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Progressive Revival

Terrorist attacks on Mumbai have provoked Meenakshi Ravi to write this on Huffingtonpost:

Four years ago, the Hindu-dominated, right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was dismissed from government by an Indian electorate that saw through its glossy ‘India Shining’ campaign propaganda. The BJP’s loss was the compound effect of many of its failings, but the most glaring offense was its alleged involvement in the violent Hindu-Muslim clashes that erupted in the western state of Gujarat. For over four months, the state burned and people were killed on the grounds of their religious faith. In official records you would find that 1,044 people died as a result of the communal violence. Read the reports compiled by NGOs and human rights groups and you’d find that the figure was closer to 2,000.

The Mumbai attacks heighten the threat to the Indian secular state which is already battling internal threats to minority groups. It is easy to sell situations like this to the man on the street as an attack that threatens his community. The terror in Mumbai has struck during a year in which six Indian states are going to the polls. These are crucial elections for both main parties in India since the one that makes a stronger showing is likely to be on firm footing to make gains in the General Elections scheduled for May 2009. The BJP will probably leverage this climate of fear and uncertainty to make electoral gains. For the ruling Indian National Congress, the communal card will come in handy as a tool to paper over serious lapses in intelligence and national security during its watch.

The BJP has managed to maintain a strong anti-terror image with its constituency by riding on religious rhetoric and convincing its supporters that the party will protect their interests and ensure their safety. This, despite its lamentable record of not just the horrors of Gujarat in 2002, but other incidents that go further back, such as the mishandling of the 1999 Kandahar hijacking incident, and most infamously, the BJP-led demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992.

The Congress never had a hope of making light work of these state elections. A nervous economy and terror-struck populace was going to need serious convincing if some states were to be retained/won. The Mumbai terror attacks have made the Congress’ work many times more difficult as it has struck fear in the hearts of the people and has reminded them of the indefensible performance by the party and the government it leads in the task of protecting Indians from terrorism.

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