Divisive Delhi poll campaign: Amit Shah’s show of regret doesn’t sail

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Published: February 15, 2020 7:45:12 AM

here can be no doubt that the BJP banked on a polarising campaign.

BJP leader Amit Shah, amit shahBJP leader Amit Shah

BJP leader Amit Shah’s show of regret over patently divisive statements by party leaders in the campaign for the Delhi Assembly polls may not appear enough contrition to many, but it is nevertheless a beginning. There can be no doubt that the BJP banked on a polarising campaign. It brazened out calls to bench the offending leaders—the Election Commission of India, on its part, handed out mere slaps on wrists—and instead, some were on stage with PM Modi at his election rally in the national capital. Union minister Prakash Javadekar even called AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal a terrorist while UP CM Yogi Adityanath insinuated that Kejriwal was “feeding biriyani” to Shaheen Bagh protestors and there was a quid pro quo from Pakistani leaders. But, with Shah’s admission that statements like “goli maaro” were “unfortunate”, perhaps the party may yet turn a new chapter. But, that can only happen if the party’s leaders own up to past mistakes—a Shah saying that no statement raking up fears of rape was made by the party’s leaders belies hopes of change, given star campaigner Parvesh Singh Verma is on camera doing exactly that.

Shah’s plea that BJP had immediately distanced itself from the divisive statements also doesn’t sail—apart from the leaders being allowed to continue on the campaign trail, the party didn’t publicise any condemnation of the statements. This is not the first time that BJP leaders have made condemnable statements in the political ring—divisive phrases like Ramzaade-haraamzaade, Ali-Bajrangbali, alia-malia-jamalia have been tossed around before. Also, this is not a BJP-only problem—recall Rahul Gandhi’s Rafale lies and chowkidaar chor hai. India’s political parties need to take a hard look at the tears they have made in the country’s social fabric. If the BJP leadership truly means for the party to turn over a new leaf, it will have to ensure no such statements are made in future polls. If it can’t do that, no amount of post-election regret will seem credible.

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