If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the dagger, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah often takes the role of the sledgehammer. Just a few days after Modi resorted to dog-whistling to suggest that majority Hindus are the real victims in Uttar Pradesh, Shah decided to go a little further.
He coined a new acronym that would lump together the BJP’s political opponents in Uttar Pradesh: Kasab, for Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
The name is a reference to Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist captured alive in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. And Shah was not shy about using the acronym to drive his point home.
“Ye Uttar Pradesh ki janata is baar ke chunav mein is Kasab se mukti paa le. The people of Uttar Pradesh should rid themselves of this Kasab,” he said, before explaining what his acronym meant. “Until and unless Kasab is laid to rest, development and prosperity will continue to elude the poll-bound State.”
There is plenty of deja vu here for people who have followed Amit Shah’s electoral rhetoric. Where Modi, since becoming prime minister, has felt the need to couch even his more strident commentary behind a facade of development – such as the pretence of being anti-discrimination in his electricity comments – Shah leaves nothing to the imagination.
There is no development-based excuse for the acronym to be Kasab, no way of explaining why Shah insists that Kasab needs to be “laid to rest”, other than the obvious connection to the terrorist. Plainly enough, Shah wants his voters to think of the Congress, SP and BSP as the parties that support terrorists, that is anti-national and opposed to Indians. Who, indeed, could be for Kasab?
Shah followed the same sort of script in 2015, when the BJP’s opponents had banded together to fight it in the Bihar Assembly elections. Then too after it became clear that the more localised polarisation and communalisation was not working, Shah spoke up at an election rally and said if the BJP loses, crackers will be burst in Pakistan. Again, the aim was to use rhetoric to suggest that anyone opposed to the BJP was opposed to India itself, and would get support from India’s ‘arch-rival’ across the border.
Put together, Modi’s qabristan remarks and Shah’s Kasab gambit also speak to the BJP’s decision not even to attempt any outreach to the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh. The party has not given a single ticket to Muslims across the hundreds of seats it is contesting in the state.
On Wednesday, surprisingly, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke up about this in an interview with Times Now. “Candidates from minority sections have got tickets in other states,” Singh said in the interview. “The party must have discussed about it. I don’t know much about it... But I believe they [Muslims] should be given tickets.”