The Big Story: UP and down

The 2002 Assembly Election in Gujarat saw some disappointing moments. Chief Minister Narendra Modi made outright communal appeals during the campaign, just months after more than a thousand Muslims had been massacred in the state during a pogrom that saw the involvement of some of his party colleagues.

In 2014, when he ran for prime minister, Narendra Modi rebranded himself. In his campaign, he made sure to not make any explicit communal appeals. While religion and faith were brought up by other politicians in the Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi himself stuck mostly to claims that he would bring development.

On Monday, however, the old Modi was back. Speaking at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, the prime minister said, “If there is electricity during Ramzan then it must be available during Diwali too; there shouldn’t be any discrimination.” He added: “If a graveyard has been constructed in the village then a cremation ground must be made to.”

Even though he added, “There should not be any discrimination on the basis of religion and caste”, Modi’s pitch was clear: he was accusing the Samajwadi Party of appeasing Muslims. Of course, like other charges of so-called minority appeasement, there weren’t too many facts to back it up. Far from being appeased, Muslims are India’s most disadvantaged group.

The political rationale for the BJP here was clear: faced with a resurgent Samajwadi-Congress alliance, creating Hindu-Muslim polarisation would naturally help the BJP. However, as the prime minister, Modi is expected to think beyond narrow party concerns and involve himself with the overall good of the country.

Uttar Pradesh is one of the least developed places on earth. The health care system is so poor, 50 out of every 1,000 babies born die before their first birthday. That’s significantly worse than Nepal (29) and Bangladesh (31). An Uttar Pradeshi has much lower life expectancy compared to other states in India and countries in South Asia.

Clearly, Uttar Pradesh development problems are immense. Even basics like health care are broken. When the state is stuck in this morass, for the country’s prime minister to play a communal tune is unconscionable. Uttar Pradesh does not need to obsess over religious festivals, graveyards and cremation grounds. It urgently needs human development. It can not afford a politics that talks about anything else.

The Big Scroll

  1. In Uttar Pradesh, the demonetisation gambit has backfired for the BJP (and the old communal ploy hasn’t worked), writes Ajoy Bose.
  2. “The idea that Narendra Modi has become a moderate is wishful thinking,” predicted political scientist Ghanshyam Shah two years ago.
  3. Modi’s “sabka vikas, sabke saath” and Sangh Parivar’s Hindu Rashtra cannot coexist, argues Rudolf C Heredia.

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Political Picks

  1. Members of the Jat community have been sitting on dharnas in 19 of the Haryana’s 22 districts since 29 January – a situation that raises fears of a repeat of last year’s violence.
  2. The governor has sought a report about incidents in Tamil Nadu Assembly during the chaotic trust vote.
  3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh alleged that the three-month economic blockade of Manipur was the result of a conspiracy hatched by the state’s Congress government.
  4. Mexico would be pleased to host Indian software workers if the United States cracks down on its H1B visa programme, says the country’s ambassador to India.


  1. In Nepal, a fragile peace seems ready to explode, writes Yubaraj Ghimra in the Indian Express.
  2. He might have won the trust vote but the Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu faces trust deficit, argues KV Lakshmana in the Hindustan Times.
  3. Writing in Aeon, economist and historian Joel Mokyr tries to answer why only Europe managed to get rich in the modern world.

Don’t Miss

Abhishek Dey writes about Uttarakhand’s ghost villages, where farms have been abandoned and the homes are empty.

“Juyal, too, recalled how Khaira had been rather populated until just two decades ago. Now, it has less than 100 people. Juyal was among those who left the village in search of employment – he worked as a labourer in industrial areas in the National Capital Region for almost 15 years before heading back home nine years ago. Now he works at construction sites in the nearby towns of Satpuli and Kotdwar.

‘As a labourer, I could hardly save anything, so it was better to work from the village instead,’ he explained. ‘At least I get to be with my family. Things are different for people who are educated or manage to get better jobs in town. For the poor, it is not much different.’”