactical move is to push its right-wing ideology in the hope that such a strategy will strengthen the support base for Modi. At this stage, diluting Hindutva agenda would necessarily mean saying good-bye to the BJP’s thus far unshakeable RSS links. To prevail in the non-Congress space, the party cannot get rid of the RSS and a sudden shift would also suggest that the saffron party would become a religion-neutral outfit, just like most other parties in the political system. Therefore, it would lose its uniqueness and would no longer be naturally able to lay claim to hardcore Hindu majority votes.
Time was when former NDA allies like Nitish Kumar had indeed proved to be an effective check on the BJP’s core ideological design. Will the absence of such strong coalition partners this time embolden the BJP to push through its key ideological agenda? Also, the saffron party has adopted a calculated strategy to push the Congress party on the backfoot by forcing it to spell out its stand on these contentious issues. The Grand old Party fell between two stools while trying to defend its Muslim vote bank and not appear antagonistic to Hindus.
“The BJP is coming back to its original form with certain modifications of core ideas. In electoral politics, the party also wants polarization of Hindu votes in its favour to grab maximum seats. The self-proclaimed secularists have dubbed the BJP is a party driven by a divisive agenda is absolutely far from the truth and their motto seems to raise false alarms to confuse the electorate . The three promises (Ram temple, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code) were part of the saffron party’s commitment since long, and they were there even when the BJP-led NDA was in power at the Centre. Yet, none of the fears of the secularists came true," said S K Dwivedi, professor at University of Lucknow.
At this juncture, breaking caste with communal politics will be difficult for the BJP because regional heavyweight parties will not give ground easily.