New Delhi: If politics is the art of storytelling than silence is the last thing one can expect from a politician. BJP took this less trodden path by staging a silent protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against "attack" during party President Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The uneasiness with this unusual silence was felt among reporters who reached Jantar Mantar to cover the protest. Through hours during the protest they had nothing to scribble about in their notebooks and no piece for the cameras.
The stalwarts of the saffron party like Union ministers Jitender Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman and Harshavardhan sat silently on the dais with ‘Save Bengal Save Democracy’ placards in their hands.
There were chairs for listeners facing the dais with a white background. But the listeners sitting in those chairs too maintained stoic silence with placards in their hands.
Soon after TMC-BJP workers clashed during Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, West Bengal, on Tuesday, a Whats App message was spread among reporters in Delhi that read, “A national protest against the cowardly attack on BJP’s national president’s roadshow in Kolkata today, would be held tomorrow, Wednesday 15th May at 10.30 am at Jantar Mantar. Please join and register your protest against this goondaism."
It was nowhere mentioned that it would be a silent protest.
“Silence means peace. By speaking through silence we want to convey the message to the nation that peace is the need of the hour to save Bengal from the violence perpetuated by Mamata Banerjee and her party. If we cannot save Bengal today we will not be able to save Indian democracy tomorrow,” said SP Bagga, a leader in the Delhi BJP in the sidelines of the protest.
Significantly, the narrative of violence by the Trinamool Congress Party against the BJP workers is quite an old one. Only recently, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who is presently camping in West Bengal was heard saying that in the Panchayat election held last year, a woman candidate of the saffron party was physically assaulted by Trinamool Congress workers to prevent her from filing nomination.
But in the times of dog-whistle politics, it seems that the meaning of the slogan ‘Save Bengal Save Democracy’ has more to it than what meets the eye. At least the different interpretation of the slogan offered by the BJP workers who the reporter met at the protest suggests so.
When asked what the slogan means to him, Ankit Singh a young BJP worker from Karnal said, "West Bengal is a sacred land. It gave birth to icons like Swami Vivekananda and Ram Krishna Paramhamsa. If the land of Bengal is trampled by goons than how can India be safe."
After Sarma entered into the campaign picture in West Bengal, two weeks ago, the BJP has been infusing Hindutva to the sense of Bengali pride, reminding the state's populace of the glory of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the need to protect it.
Only a day clashes took place during Shah's rally in Kolkata, Sarma said in an interview to a local channel, "The sacred land of Bengal gave birth to Swami Vivekananda and our very own Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. We need to ensure that the violence perpetuated by Trinamool Congress does not put out the glow of the light Bengal is showing to the nation.”
The BJP leaders silent protest in Jantar Mantar seemed to extend the same narrative to workers outside West Bengal.
But it had its share of skeptics too who doubted whether such programmes would bring about any change in the violence-ridden politics of West Bengal.
"There is hardly any representative from West Bengal in this protest. How is such a programme going to bring about any change there?" asked Asim Sahni, a BJP supporter from Uttar Pradesh.
In contrary to this skepticism, many in the crowd seem to understand that the protest is more about spreading a message across India before the last phase of Lok Sabha polls due on 19 May.
Jogender Davas, president of the Kanjawala district chapter of the BJP explained the utility of the protest. “Mamata along with the left is trying to make a Kashmir out of West Bengal. Today’s protest sends this message across the nation. It also sends a message to the people of West Bengal that the nation is with them.”
Interestingly, the BJP has been sending out messages to connect to its core voter base, right after the violent clashes broke out in West Bengal on Tuesday.
Soon after the incident, Shah said to the media, "I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekanand’s house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it.”
Amit Shah’s roadshow, which began from Esplande and proceeded towards the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda, could not complete the journey due to clashes between TMC and BJP workers.
Though the leaders maintained silence during the protest, the workers of the party did all the talking and conveyed loaded messages to the media.
But what could be the outcome of this protest when the Lok Sabha polls is on its final phase of campaigning. The last phase of election to be held on 19 May would see polling in the states namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh.
Replying to the query, Poonam Davas, a BJP councilor at Kanjwalla district in Haryana said, "Our blood boils when we remember that our (party) president was prevented from paying tributes to Swami Vivekananda. But in BJP, we believe in peace. So, we will certainly reach out to people and unite them against such violence."
Rajkumar, a BJP leader at Bawana in Delhi who also fought the election earlier, jumped into the conversation and said, "We have nothing against or in favour of any religion. Our protest is only against violence."
Anyways dog whistles are not meant for the media, but only for the intended groups.
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Updated Date: May 16, 2019 20:15:29 IST