BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) The BJP needed it and the Congress provided it – not one but three electoral issues to attack the opposition.
The BJP has decided to mount its attack on the opposition on three issues – Pakistan, Article 370 and Jinnah during the first phase of the Bihar election, say sources within the party. While the top leaders will raise Rahul Gandhi’s apparent comparison between Pakistan and India and P. Chidambaram’s call to reinstate Article 370, state BJP leaders will drum up the issue of Congress fielding controversial former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student leader Maskoor Usmani.
Sources say, if the response is good, it will be the party’s campaign strategy in the other 2 phases as well. However, one source added that its star campaigners like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief J.P. Nadda, and Rajnath Singh will also raise issues like BJP’s free ration scheme for 80 crore families, the National Education Policy and India’s ‘successful handling’ of the Covid pandemic.
A Delhi-based senior BJP functionary said, “Rahul Gandhi taking Pakistan’s side has become a regular thing. It no longer surprises us. But a former Finance Minister promising to reinstate Article 370 is shocking. People of Bihar need to know their stand on Kashmir.”
It became clearer when Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “They (Congress) are saying that the decision to abrogate Article 370 was wrong and the Congress will bring it back. Will the Congress say the same thing in the Bihar election? Will they say in their manifesto?” Javadekar went a step further to liken the Congress’ position to that of “a few remaining insurgents”.
Nadda showed the way by hitting back hard against the Congress immediately on Twitter, calling it Congress’ “dirty tricks” allegedly aimed at “breaking India”. Nadda also commented on Congress “praising Pakistan” which was a reference to a sarcastic tweet by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi where he posted a GDP growth chart that said: “Another solid achievement by the BJP government. Even Pakistan and Afghanistan handled Covid better than India.”
Javadekar also said, “Rahul Gandhi is praising Pakistan. Be it any issue, he likes to praise Pakistan and China. This is the face of Congress.” Javadekar also highlighted how abrogation of Article 370 helped bring social justice for the Dalits in the two Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Incidentally, scheduled castes constitute 15 per cent of Bihar’s population, according to the 2011 Census.
The third issue that will be strongly raised in the next few weeks by the BJP is Congress fielding former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student leader Maskoor Usmani as a candidate. Already, Union minister from Bihar Giriraj Singh has raised it and BJP sources indicate, state leaders, particularly those campaigning in Darbhanga district, where Usmani is fighting from Jale constituency, will follow suit.
Giriraj Singh said on Friday, “Congress and the Mahagathbandhan leaders have to answer the nation that if the Jale candidate supports Jinnah. Congress and Mahagathabndhan have to say if they also support Jinnah? Will Sharjeel Imam be their star campaigner?”
He was referring to May 2018 when AMU was at the centre of a massive controversy and Usmani came under the scanner when the then BJP Aligarh MP Satish Gautam shot off a letter to the university vice-chancellor objecting to a portrait of Jinnah. However, the said portrait was claimed to be hanging since the 1930s. Usmani had written a letter to Modi back then questioning the need for the controversy as such portraits of Jinnah have been hanging in other Indian institutions as well.
Now, with his candidature, the BJP is all set to target not just the Congress but its allies like the RJD, too, that may create frictions within the alliance. Meanwhile, BJP’s strategy has already started to pay off with murmurs within the Congress party.
Rishi Mishra is the grandson of former Union minister L.N. Mishra and he joined Congress but expressed his disappointment through a tweet, “It’s a cruel joke. I left JD(U) to contest from Jale. I would have been okay if someone else got a ticket but they gave it to a Jinnah follower who has a sedition case against him. He puts Jinnah’s photo in his office.”
Usmani was booked for sedition after the former AMU student leader allegedly raised anti-national slogans in 2019.
At a time when the Congress was trying to trap the NDA by questioning Nitish Kumar’s performance by issuing a sleek music rap ‘Ka Kiye Ho? (What have you done?)’ that has gone viral ever since and the NDA was struggling to find electoral issues to hit back with overwhelming anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar, the Congress seems to have gifted it on a platter to its rival.
Now, the BJP will use this trinity of weapons in the coming weeks to slam not just the Congress, but also its allies.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BY ANINDYA BANERJEE