23/02/2017 3:50 PM IST | Updated 23/02/2017 4:32 PM IST

Amit Shah's Kasab Remark In UP Belongs To A Master Class Of Offensive Political Rhetoric

The man who never minces words.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President, Amit Shah, is not known for mincing words. During election season, as political rhetoric flies thick and fast, one expects him to not disappoint — and so far he hasn't, delivering his part without missing a beat.

On Wednesday, however, he surpassed his usual panache as he came up with a unique acronym to describe the plight of Uttar Pradesh (UP) at a BJP rally in Chauri Chaura. Development will never come to the state, he informed the electorate, until "KASAB is laid to rest". Before his mystified audience could make sense of the word, he elaborated what it meant: "KA for Congress, SA for Samajwadi Party and B for BSP."

While it's impossible to deny the logic behind Shah's acronym, it's equally difficult to take it at face value, without relating it to Ajmal Kasab, the only militant in the 26/11 Mumbai attack to be seized alive by the police. In any case, in the same speech he cracked this punchline, he reminded the people that Samajwadi Party is notorious for its religious prejudice. "Woh aap ka dharm poochhenge, aap ka dharm unko pasand nahi aayega toh laptop nahi denge ("They will ask you your religion and if they don't like it, they won't give you a laptop")," he warned his audience.

True, literalism has reached levels of absurdity seldom encountered even on the usually absurdist stage of Indian politics, with the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in UP filing an affidavit against PM Modi for calling himself an "adopted son" of the state. But unlike the black humour in the report of the PM being offered adoption by a septuagenarian couple in Ghaziabad (to help him legitimise his claim), the only sentiment that is striking about Shah's comment is its brazen communalism.

For a party that hasn't offered a single ticket to a Muslim politician to fight in the ongoing assembly polls, that too in a state where 20% of the population belongs to the minority community, the BJP's views on its decision has so far been safe. The reason behind the omission, the party sought to explain, has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with the scarcity suitable candidates from the community.

If you're unconvinced by this argument, you're not alone. In an interview with Times Now, senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh betrayed a certain discomfort when asked about the lack of Muslim candidates in UP. While toeing the party line, he did admit Muslims should have got tickets — a view which won't sit well with the party president's fire-and-brimstone speech. When Shah demands the elimination of 'Kasab' from UP, he makes his displeasure towards one community more than apparent. Even the politically naive will find it impossible to not read more into his freshly-minted acronym.

Is Singh's carefully-worded (rather, carefully-muddled) response to the Muslim question an instance of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing? That's unlikely, especially since the PM himself, no less, has been equally enthusiastic about acronyms and name-calling.

Modi's addition to the ever-growing list of acronyms have been SCAM (standing for SP, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati) and 'Behenji Sampatti Party' (to signify BSP). Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati didn't waste a moment before retorting with 'Bhartiya Jumla Party' for BJP.

Shah's flair for rhetoric, however, is worthy of a master class. Last month he had thundered the promise of setting up anti-Romeo squads in colleges across UP to ensure better safety of female candidates. The move was supposed to be an antidote to hooliganism on campuses.

"The BJP will hang them upside down and set them right," Shah had said, referring to the culprits who will be meted out with the severest of punishments by the members of this squad. While his concern for women isn't misplaced, the idea of having vigilantes execute a wild justice, instead of letting the custodians of law and order take over, is worrying, to put it mildly.

If Shah is sincere about eradicating goons from college campuses, he needn't look far beyond the national capital, where members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) are wreaking havoc on students and faculty of Ramjas College for organising a seminar that violated their imagined standards of patriotism and nationalism.

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