In his speech in Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh on February 24, BJP president Amit Shah used JNU to recast the battle-lines between his party and all other political outfits after the current fashion. As he attacked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for supporting students in JNU, Shah’s pitch was clear: ‘national’ versus ‘anti-national’. The drama over the campus protest to mark Afzal Guru’s hanging has become a handy tool for this ‘with-me-or-against-the-nation’ line, which accentuates the existing typology in even starker terms. BJP leaders, of course, call it an “India-versus-all” debate.
Shah, on a visit to UP to unveil the statue of Raja Suheldeo, a 11th century king of Shravasti, practically accused Gandhi of supporting forces that divide India. “If he does not support such slogans, he should dare to condemn them. The BJP condemns such slogans, our party will never support such acts.” The logic may be simplistic, even reductive—a party like the Congress can conceivably stand in solidarity with students against saffron bullying, and in favour of free speech and dissent generally, while not taking on board more ‘risky’ themes like Kashmir or Afzal Guru (who was after all hanged during the UPA years). But the BJP is taking it on with relish--if the JNU sloganeering was “anti-national”, it follows logically that all those who stood in solidarity with it are guilty by association.