Perilous politics of polarisation

Perilous politics of polarisation

It was only after more than a week of procrastination by the Bihar government following the registration of a criminal case for inciting communal violence in Bhagalpur that Bihar police arrested the son of Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choube,  Arijit Shaswath, recently. This was after a court in Bhagalpur refused to give him anticipatory bail, leaving no elbow room for Nitish Kumar's JD(U)-BJP government for inaction. His arrogant father had cast aspersion on the state police, dubbing the FIR against his son a 'piece of garbage'. Even a day after the court's warrant, the Union minister's son was seen leading an armed procession in Bhagalpur, where his supporters were shouting anti-Muslim slogans. While Bhagalpur is a classic example of how the storm-troopers of the Hindutva brigade are polarising society   on communal lines, with the blessings of the BJP leadership, it was not an isolated case. Similar clashes erupted in Munger, Aurangabad, Samastipur, Shekhpura, Nawada and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's home turf, Nalanda.

These developments underline how Nitish Kumar has become helpless in stemming the tide of communal violence set off by his alliance partner. A simultaneous spurt in communal violence unleashed by the HIndutva groups in neighbouring West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh  and other states indicates that these are part of a larger pan-India plan. Clearly, a BJP leadership that does not have much to show for its four years in government, whether on the economic front or on the inclusive development paradigm, is moving rapidly away from the Narendra Modi government's failed "Sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas" record to its original politics of polarisation. It calculates that not only will doing so help divert attention from its failures, it will also help consolidate its Hindu vote bank in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.   The results of recent byelections in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have bolstered this realisation and added to the party's desperation.

Such a strategy can, however, backfire, as the BJP and RSS leaders must well know. It not only alienates substantial sections of society, including the minorities and Dalits but also tends to encourage consolidation of forces opposed to the BJP-RSS political agenda. Clear signs of this have emerged in UP - where arch enemies SP and BSP have joined hands to upset the BJP's applecart. The worst effect of the politics of polarisation is that it divides the nation, endangering not only economic development but also national security. The BJP must realise the calamitous consequences of the politics of polarisation. It threatens not only the BJP's own chances in 2019, but it imperils the future of India. The party must desist from this path and return to one of democratic governance and social harmony.  

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