For the last couple of decades, we have been coming across pamphlets containing the propaganda that Christian missionaries are carrying out conversions at a rapid pace. Most of the examples given have been from the Northeast states. This propaganda has been extensively used throughout India, particularly in the run-up to elections. It is this propaganda which sowed the seeds of hate against Christians, which led to the gruesome murder of Christian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two young children, the horrific Kandhamal riots, and the sustained anti-Christian violence and attacks on churches in different parts of the country. So how is that the BJP, the party that can’t seem to stop talking about Ram Temple, Mother Cow and Hindu nationalism, could make inroads into the Northeast states, where Christianity has a strong presence, where beef-eating is part of the people’s dietary habits and where different tribes with diverse, often clashing, political interests articulate their aspirations – such as a separate state for them – by forming various groups.
While the situation in each state is different, BJP strategy does have a blueprint, which is tweaked to suit the situation, supplemented by massive resources, a near-perfect electoral machinery and volunteers of its parent organization, the RSS. The party has been winning state after state in this manner. In Assam, it focused mainly on planting the fear among the Hindus about the Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants swamping the state and them being reduced to a minority. It was clever enough to strike alliances even with separatist organizations. Most of the regional parties saw the Congress as the party for which development was not a priority. On the other hand, the BJP, the party that is usually quick to brand as anti-nationals everyone who doesn’t agree with its own ideology, had no compunctions at all allying with those who have been talking of a separate state or even secession.
Specifically in Tripura, the Left government, despite its clean record over its 29 years in power, failed to fulfil the aspirations of the Dalits, Tribals and OBCs in matters of reservation. While canvassing, the BJP had raised this issue, especially how the OBCs were ignored.
It is noteworthy that there is a provision in the states for providing Dalits and Adivasis with reservation quotas proportionate to their populations. In Tripura, that would mean 17 per cent and 31 per cent. However, last year, the Tripura government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that said that only 36 per cent of its employees belonged to the reserved categories.
Manik Sarkar’s failure to implement the latest pay commissions’ recommendations must have hurt his chances. The state government employees are still stuck at fourth pay commission salaries while the talk of seventh pay commission is in the air in the rest of the country. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth. This opened up a window of opportunity to the BJP to make tall promises of development.
Along with the promises of development, which has rung hollow in the rest of the country, the BJP also harped on the “Hindus are Refugees, Muslims are infiltrators” line to sway the Bengali Hindu votes its way. In the tribal areas, the RSS swayamsevaks have been organizing religious functions and opening schools for a long time, thus turning the tables on a left government under which the Tribals were feeling the dearth of opportunities. The BJP’s policy on beef-eating clearly exposed its double standards. It said the ban on beef would not be enforced in the Northeast. But everyone knows that when the time is ripe, the RSS and the BJP will return to the issue of cow slaughter to divide society, just as it has done in the rest of the country, including Kerala and Goa.
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