BJP President Amit Shah has said Bangladeshi migrants are 'termites' who would soon be struck off the electoral rolls.
Speaking at an election rally in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur, Shah credited the BJP government with publishing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and identifying nearly 40 lakh illegal immigrants.
That these people have a recourse to appeal, and get their named added to the NRC, did not find mention in the speech.
Shah gladly painted everyone in the list as 'illegal'.
Shah's statements about carrying out a national exercise to identify illegal immigrants has already been echoed by several BJP leaders in the past. Photo: PTI
On Sunday, speaking at the Purvanchal Mahakumbh organised by the Delhi unit of the party at the Ramlila Ground, Shah said the BJP will ensure all the illegal immigrants living in the country are identified if it comes to power in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Shah also asked that Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal come clean on the issue and alleged that they care for the illegal migrants for vote bank politics.
Firstly, Assam's NRC was a Supreme Court mandated exercise - when the BJP chief tries taking credit for it at an election rally, he is himself pandering to vote bank politics.
Secondly, while there is nothing wrong in identifying illegal immigrants in the country, the language used by Shah is problematic.
Surrounded by neighbours like Pakistan, with a known penchant of promoting cross-border terrorism and age-old hostility towards India, China, flexing its muscles at several borders areas like Doklam, Bangladesh has shared quite an amicable relationship with the country.
Right from the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's term, New Delhi's relationship with the Sheikh Hasina government has been quite warm, with India and Bangladesh signing the historic Land Boundary Agreement in June 2015, fixing the contours of the 4,000 km India-Bangladesh border and putting an end to the 41-year-old border dispute.
Bangladesh has shared quite an amicable relationship with the India. Photo: PTI
With no official sanction to speak on the India-Bangladesh relationship, Shah has risked antagonising a friendly neighbour in one fell swoop.
And, predictably, they are not too pleased with this.
Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu has said that Amit Shah has made an unwarranted remark in calling Bangladeshis 'termites'.
He said Shah was not qualified to speak on the matter and Home Minister Rajnath Singh had already assured Dhaka that people excluded from Assam's NRC exercise would not be sent to his country.
So, what was Amit Shah trying to achieve by making a statement that was bound to irk Bangladesh?
Election strategy, not foreign policy, seems to be the most probable answer.
With the Modi government on the backfoot with issues like the Rafale deal, price rise, jobs and economic growth, what better than a dose of jingoism to deflect the attention of the voters towards nationalistic pastures?
With no official sanction to speak on the India-Bangladesh relationship, Shah has risked antagonising a friendly neighbour. Photo: PTI
With the Opposition alleging crony capitalism, PM's chief strategist has chosen to risk India's relationship with Dhaka for another shot at the centre in 2019.
With Rajasthan going to polls by the end of the year, the BJP knows the position of the incumbent CM Vasundhara Raje is not too conducive for another term.
Faced with a resurgent Congress in Rajasthan, under the stewardship of Sachin Pilot, BJP is finding it hard to fight back.
Shah's statements about carrying out a national exercise to identify illegal immigrants has already been echoed by several BJP leaders in the past.
What seems to be lost on these politicians is the utter confusion Assam's NRC has turned out to be, with some people from the same family finding mention and some not appearing in the list. Even some family members of former President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed failed to make the cut.
The logistics required to carry out an exercise of such magnitude would require enormous resources – but who cares about minor details when speeches and slogans are apparently enough to get votes.
Taking pot shots at political opponents is fine, but to allege that all these are illegal immigrants and throw bombs and kill innocent citizens could inadvertently turn out to be a call to violence against some of its own citizens.
Given the abysmally low number of people India has actually deported to Bangladesh in the last few years, the intention of Shah's speech is quite obvious.
With some of its leaders showing a penchant for a foot in mouth predilection, BJP as the ruling party will have to decide what's more important – another term at the centre or lowering the discourse further in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.