THE Gujarat election campaign has witnessed the lowest levels of vituperative communal rhetoric and scare-mongering targeting Muslims. The main culprit for this base campaign is Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
The election speeches of Narendra Modi were marked by a string of allegations and canards which were meant to create a communal imagery of Muslims and link them to Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi becoming Congress president would usher in `Aurangzeb raj’; some obscure Kashmiri Muslim Congress worker is accused of casting a slur on Narendra Modi’s parentage; it was alleged that some retired military officer in Pakistan wanted Ahmed Patel to be the chief minister and so on.
The worst canard was to insinuate that a dinner organised by Mani Shankar Aiyar for a visiting former foreign minister of Pakistan was an occasion for Pakistani meddling in the Gujarat elections. To allege that former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was involved in this “dinner conspiracy” was truly despicable. It showed a reckless disregard for constitutional proprieties and the vulnerabilities that high constitutional office is subjected to in the hands of a person like Modi.
The constant refrain of bringing up a Muslim name and alluding to a Pakistani link is something Modi had specialised in doing during elections when he was the Gujarat chief minister. That Modi, as the prime minister, is taking such communal targeting to new heights is alarming and disturbing. The prime minister’s shameful election rhetoric can only heighten the atmosphere of hate and suspicion of Muslims in the country.
Whatever the results of the elections in Gujarat, the campaign has highlighted the perils of having a Hindutva bigot as the prime minister of the country.
(December 13, 2017)