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9 June, 2019 10:50:10 AM


Modi adopting a more exclusive approach

With Modi making a specific reference and underlining the need to take Muslims along, the voices of the hawks seem out of sync
Modi adopting a more exclusive approach

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the peace bugle in less than 48 hours of his momentous victory, it was seen as a move to build bridges. More importantly it was a signal to the minorities that under Modi’s second term as Prime Minister the effort will be to have  inclusive government rather than alienate sections that  lived in fear during the first tenure.
“We are” Modi told his MPs “for the 130-crore people of this country, we cannot differentiate between anyone” adding that the message for the coming five years was not just development for all, but also to win the trust of everyone.
“We have shown how to achieve Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (development for all) and now we have to win Sabka Vishwas (trust of everyone).

We are for the people who trusted us and those whose trust we need to win. Nobody should be 'other' for us. It takes a lot of strength to try and win the hearts of people," Narendra Modi saidduring the parliamentary party meeting of the NDA.
Specifically referring to minorities, Modi said that in the second term representatives should work towards winning their minorities. Hitting out at political parties said  "False promises have been made to minorities and an environment of fear has been created in the minds of minorities. Minorities have been used as vote banks, we have to end this falsehood. The environment of fear and false promises have been made to minorities because we have been silent. We have to fight against poverty and the false sense of fear created amongst minorities," Modi said.

It took two sides to bust the myth: his party MPs and his arch rival West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. And the timing: Eid festivities.

Two BJP MPs punctured the BJP’s bonhomie and olive branch extended by Modi to the Muslims. Bhola Singh elected from   Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh told a  news agency, that while celebrating the festival it should be seen that it does not have any discomfort to others. Hindus celebrate Holi, Diwali, Raksha Bandhan and celebrate the whole country but due to our festivals, have never experienced any discomfort he said adding that if this happens then action should be taken.  

Encore BJP loyalists in the past who have objected to loudspeakers being used to give the prayer call and Muslims offering namaz blocking traffic.

However, till Modi’s recent statements BJP’s anti-Muslim mindset was well known. But with Modi making a specific reference and underlining the need to take Muslims along, the voices of people like Bhola Singh seem out of sync. Also, his saying that festivals like Holi and Diwali do not cause inconvenience to others is nothing short of absurdity. Holi is a riot of colours and it is impossible for anyone to step out: the non-players dread the festival and hooliganism is its hallmark. As for Diwali the pollution caused by bursting crackers forces many people to leave homes and go to quieter, forlorn places. As against this Eid is a far more civilized festival which entails people meeting each other and sharing good food and offering prayers. As for causing inconvenience Bhola Singh has chosen to forget that during Navratri, nine days festival which happens twice a year,  the blaring music from temples and chants to pay obeisance to the goddess throw everything out of gear. During Durga puja when the Goddess idols are transported to the pandals  and later to be submerged in water, all major roads are blocked and traffic comes to a rude halt. Therefore, it would do Bhola Singh some good to eat his words.

Then there is Union Minister Giriraj Singh who took a swipe at  ally Nitish Kumar with a  provocative Tweet wondering why they don't celebrate Navratri with the same verve  as they do Iftar.

In the tweet posted, Giriraj Singh targeted  Sushil Modi as well as BJP's allies Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan, who are seen smiling in group photos at an Iftar party. "How beautiful would this picture have been if a Navratri meal would have been organised with the same eagerness. Why do we hold back on our own faith and get into pretence," Mr Singh wrote in Hindi.

Giriraj Singh, is known for his controversial comments, and in the past has  order critics of the BJP to "go to Pakistan". Currently he is  the Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries, in Modi’s cabinet.

His comments are politically significant because of the strained relationship between Nitish Kumar and the BJP. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, is already upset with the BJP after being denied more than one cabinet spot in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. Nitish Kumar went public with his resentment, saying he did not agree with BJP president Amit Shah about "symbolic representation" for allies after the party's rich haul of 303 in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Therefore Giriraj’s comments is certainly not music to his ears. Politics apart, to use Eid to settle political scores is certainly not keeping  with the sabka vishwas spirit that Modi was trying to inculcate when he spoke to his party MPs.

Eid festivities were also  used by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to spew venom. During an Eid celebration her comments  carried a sharp political message . Coming days  after the national election in which the Bengal Chief Minister's Trinamool Congress suffered a huge drop in its tally against a rising BJP in the state these assume political significance.

"Hindus stand for renunciation (tyaag), Muslims for integrity (imaan), Christians for love (pyaar) and Sikhs for sacrifice (balidan). This is our beloved Hindustan and we will protect it," Mamata Banerjee told a gathering in Kolkata after celebrating Eid.

"Jo humse takraega wo choor choor ho jaega. (Whoever messes with us will be destroyed). That is our slogan," she added, speaking in Hindi.

Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress accuse the BJP of unleashing terror and violence while the BJP has made it clear that its campaign in Bengal will not stop until it has won 2021, when the state votes for a new assembly.

However BJP MPs have stated publicly that Mamata Banerjee headed government in West Bengal will not last its full term.

It is against this backdrop that Modi’s taking everyone along spirit dampens. The dangers are more within than they are outside. So it is not about Mamata Banerjee or Nitish Kumar as much as it is about Bhola and Giriraj Singh; it is not about Modi adversaries as it is about his own men whom he needs to reign in if he wants his plank of sabka vishwasto take shape.  Worse still to use the occasion of Eid and malign its pious spirit is the first nail in the coffin.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist,

political commentator and columnist of The Independent.

She can be reached at: (


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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