A BJP MP from Gorakhpur, member of the party’s national executive who has officially been handed charge of its campaign for the UP assembly bypolls, has been issued a notice by the Election Commission of India for allegedly delivering an inflammatory speech and invoking religion to garner votes. The EC has found prima facie violation of the model code of conduct and asked him to explain why action should not be taken against him. An MLA in Madhya Pradesh, who is also the state BJP vice president, has asked party workers to ensure that Muslim youth are not allowed to enter garba venues in her constituency during the upcoming Navdurga festival, alleging that Hindu girls are lured and converted to Islam as part of a “love jihad” conspiracy. Yogi Adityanath and Usha Thakur speak the language of what is often called the BJP’s “fringe” — but they don’t really fit that description. While the former is central to the BJP’s campaign for UP, the latter is an important party office-bearer, apart from being an elected representative. Both could be rightfully expected to be circumscribed by the slogan put forward by their party to win the Centre — “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. Neither would be unaware of the 10-year moratorium pledged by their prime minister on caste and communal strife on Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
So who is in charge in the BJP? And why is no action being taken against those like Adityanath and Thakur who are openly stoking communal tensions on the ground, especially in poll-bound states, in flagrant defiance of the forward-looking and development-oriented image courted by the Modi-led BJP at the Centre? Or is the party playing true to its own worst stereotype — of always speaking in two voices, carefully choreographing the interplay between them and their alternation?
The BJP has only recently won a decisive majority at the Centre, and though religious polarisation played a part, the party’s victory was made up of much more than that. It was propelled by the hope for change, and aspirations sparked by its promise to revive economic growth and provide an enabling environment, jobs and opportunities in a young country. While Prime Minister Modi appears to be largely addressing himself to the developmental challenge at hand, and is clearly conscious of the need to be seen to be doing so too, others in the party are straying from this script. If this dissonance — between the BJP in the state and at the Centre, or in a poll-bound state and outside it — is allowed to fester, the party must know that it will eventually imperil the trust and expectation that brought it its unprecedented mandate.