The Hindustan Times – What you need to know about the BJP

Prashant Jha’s new book closely examines how the BJP has maintained its winning streak. Here, he writes about the four big lessons he learnt while covering elections

Prashant Jha

Op/Ed, 16 September 2016, Five years ago, few could have imagined India’s President, Vice President, Speaker, Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of over a dozen states would be from the BJP.

Fascinated by how the BJP not only won 2014, but has succeeded in relentlessly acquiring power, state after state, I kept a close watch on the party while covering elections for Hindustan Times.

Here are four big lessons I learnt which feature in my book:

1. When Modi listened to Rahul Gandhi

If 2014 was Narendra Modi’s golden year, 2015 was his worst year in Delhi so far. The famous suit, plastered with his name, made it appear like power had got to him. The government had to backtrack from amending the Land Acquisition Act, which made it look ‘anti farmer’. The foreign trips made him look disconnected. Delhi was a debacle and Bihar a humiliation.

And the sharpest sting came from Rahul Gandhi, when he called the Modi government ‘suit boot ki sarkar’. It struck a chord.

And so Modi listened to what Rahul had said in the same speech. The Congress leader had advised the PM to shift to the side of labourers and farmers and the poor, they were more in number after all. And Modi, who had moved from being a Hindu samrat between 2002 and 2007 to a vikas purush from 2007 to 2015, became a gareebon ka neta.

The narrative around demonetisation, as a battle of the honest poor versus the corrupt rich, was a step. The sharper focus on welfare, particularly Ujjwala scheme of distributing free LPG cylinders, worked.

The government used the infrastructure laid out by UPA, Aadhar, the Socio Economic Caste Census, DBT, and ran with it to improve delivery partially. Modi waived off farmer loans in UP. He became a messiah of the poor.

2. The BJP is neither an upper caste, nor a solely north Indian, party anymore

BJP has moved from being an exclusivist Hindu party of upper castes to an inclusive Hindu party of all castes.

Amit Shah has done this through two key tools. The first is the organisation. In UP, he and his key aide Sunil Bansal, found, to their shock, that only 7 percent of the office bearers were OBCs and 3 percent were SCs in 2014.

In 3 years, this increased to 30 percent. This is a part of the larger organisational strengthening, from the booth level to the top.

Second, he constructed an alliance of the socially dominant but politically marginalised (upper castes) with the socially and politically marginalised (specific OBC and Dalit sub castes) against the dominant political castes.

The Yadavs in UP, Marathas in Maharashtra, or Jats in Haryana now confronted a challenge, and lost. BJP embraced the most visible and most invisible castes.

If Shah changed the caste character of the party in the heartland, general secretary Ram Madhav made it national by expanding in the Northeast.

BJP wooed local leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma or N Biren Singh; it diluted its ideological core and respected the cultural diversity of the region; it adapted itself to specific realities, be it raising extra judicial executions or becoming the Bharatiya ‘Jesus’ Party for Christian tribals.

3. The Sangh cannot enable a win alone, but can ensure defeat

In an interview a month before the Bihar election, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, supported reservation in principle, critiqued its politicisation and asked for its review.

Lalu Prasad ran with it to suggest the BJP would scrap reservations if elected. This shattered BJP’s chances.

The Sangh, either by such statements or sitting quiet, can make the party lose election. But on its own, it cannot make BJP win an election.

At the same time, it is the source, most BJP leaders owe their worldview and networks to the Sangh, and the supplement. It deploys pracharaks to quietly mobilise voters, and get them out on polling day; its vast network of swayamsevaks and sympathisers, professors, businessmen, shopkeepers, traders, journalists, labour leaders, students, also build a climate for the party.

Under the previous NDA government, this network of Sangh often did not own the government entirely. Under Modi, it does. The personal equation between Modi and Bhagwat; ideological convergence on issues ranging from gau raksha to Ganga and quest for Hindu unity; and close coordination on policy and personnel has meant Sangh deploys its resources.

This is invaluable, especially in areas where the BJP organisation is weak. Where its own organisational strength has grown, it needs the mother-ship less.

4. ‘Secularism’ is dead

The BJP creates, sustains, and sharpens Hindu-Muslim tension. Take UP. Its project was based on deception, from the theory of ‘love jihad’ to the stories of Hindu migration from Kairana; from alleging the state government favoured Eid over Diwali to portraying Hindus as the major victims of Muzaffarnagar when it was mostly Muslims who suffered.

This is politics at its most cynical and dangerous.

But I did not hear a single Hindu voter, even when he was a Congress, SP or BSP voter in UP or a JD(U) or RJD voter in Bihar, use the word ‘secular’ or ‘communal’. This was not a determinant of his voting decision. Indeed, secularism was merely seen as the quest for Muslim votes.

And the more parties spoke of the minority vote, Mayawati giving 100 seats to Muslims or Congress-SP allying to consolidate Muslims were seen as examples of this, the more it helped BJP consolidate the majority.

But what about Bihar, one may well ask?

Even in Bihar, the now broken Mahagatbandhan won not by highlighting secularism but by downplaying it. Lalu Prasad told Muslim leaders to go back home and appear only on polling day; Muslim leaders told Nitish Kumar not to even mention them and focus on the Hindu vote, all of it was aimed to prevent ‘polarisation’.

Old ‘secular’ politics won by hiding away the ‘secular’ rhetoric.

Future of the hegemon

This does not mean BJP is invincible. Delivering to both the middle class and poor will be a challenge for Modi. Managing caste contradictions will be a herculean task for Shah.

There is likely to be a trade off between the Hindutva agenda and inclusive governance. And as soon as a bigger section of the Hindu vote allies with a block of Muslim vote, the game turns. The state of the opposition will also determine the BJP’s fortunes.

