The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has established itself as the dominant player in Indian politics over the last eight years. The unprecedented electoral victory of Narendra Modi’s BJP has given the impression that Hindutva is unstoppable. Since 2014, there have been numerous reports of intolerance and hate speech directed at minorities, particularly Muslims. The BJP’s association with ‘Hindutva’ has instilled fear in many people of ‘Christian’ faith, including in Nagaland. In fact, statements like “RSS is penetrating all the hill states in North East India” and “RSS is attempting to convert Christians to Hinduism” have alarmed many people. Last week, preachers in Nagaland were seen preaching and urging people not to vote for the BJP.
Despite the looming threats, aspiring candidates fought for BJP tickets and the party’s popularity apparently kept growing. Of course, it is fair to say that support for the BJP in Nagaland stems from the fact that it is in power. However, it is important to recognize that the BJP is a staggeringly effective political machine that grinds down and feasts on decaying political spaces. Congress was swept out of many states, including Nagaland, in the aftermath of a series of corruption scandals, economic missteps, large-scale protests, intra-party battles, and policy paralysis. This was followed by the division of Nagaland’s oldest regional party, the NPF, split into two, which ultimately allowed the BJP to rise alongside a new regional party NDPP.
The BJP then mastered the use of media and technology to mobilize supporters and shape the narrative that it can give a capable government. The most important thing the BJP did to gain a foothold in Nagaland was to project and promote various welfare schemes such as free rations, cooking gas for the poor, and direct cash transfer programs – the freebies politics. Furthermore, programs like the Jal Jeevan Mission, PMAY-Housing for All, Swachh Bharat Mission, PM Kisan Scheme, and Atal Pension Yojana helped PM Modi and his party gain popularity among rural and elderly people. As a result, the notion that the government was attempting to persecute Christians faded in comparison as people focused on freebies and fell for the BJP’s “development politics.” Thereby, the ‘BJP is anti-Christian’ argument began losing its sheen.
It is critical to understand that the only way the BJP will lose is if their claims and report card are fact-checked. For instance, one BJP advertisement in May 2022 claimed that the country’s airport count increased from 74 to 140 between 2014-2018. Fact Checker discovered that India had 20 more operational airports in 2014 than what the Modi government claimed. It was claimed that 415 new air routes were operationalized under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik or UDAN scheme under the Modi government. In fact, when the number of operational airports was 403 in December 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation told a Standing Committee that “the total UDAN routes in actual operation has reached up to 294 as on December 14, 2021”. This means that there existed a gap of 27% or 109 routes between operationalized and actual operational routes in December 2021. Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari claimed that the pace of building national highways has increased by 200%, but FactCheckers discovered that the rate of expansion has only increased by 141%. These are only a few among many. The BJP’s strength and weakness lies in its deceptive claims, advertisements and campaigns, and not necessarily in its communalism politics.