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PM, Shah’s tardy reactions to intolerance: Have they alienated backwards in Bihar?

BJP President Amit Shah 's first public remarks on the incident came on Monday, three weeks after Mohammad Akhlaq’s lynching.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
October 19, 2015 5:30:24 pm
BJP meeting, amit shah, narendra modi, BJP national executive meeting, lk advani The Dadri incident and BJP leaders’ controversial comments thereafter coupled with other incidents of intolerance across the country, appear to have intimidated the backward castes in Bihar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took nine days to react to the Dadri killing. BJP President Amit Shah ‘s first public remarks on the incident came on Monday, three weeks after Mohammad Akhlaq’s lynching. It could well prove to be a miscalculation for the party, especially in Bihar. The BJP may have thought that incidents of violence which appear to protect Hindu sentiments would consolidate its electoral support base, mainly the upper castes in Bihar. However, the situation on the ground does not seem to have gone in the BJP’s favour: that at his press conference in Patna on Monday, Shah felt the need to mention state governments’ responsibility for incidents of intolerance suggests the party is feeling the heat.

The BJP has made a series of mistakes. First came RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment for a review of the reservation policy – a statement that has hurt the BJP deeply. Opposition party leaders in their campaigns have highlighted Bhagwat’s quota comment and succeeded in creating fear among voters.

The Dadri incident and BJP leaders’ controversial comments thereafter coupled with other incidents of intolerance across the country, appear to have intimidated the backward castes in Bihar. One can argue that voters in remote villages are not bothered about writers returning their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against rising intolerance. However, the tales of a Muslim being killed because of rumours that he stored beef at home, have scared them. These incidents have strengthened the BJP’s image as an upper caste party and backward communities which had been expected to vote for BJP, may have been alienated.

Shah and the BJP know that the party cannot win a majority with only the Forward Castes which account for 15-16 per cent of the total population. Worrying for Shah are reports from the ground that his allies – LJP, HAM and RLSP – have been unable to ensure the consolidation of their respective communities support base for the NDA. BJP insiders say although Manjhi could keep the Mahadalits intact, the vote base of Paswan and Kushwaha could be divided.

With youth being BJP’s primary target and a committed support base, it was important for both the Prime Minister and the BJP chief to demonstrate their opposition to anything that brings a bad name to the country or damages its investment prospects, key for the younger generation.

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