Why PM Modi took communal route and how will Congress respond?

Why PM Modi took communal route and how will Congress respond?

Welcome to Powertrip, a newsletter exclusively curated for TNM subscribers by Dhanya Rajendran, Shabbir Ahmed, and Pooja Prasanna. In this week’s newsletter, we look at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s communal statements, why the Congress believes the first phase of voting was responsible for this and how it plans to respond.

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Why did Modi go ‘Hindu vs Muslim’?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements in Rajasthan’s Banswara and Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh were clearly communal in nature, aggressively pitting Hindus against Muslims. The statements have created a lot of flutter, with thousands of citizens shooting off emails to the ECI calling for action. 

The question on everyone’s mind is why Modi chose to take the communal route, especially since the first phase of polling is over. Many speculate that the reason is simple — because the NDA didn’t perform as well as expected in the first phase. 

We asked the Congress what they thought and they too believe that the first phase made Modi take a dire turn.

According to Congress insiders, the party had zero hopes for Rajasthan in the first phase until a couple of weeks ago. However, when the first phase of polling concluded on April 19, the Congress looks strong in four constituencies.

The Congress believes Modi doesn’t want the Congress to have any edge against him whatsoever and so chose to go into overdrive. “It helped that Rajasthan is an easily polarisable state,” the Congress source said.

The second state that is giving Modi a headache is Bihar, where the INDIA alliance may do well. The credit for this, however, goes to anti-incumbency against the JD(U).

The Congress insists that Modi also has good reason to be concerned over Maharashtra — the mood there could easily shift against the NDA. So he quickly drops the communal bomb and gives people something to think about besides the shortcomings of the NDA.

But this isn’t Modi’s first try

The speeches in Banswara and Aligarh weren’t his only attempts at giving the election a communal spin. In early April, speaking at a rally in Rajasthan’s Pushkar, Modi said the Congress’ manifesto aims to “dismember” the country as it “bears the imprint of the Muslim League” and reflects the ideas propagated by the League at the time of independence.

A Congress strategist explained the BJP’s poll strategy: “They will make Modi throw some muck and see if it sticks. If it does, the whole party machinery will take it forward.”

Modi’s “Muslim League” allegation didn’t stick, so he upped the ante, delivering the communal speeches of this week. But the problem now is that Modi has gone overboard — but the BJP couldn’t care less, not even about the international flak that the party is receiving. It would rather win the election and then win over foreign allies again.

How will the Congress respond?

With this week’s polarising speeches, Modi has played two cards — he said the Congress will redistribute wealth and that the redistributed wealth will go to Muslims.

In an earlier speech, Rahul Gandhi had said that Modi brought in demonetisation to benefit 22 individuals who have the same money as 70 crore Indians.

The Congress wanted to respond to Modi’s charges on Monday itself, but Rahul fell sick in between, even having to cancel his Wayanad trip. Congress leaders tell us that as soon as he is better, he will put out a video explaining his statement. He is also expected to take on the BJP and ask why Narendra Modi, who has been Prime Minister for 10 years, has to resort to Hindu-Muslim rhetoric to win an election instead of highlighting his government’s achievements.

Unhappiness in the Congress

There are murmurs within the Congress that the party didn’t respond adequately to Modi’s taunts on the first day, that is Monday, itself. When Congress spokespersons should have been on news channels countering Modi’s communal speech, none of them made a media appearance. Instead, they boycotted the channels, saying they can’t be spreading communalism. Sections of Congress leaders believe that the party squandered the perfect opportunity to tell the people how communal the Prime Minister is.

Zero Hour

A political story of public importance

A full reading of Manmohan Singh's speech and the draft paper makes it clear he was not referring to the Muslim community alone but also to the SC/STs, OBCs, women and children.

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