UP Election 2017: In the war of acronyms, BJP is setting the agenda

With three phases gone, no clear trend visible and all big talking points exhausted, it was expected that the campaign language in Uttar Pradesh would sink lower and lower.

File image of Amit Shah. CNN News 18

File image of Amit Shah. CNN News 18

In the latest in the series of verbal attacks on rivals from politicians, BJP president Amit Shah has found an acronym for the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP: KASAB—Ka for Congress, Sa for Samajwadi Party and Ba for Bahujan Samaj Party, he explained at a rally.

Kasab, of course, was the lone Pakistani terrorist caught alive in the 2008 Mumbai attack and subsequently hanged after conviction.

The war of acronyms is something unique to this election. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got creative with the word SCAM, using it to describe Samajwadi Party, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi rebutted it with his own expansion of the letters: ‘Service, Courage, Ability and Modesty’. Akhilesh Yadav came up with ‘Save Country from Amit Shah and Modi’.

After the prime minister called BSP the Behenji Sampatti Party, Mayawati came up with her own expansion, using the first letters in Narendra Damodardas Modi’s name to come up with Negative Dalit Man.

However, one must read deeper into this apparently juvenile game. Nothing in politics is done without a deeper strategic motive. It’s obvious by now that the BJP has been consciously giving the election a ‘BJP vs all’ spin. All the acronyms are designed to emphasise the point.

In their speeches the party’s leaders are not trying to convey the impression that they are expecting a post-election situation where they have to find an ally to form the government. With an alliance with the Samajwadi Party or the Congress ruled out, BSP is the only option. Both have been in alliance earlier too. But the party has shown no sign of going soft on it.

Going by the way the campaign has shaped up so far, the BJP has succeed in the way it wanted the election to go. If it wanted Modi to be the focal point of the opposition attack, it has succeeded. It is evident in the way all leaders, including Akhilesh, Rahul and Mayawati, have been virulent in their attacks on the prime minister.

Perhaps they have walked into a trap set by the BJP and don’t even realise it. Even in the acronym game, the former is setting the agenda and the latter are following it. One wonders why they even need to respond.

The BJP is adept at the polarisation game and I don't mean just communal polarisation. By making it an ‘us vs all’ battle, the BJP is trying to put itself in the pole position in state politics. The 2014 general election, where it won a whopping 73 out of 80 seats and secured a vote share of around 43 percent, already put it in that position.

Its effort now would be not to slip too far from that position. It helps when it projects itself as the main contender everywhere.

The BJP has been using all the cards it is known to use in this election, from attempts at communalising the polls – remember the prime minister’s samshan-kabristan remarks and Amit Shah’s call for ban on slaughter houses – to harping on the development theme.

The emphasis on the latter is getting thinner through the long election though. The aim is to seduce the same people who voted for it in 2014. It might be difficult this time given that it is an Assembly election, but staying at the pole position vis-a-vis others can only be good for it in the long term.

So expect more acronyms and name-calling in future. It’s no random, spur-of-the-moment remark; it’s part of a strategy.

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 14:45:04 IST

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