But for now, to understand India, understand how the BJP wins.

Advertisements – Delhi Sikh leaders say use Panjabi not Hindi

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi-India, 12 September 2017. Accusing the AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, of oppressing Panjabi language in Delhi, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has announced to initiate a campaign named ‘Maa Boli Satkar Lehar’ in Delhi.

Addressing a press conference on September 11, the DSGMC President Manjit Singh GK said that the AAP led Delhi state government was conspiring to suppress Panjabi in the national capital.

Accusing the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of knowingly delaying the recruitment of Panjabi language teachers, S Manjit Singh GK said that the Delhi state government was violating the language act passed in favor of his mother tongue.

Manjit Singh GK has appealed to the entire Delhi resident Panjabi community to use Panjabi while communicating in their homes and offices and advertising their products.

He further said that the Panjabi language is often seen as a language of Sikhs by common masses but that this was totally wrong. He added that in fact the Panjab language is spoken by a wide section of other communities including Hindus and Muslims.

DSGMC General Secretary S Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that the DSGMC was ready to build up pressure on the Delhi state government to reinstate the status of Punjabi in the national capital.

Hoepertingen Nagar Kirtan

Hoepertingen Nagar Kirtan
27 August 2017

This tractor sprays water on the streets ahead of the Nagar Kirtan

It is followed by these broom walas

Turning into Kasteelstraat

Members of the Italian Gatka Akhara

 Members of the Italian Gatka Akhara

Their Italian registration vehicle

Guru Ram Dass Sikh Study & Cultural Centre
Smisstraat 8
B-3840 Borgloon

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – Facebook can block SFJ’s referendum page in India: US appeals court

IP Singh

Jalandhar, 16 September 2017. A three-judge appellate panel of the US court of appeals, on September 13, dismissed the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) claim against Facebook for blocking in India, its page advocating Punjab Independence Referendum.

The judges of appellate court in San Francisco ruled that the social networking company won’t have to face a lawsuit for allegedly blocking access to the SFJ’s page in India because it was immune from liability under Communications Decency Act (CDA).

“SFJ seeks to hold Facebook liable as a publisher for hosting, and later blocking its online content,” the judges of the appellate court wrote in their order of September 13, copy of which is available with TOI.

“Facebook is entitled to immunity for hosting the content as well as for blocking it, because SFJ is solely responsible for creating the material,” the court ruled.

Meanwhile, SFJ legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Panun said they were seeking advice from expert lawyers in order to take the case against the social media giant to the US Supreme Court.

In the lawsuit filed in 2015, the SFJ had alleged that Facebook had blocked its page in India “for running a campaign against forced conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism through the homecoming; for exposing PM Narendra Modi’s involvement in 2002 massacre of Muslims; for advocating Sikhs’ right to self-determination and demanding independence referendum in the state of Punjab.”

Pannu and other SFJ members were booked for sedition after hoardings of Referendum 2020 were put up at a few places in Punjab. Those were removed later.

Dawn – Twenty-two injured in London Underground terror attack

London-UK, 15 September 2017. At least 22 people were injured in a bomb blast on a packed London Underground train on Friday.

Passengers were seen badly burnt and covered in blood after the “terrorist incident” which police said was caused by an “improvised explosive device”.

“At 8:20 this morning at Parsons Green station there was an explosion on a Tube train. We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device,” police counter-terror chief Mark Rowley told reporters.

Witnesses reported seeing passengers with facial burns and hair coming off at Parsons Green station and seeing a fire or hearing an explosion on the train.

Eighteen were taken by ambulance and the other four made their own way to hospital, the NHS said, adding that the injured have been taken to four London clinics, the National Health Service said in a statement.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said she would be chairing an emergency cabinet meeting later on Friday.

Armed police and sniffer dogs were seen on the train and around the station, which is set in a leafy suburb of southwest London popular with well-off commuters and filled with chic cafes.

“Terrorist incident declared at Parsons Green Underground Station,” police said in a statement.

“It is too early to confirm the cause of the fire, which will be subject to the investigation that is now underway by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command,” it said.

“Explosion on Parsons Green District Line train. Fireball flew down the carriage and we just jumped out open door,” a Twitter user said.

The station was closed, as well as an entire section of the District Line where it is located and police urged people to stay away from the area.

A reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that some passengers were “really badly burned” and their “hair was coming off”.

The incident would be the fifth terror attack in six months in Britain since March, when a lone attacker mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside the British parliament.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a former London mayor, appealed for calm.

“Obviously, everybody should keep calm and go about their lives in a normal way, as normal as they possibly can,” he told Sky News.

‘Covered in blood’

Passengers described chaotic scenes at the station in a leafy and normally quiet part of west London.

“There was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming,” Richard Aylmer-Hall, 52, a media technology consultant, told the Press Association.

“There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off,” he said, adding that “some people got pushed over and trampled on.

“I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews,” he said.

BBC correspondent Riz Lateef, who was on her way to work, said: “People were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene. There was lots of panic.”

One passenger, named only as Lucas, told BBC 5 Live radio: “I heard a really loud explosion”.

“I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs, multiple casualties,” he said.

Another witness, Sham, told the radio station he had seen a man with blood all over his face.

“There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood,” he said.

Nicole Linnell, 29, who works for a fashion label, said: “We saw people running down the tracks. About 30 or 40 people.

“They were running down the tracks outside our train,” she told the Press Association. “It was absolutely terrifying”.

Natasha Wills, assistant director of operations at London Ambulance Service said: “Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries”.

She said the ambulance service had sent “multiple resources” to the station, including a hazardous area response team.