New Delhi: The unrest in Jammu and Kashmir over the Amarnath land row and the ongoing violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal district may have helped the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, warm up to its ideological parent and other associated organizations ahead of the coming elections, say some party functionaries and analysts.
Elections in some states will be held later this year and general elections are scheduled for April or May.
The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, or RSS, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, have often expressed their disapproval of what they term as “drift” by the BJP from its traditional pro-Hindu agenda.
Right move? A 28 August picture of street protest in Srinagar. BJP claims its support for Hindu groups seeking transfer of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has struck a chord with the RSS and VHP. PTI
BJP leaders claim their support for agitating Hindu groups demanding transfer of forest land in Kashmir to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, or SASB, for use by pilgrims, has struck a chord with the RSS and the VHP. The VHP is one of the main constituents of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, which has spearheaded the agitation in Jammu and Kashmir, demanding the transfer of land to SASB.
The Congress-led state government had initially decided to hand over land to SASB, but changed its stance after its coalition partner, People’s Democratic Party, or PDP, pulled out of the government. “By unwittingly pampering the Muslims, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government has antagonized a large section of Hindus, who are not BJP supporters. Now insecurity will make them vote for the BJP with a vengeance,” said Seshadri Chari, former editor of the Organizer, a magazine of the RSS.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: “By championing issues of national importance, be it the Sethusamudram project, the Amarnath issue or the conversion issue in Orissa, the BJP has instilled confidence in people.”
The Sethusamudram project envisages building a shipping canal off Tamil Nadu coast. It is opposed by Hindu groups that claim it will damage the mythical bridge constructed by Hindu god Ram across the Palk Straits, connecting India and Sri Lanka.
“The party’s backing of the Amarnath struggle and moral support to the VHP’s agitation against conversion in tribal areas of Orissa will bolster our ties with frontal organizations such as the VHP. Otherwise they will ask the party what has it done to support their cause and agitations,” said another BJP leader who did not wish to be named.
S. Vedantam, international working president, VHP, said his organization will maintain its ties with BJP as long as the latter supports its religious and ideological concerns.
“We share the same relationship with BJP as before, (and) there is no change. We are concerned about the welfare of the Hindus.... If the Congress comes forward to protect the Hindus, we will have no problem supporting them,” he said.
However, political analysts say stronger ties with organizations such as the RSS may not translate into votes in the forthcoming elections.
Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan go to the polls later this year.
“BJP may not gain any major electoral advantage out of the developments in Jammu and Kashmir as the central government has managed to do some damage-control. I don’t see any polarization because of these incidents,” said political analyst and Mint columnist G.V. L. Narasimha Rao.
The agitation in Jammu and Kashmir ended on Sunday after an agreement was reached between a federal panel and several Hindu groups, giving exclusive rights to the SASB to use land at Baltal in Kashmir during the summer pilgrimage season. This year, at least 600,000 people visited the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir. Rao, however, said the BJP might benefit from the “insecurity” the majority (community) feels in the wake of a series of terror attacks across the country. “There is a feeling that the government has not handled terror attacks properly due to their policy of Muslim appeasement.”
Delhi-based psephologist and media analyst N. Bhaskar Rao said that although voter momentum is not in favour of the opposition party, the BJP could still achieve something by tapping the VHP and the RSS. “By raking up issues like the Amarnath land transfer and the conversion issue, the VHP is winning grassroots-level votes while the BJP is struggling hard to win over mainstream voters,” Rao added.
The Congress says the “divisive agenda” followed by the BJP and its ideological parent will not help the party gain an electoral edge. “The RSS and the BJP indulge in divisive politics hoping that they can repeat Gujarat (where communal politics is believed to have helped the BJP to stay in power). But they are wrong. They will not succeed. The BJP keeps its political agenda alive by whipping up communal passions. But the Congress is prepared to counter it.” said Vayalar Ravi, minister of parliamentary affairs.