‘New and unsettling forms of social polarisation’

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express:

“The BJP is seriously flailing. The party’s central command has no willingness or ability to tame and discipline its units in different States. The local BJP [in Orissa] had widely acquired an unsavoury reputation on governance. But contrary to the image L.K. Advani wants to project nationally, the BJP has also brought an extraordinarily polarising politics to the state.

“What sets the BJP apart is this. It not only upsets various political relationships. It is the one party whose presence can produce new and unsettling forms of social polarisation.

“We are seeing instances of that in Karnataka. The Kandhamal riots in Orissa had complicated roots: a deadly mix of Naxalism, the politics of reservation, new forms of evangelism and, in the initial stages, a weak law and order response. But Hindutva groups have in their own way added much fuel to this fire and transformed the character of social relationships in the area. While the Government has done well to restore law and order, communal tension is still very high. What the political consequences of that tension resurfacing will be is an interesting question. It is also not beyond the realm of possibility that the BJP will now feel freer to raise tensions in the state. But the composition of the BJP’s local units should worry its central leadership. It is also a sign of how limited the writ of the central leadership is. A party that is not in control of itself is hardly likely to be able to negotiate from a strong position.”

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