The Platform

Bharatiya Janata Party

It’s no secret that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is willing to play dirty to win. It’s a strategy that has been widely successful.

It is a well-acknowledged truism that political leaders often resort to dishonesty and betrayal to project an image of virtue and blamelessness. This observation, penned by Geoffrey Chaucer over six centuries ago, finds a profound echo in today’s socio-political milieu within modern democracies, notably in India. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the deployment of false narratives by political parties aiming to influence public opinion and shape political behaviors through the manipulation of how information is processed. In a democratic system, the media’s role in providing vigilant oversight of governmental conduct becomes doubly crucial in such contexts, as it is upon this media that ordinary citizens depend to ensure their understanding of the government’s performance is rooted in factuality.

In India, many assert that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has harnessed religious sentiments to segment voters and secure electoral victories. Although in 2019, the BJP was the predominant party representing Hindu interests, only 49% of Hindu voters supported it, indicating that it did not achieve a majority in the Lok Sabha. It is widely believed that the BJP’s ascension to power was significantly aided by its initiative to build a Ram Mandir temple on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Observers note that the BJP’s marketing and social media teams actively spread fake news, engage in hate speech, and incite violence. Some commentators argue that such manipulations of political sentiments erode democratic principles and the rule of law by fostering an atmosphere of animosity and divisiveness.

Assigning such a narrative to the collective identity of a nation or a political party within the government provides a potent tool for manipulating public information. This narrative strategy is evident in the BJP’s efforts to establish a credible and venerable nationalistic history for India, positioning itself as a natural leader in governance. The modern BJP has only six years of governance to its credit and traces its ideological roots to the broader right-wing Jana Sangh/Janata Party movement.

There are claims that the Supreme Court in India exhibits bias, particularly favoring Hindu factions. Yasin Malik, who advocates for Kashmiri independence—a position validated by the United Nations Resolutions of 1948—has been imprisoned multiple times for his opposition to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, which were aimed at preserving Kashmir’s special status and local demographic. Malik is currently incarcerated on charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a law criticized for its vagueness and susceptibility to misuse. For political gains, it is alleged that the BJP desires the court to convict Malik to secure more votes in India. Public dissent was notable when the court ruled in 2019 that an Ayodhya temple should be constructed at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood, a mosque razed by Hindu extremists in 1992.

In recent elections, such as the 2019 general election, the BJP leveraged anti-Pakistan sentiments to attract votes. If in power, the BJP would take decisive actions against Pakistan, which it accuses of orchestrating the Pulwama attack. The BJP’s significant electoral win was attributed to this rhetoric, yet it has faced criticism for promoting a nationalist agenda and for biases against religious minorities. To win future elections, India must pivot from employing divisive tactics to focusing on the real issues facing its people.

Before the announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha election schedule, Arun Goel, the Indian Election Commissioner, abruptly resigned, prompting widespread speculation. The Election Commission has been mired in controversies over how to conduct polls fairly and professionally, adhere to directives from Delhi regarding the sequencing of phases, and the use of excessive force. A dispute erupted over the ECI bill in December 2023, which was ultimately passed, despite significant opposition. This legislation controversially bestows the prime minister with the authority to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner. Rajiv Kumar, the then-chief election commissioner, remarked before Goel’s resignation that Goel had been a “valuable team member,” hinting at underlying disagreements among other stakeholders within the election commission. This conflict and the resulting vacancy have raised concerns across the political spectrum.

The BJP employs numerous strategies to sway public opinion in its favor. These tactics include the use of electoral bonds for controversial purposes, freezing the bank accounts of opponents, and arresting figures like Arvind Kejriwal as part of a series of actions designed to intimidate adversaries through the judiciary and bureaucracy. Such maneuvers and precedents endanger the foundational secular principles of Indian democracy and impact the pluralistic essence of society.

Abdul Mussawer Safi is an author at various platforms such as Modern Diplomacy, Kashmir Watch, and Eurasia Review. He is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from National Defense University. He has a profound interest in world politics, especially in the regional dynamics of South Asia. His academic strengths are critical and SWOT analysis.