The Nationalist Game Plan

While BJP in the last week or so might seem to have gone on back foot vis-a-vis the JNU issue, it should be interesting to analyze what their original game plan was and how things went wrong. Simply put, BJP’s original game-plan vis-a-vis JNU was to firstly paint everybody in JNU as anti-nationals based on some slogans by a few masked men who are yet to be arrested. Once JNU had been painted anti-national and the opposition is sort of forced into supporting JNU for political reasons, paint the opposition as anti-national. This was to carry on their agenda of polarizing the populace based on the national/anti-national lines with aid from certain media organizations. Polarization based only on communal lines hasn’t proven to be enough as seen from the spectacular failures of Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, Anti-Beef campaigns and as evident from the election results in Delhi and Bihar.

So, when the usual tactics of BJP of pitching Hindus against the Muslims failed, they had to invent a new strategy to polarize people. It had become even more crucial for BJP to have one such strategy because of the enormous amount of economic distress all around the country. Maharashtra has seen the highest number of farmer suicides in the last 14 years, food inflation is not shown any trends of reversing with Dal selling at Rs 160-200, rural distress is unprecedented as seen from the massive dip in sales of tractors and two wheelers in rural areas, Industrial Production is down, Rupee is down and somehow people had stopped believing just the GDP figures that the Govt kept throwing at them. So a diversionary strategy which makes people ignore their real world problems and concentrate on manufactured issues was the need of the hour. And what better than suggesting that a section of Indian citizens are anti-nationals and want to ‘break India’ and the opposition supports this section, and BJP is the only party which can ‘save India’.

The plan was put into execution around the time of Yakub Memon’s hanging.
Around the time of Yakub’s hanging, every one with a contrarian view was painted anti-national. To start with, those who were against Death Penalty in general were painted anti-nationals. Thereafter, those raised questions based on certain media reports which suggested that the then Govt might have actually made a deal with Yakub Memon were painted anti-nationals. So on and so forth.

Soon after, five dalits students were suspended in University of Hyderabad based on five letters sent by Smriti Irani’s ministry alleging anti-national activity. One of the students, Rohith Vemula, subsequently committed suicide. While the outrage about the suicide had started to grow, BJP had already gone into overdrive along the anti-national lines painting the students in question and everyone who supports them as anti-nationals. Only when there was a backlash did BJP retract temporarily with Modi shedding some crocodile tears and calling Rohith “Maa Bharati Ka Laal” and Smriti Irani calling him a “child”. As of yesterday, they are back into the anti-national mode vis-a-vis Rohith Vemula with VK Singh calling him an anti-national.

And then JNU happened. 3 students have been arrested till now on charges of sedition – Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. Kanhaiya Kumar based on morphed videos supplied by Zee News and Umar and Anirban for raising certain pro-afzal slogans which even though may not go down well with a lot of people but had nothing unconstitutional about it. With Times Now, Zee News and NewsX providing covering fire, BJP was ahead in the perception battle for the longest time. The opposition parties couldn’t figure an effective strategy to counter BJP. BJP had infact gotten at-least sections of the opposition to sing the same tune with certain leaders in Congress chest-beating about how it was their party who hung Afzal Guru and some leaders in AAP asking for ‘quick and stern’ action.

Had it not been for the student unity and their ideological strength, BJP was well on its way to win this battle. And then the reversal started. Certain channels and social media exposed the morphed videos. Goons in black robes attacked Kanhaiya Kumar and journalists inside court premises leading to wide-spread condemnation. Government’s refusal to take action against those lawyers for days together further discredited them. It was also exposed that certain outsiders, whom the Govt hasn’t arrested yet, were actually the ones who had had raised the most objectionable slogans. However, what mattered most was how the students who rallied around each other, never giving up on their fellow students. And finally, the speech following the release of Kanhaiya on bail was the final nail in the coffin. The story had turned around, the public perception had changed.

At the national meet of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Vrindavan, via VK Singh to Smriti Irani to Amit Shah to Arun Jaitley, BJP launched multiple attacks at Kanhaiya Kumar. They’re clearly rattled. Their largest exercise till date to divide Indians along national and anti-national lines has failed to a large extent.