By Anindya Benerjee New Delhi, Oct 19 : As the campaigning for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana draws to a close, the contrast between the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) distaste for complacency and the Congress’s lacklustre attempt is the single biggest takeaway.
The BJP, tipped to return to power in both the states as per pre-poll surveys by IANS-CVoter, didn’t lose focus. Even on Saturday, the last day of electioneering, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was campaigning in Haryana’s Rewari and BJP chief Amit Shah in Maharashtra.
Despite it being Assembly elections, where local issues should dominate the discourse, the BJP turned it into a referendum on its decision to abrogate Article 370 that gave special powers to Kashmir. The BJP turned national security into the poll plank.
Even on Saturday, Modi said, “J&K could not develop as only one family was given preference. You have not chosen me to sit idle and that’s why the changes in J&K are visible today”.
At the same rally, he claimed, “We kill terrorists right inside their homes, unlike the Congress, which was scared of dealing with the issue.”
Earlier, while addressing his last electoral rally in Maharashtra, the PM went back to the early nineties when Mumbai was rocked by a series of bomb blasts. “We can’t forget the Mumbai blasts’ wounds. The then (Congress) government didn’t do justice with the victims’ families and the reason for such a stance is now becoming known,” said Modi.
Though 1993 and 2019 are separated by decades, both are connected by a string of brute stance on national security, something the BJP excels in using to convince voters.
On the NRC, a process to identify illegal immigrants living in Assam, has remained a focal point of the BJP’s campaign. In fact, Shah kept reiterating it and went on record recently to promise a nationwide NRC.
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar has also promised NRC. Though illegal immigration hasn’t been a concern for this northern state, the way it was packaged and sold seemed to have received a warm reception from it’s core voter base.
What made the BJP look indomitable was a feeble challenge by the Congress to its masculine campaigning, where it sought to project the Congress as either weak or indifferent to national security concerns.
At the time when the BJP’s pro-NRC campaigning was complimented by RSS No. 2 Bhaiyaji Joshi, the Congress was in a contradiction mode.
“The NRC should be implemented throughout the nation. It’s the responsibility of any government to detect intruders and act accordingly after bringing in requisite legislation. Till date, this has only been tried in Assam. Now, its time to implement it throughout the nation,” Joshi said on Friday.
In contrast, former PM Manmohan Singh claimed his party supported abrogation of Article 370 in Parliament, which was contrary to the truth. BJP’s social media chief Amit Malviya on Friday released footage of Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari where he was seen saying, “The Congress in the Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha voted against both the abrogation of Article 370 as well as the dismemberment of J&K, it’s truncation into two UTs.”
It also brought out the inherent contradictions within the party, coupled with inner party frictions, like Sanjay Nirupam sulking in Mumbai and Deepender Hooda skipping Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Mahendergarh, Haryana.
So much so, that 70-year Sharad Pawar addressing a rally drenched in rain became a symbol of fight-back by the opposition.
As the two states go to polls on October 21, it will not be remembered for its result. It will be remembered more for how the BJP led a ruthless campaign on hyper nationalism, while the Congress that could have cornered the government on issues like weakening economy, chose to give the BJP a walkover.