Friday has proven to be the worst day for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since full-scale campaigning for the elections started a few weeks ago.
The BJP suffered three reverses on Black Friday: The Cobrapost expose on Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari announcing support to the Congress, and a damning editorial by The Economist, London, advising voters to bring in a Congress government rather than a BJP government led by Narendra Modi.
Dailies splashed on front pages a sting operation by Cobrapost on 23 key people of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of 1992 culminating in demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on Dec. 6 that year and said top BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani and Uma Bharti, were aware of the planned demolition.
The BJP expectedly trashed the report and lodged a formal complaint with the Election Commission and asked the EC to stop broadcast of the sting, suggestively codenamed Operation Janmabhoomi. While a livid BJP said the sting was a diabolical conspiracy to vitiate the atmosphere ahead of the polls, Congress leader Meem Afzal countered by saying that: “This is an attempt by the BJP to polarize the election atmosphere, to reopen wounds.”
The second development — Bukhari announcing support to the Congress — is even more damaging for the BJP. “We had discussions with Sonia Gandhi. For elections 2014, I announce support for the Congress… We have to stand united against communal forces,” Bukhari said.
The most damning development of the day for the BJP is The Economist’s editorial titled “Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?” with a suggestive sub-title: “He will probably become India’s next prime minister. That does not mean he should be.”
The editorial recommends a Congress-led government as the “less disturbing” alternative, gives details of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and Narendra Modi’s apparent lack of remorse or accountability for the violence, stresses that Modi’s sins of omission and commission cannot be ignored and argues that investigations into the riots were actually inconclusive due to the loss of critical evidence.
The editorial concludes: “If Mr. Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has; it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India. We do not find the prospect of a government led by Congress under Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi an inspiring one. But we have to recommend it to Indians as the less disturbing option.”