Recourse to hate: On the Prime Minister’s speech in Rajasthan

Demonising minorities and the idea of redistribution is core to the BJP’s politics

April 23, 2024 12:30 am | Updated 08:33 am IST

One of the main features of Narendra Modi’s politics is his reliance on an unapologetic brand of right-wing rhetoric that is moored in demagoguery, hate speeches against minorities and the use of dog whistles — political messaging intended to please the bigoted sections of his support base. On Sunday, all these three aspects were on full display when Mr. Modi claimed that the Congress party would distribute the wealth of Indians among Muslims and that they were people with “large number[s] of children” and “infiltrators”. He also said that his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, had stated that “Muslims had first claim on the country’s resources”. None of these statements is close to being accurate. In its manifesto, the Congress has promised a socio-economic caste census to strengthen affirmative action, besides establishing an authority to monitor the distribution of surplus land among the poor and economically weaker sections. There are independent surveys to indicate how wealth inequality has increased dramatically under the 10 years of BJP rule. The government’s policies of tax breaks to corporates by slashing taxes, more dependence on indirect taxes, and individual taxes forming a greater component of the tax bucket (53.3%) versus corporate tax (46.5%), have evidently resulted in a greater skew in wealth ownership.

Dr. Singh, in 2006, had said that his government needed to prioritise plans that would uplift sections from the SCs, STs, OBCs, women and minority sections, especially Muslims. And that in a society such as India’s, the marginalised had the first claim to resources. Since then, this statement has been twisted by the Hindutva right wing and Mr. Modi has, yet again, taken recourse to doing so. There is enough evidence that fertility rates among Muslims are close to that of Hindus and the Census — inexplicably delayed by the Union Home Ministry — could show a drastic reduction in fertility rates across all sections as past Censuses and other credible surveys such as the NFHS have shown. The term, “infiltrator”, is a crass term often used as a dog whistle. The facts are easily available and well-known but that has not deterred the rabble-rousers from whipping up a frenzy. Sadly, India’s public sphere has been contaminated with disinformation for over a decade. The use of social media messaging and television channels to amplify such rhetoric has made rabble-rousing immune to the consequences of being proven false. Besides, parties such as the BJP have been uncomfortable with aspects of social justice and egalitarianism that include redistribution and that explains its use of a demonisation of “others” as a way to distract from questions related to equity and casteism and social churning.

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