India’s ruling BJP party uses divisive religious tactics to win critical by-election
Recent news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a by-election in the troubled Muzaffarnaga region is of concern to religious minorities in India, including Christians. The reason is that BJP deliberately used divisive tactics in a campaign that was designed to appeal to the Hindu majority in what the party’s opponents consider to be a test case for a bigger state election in 2017. Results released by the election commission showed that BJP beat powerful regional parties and reduced its main national rival, the Congress party, to third place.
In the run-up to the election, state BJP leaders sought to rally voters behind their Hindutva campaign which promotes the idea that today’s multi-faith India is fundamentally a Hindu nation. The campaign has been criticised as an attempt to drive a wedge between Hindus, who make up 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people and other faiths particularly Muslims and Christians. BJP’s divisive campaign could only add to the already high tension in northern Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where 65 people were killed three years ago in the most violent clashes for decades clashes between Hindus and Muslims.