In his response to Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as the Congress president, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed it as the Aurangzeb Raj. Though the PM Modi was referring to the remarks made by the Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer about the succession in a monarchy and a democracy, his invocation of Aurangzeb was meaningful. It was geared to transact in a political currency that has become mainstream in India. Aurangzeb is a hateful figure in Hindutva narrative. He is regarded as anti-Hindu and the one who has been responsible for atrocities against the majority community. While the objective historical accounts present a more nuanced account of the Mughal emperor’s era, but there is little acceptability for the facts of any kind in today’s India. More so of those that undermine the Hindutva understanding of India’s past. In the larger saffron discourse Aurangzeb has become synonymous with his religion and the Muslim community. And therein lies the rub. By invoking Aurangzeb, the PM is subtly deploying religion to polarize voters to rally support for himself in Gujarat. And this is deeply troubling: It yet again reflects how anti-Muslim terms of reference have become routine and mainstream in the country. What is more, it continues to return the users of these terms a rich political harvest. An anti-Muslim rhetoric can compensate for the failure of the government to deliver on the development and governance front.
If the ongoing election campaign in Gujarat is any guide, India's new political direction gives little cause for confidence. Starting with a pitch for development, the campaign has degenerated into personal invective. BJP has once again let its development plank from Lok Sabha poll campaign become subservient to a polarizing agenda. One thing that highlights it more than anything else is the PM’s invoking of Aurangzeb. Attempt has been to once again try and unite and consolidate Hindu vote bank against Muslim community. And the one sure-fire way to do is to invoke the hate against Muslims. This has been one abiding template of the saffron politics in the country. When all else fails, BJP raises Muslim bogey to try and forge a monolithic Hindu vote bank. The strategy has been a factor in the rise of BJP as a national party, up from two seats in 1984 polls. But now with BJP enjoying an absolute power at the centre and the PM Modi emerging as an all-powerful leader, this kind of politics from the party including the Prime Minister himself is a grave cause for concern for the country’s largest minority. If the prime minister makes no bones about his bias, how will the system that is presided over by him will behave. The PM also talked about Kashmir saying that Congress had turned it into a conflict. One can very well ask if Kashmir with its religious identity comes so handy to BJP to drum up public support, why will a BJP government take steps that are seen as an attempt to appease the people of the state.
But the larger concern for the minorities in the country is that this tide of intolerance directed against them stops and the central government becomes more inclusive of all the communities. The talk about the Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikaas is good but it is time that the word is executed in deed too.
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