Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been frantically travelling across Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is seeking a fourth term for Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The saffron party has deployed almost its entire cabinet from the central government to campaign for the party. With the stakes so high, Adityanath has now explicitly invoked religion to seek votes when he announced on Saturday that this year’s contest was about ‘Ali’ Vs ‘Bajrang Bali.’
This was the most explicit attempt yet by any BJP leader to seek votes in the name of religion, which is illegal under current laws. Adityanath, who addressed as many as seven rallies in Bhopal and Indore area on Saturday, said, “I was reading the comments of Kamal Nath, who was saying we don’t need votes of OBCs, SC, ST communities, we want the votes of ‘Ali’, I want to tell him you keep your ‘Ali’, for us (BJP) ‘Bajrangbali’ is enough.”
सपना देखने के लिए पुरुषार्थ के साथ कर्म भी होना चाहिए। कांग्रेस के नेता श्री कमलनाथ जी ने कहा कि, अनुसूचित जाति एवं अनुसूचित जनजाति का वोट उन्हें नही चाहिए, उन्हें तो अली का वोट चाहिए । हमने कहा अली तुम्हें मुबारक हों…#BJPWinningMP pic.twitter.com/rJARJCvdzY
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) November 24, 2018
Adityanath’s ‘Ali’ jibe was in reference to Muslims, while ‘Bajrangbali’ is used to refer to Hindu god Hanuman. He was referring to a viral video of Congress leader Kamal Nath allegedly telling a group of people that the Congress stood no chance of winning elections if 90% of Muslim voters did not vote for the party.
In the said video, Nath, who’s being seen as a contender for the chief minister’s post in the event of the Congress victory, was heard saying, “We can’t win if 90 percent Muslims don’t vote for us. If at some booths the polling percentage is 60%, we need to find out why was there a dip in the voting.”
Adityanath is expected to address many more rallies till 26 November, when the campaigning will end for the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh. The state goes to polls on 28 November, while the counting is scheduled to take place on 11 December.
Not too long ago, the Kerala High Court had disqualified an MLA from the Indian Union Muslim League for seeking votes in the name of religion. KM Shaji of the IUML was found to have violated norms prescribed under various sections of the Representation of the People Act to win the elections. Among other allegations, he was also accused to have wooed Mulim voters to vote for him because of his Muslim background.
What Adityanath said on Saturday was more brazen in comparison to Shaji’s attempts to seek votes in Kerala. Questions may be asked if the Indian law is consistent in punishing the law-breakers in equal measure. Its impartiality is once again on test. Adityanath as the chief minister India’s biggest state is expected to function more responsibly than an MLA of a nondescript political outfit.