Bulldozers – Another communication failure

The situation of bulldozing properties by the state governments and municipal corporations in the name of development, anti-encroachment drive has become more communal than the purpose it was meant to solve. Government has termed it as an attack on ill-legal structures while the opposition and some media outlets have termed it as an attack on minority communities and informal business sector. These terms may keep changing from media outlets to media outlets, but one thing is clear, this is another failure of the government in communicating with its people. Bulldozers, which were once a meme across the country have now become a symbol of hatred.

During Yogi 1.0, the BJP-led government of Uttar Pradesh had demolished properties of people involved in criminal activities. The aim was to attack them financially, so they don’t get back to their old ways of terrorizing people and doing illegal activities once they were out on bail. This was done across religious and caste lines. This garnered huge support for Yogi government amongst the local voters. Such was the support that, the term “Bulldozer Baba” was used for Yogi Adityanath during the state 2022 Legislative Elections and was echoed throughout the campaign. The bulldozers’ use in Uttar Pradesh against the people involved in criminal activities resonated strongly with the voters in the state and BJP stormed back to power with an increase in its vote share. According to some analysts, control on crime rate in the state was one of the biggest factors in the Yogi government coming back to power. After the legislative elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh Yogi 2.0 picked up its targeted use of JCBs from where it left off and have been away from the media focus.

A BJP supporter puts on a bulldozer cap during 2022 UP Election campaign

The success of Bulldozer Baba campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh and later the stone pelting incidents on Ram Navami processions in seven states, provided certain state governments a chance to associate themselves with bulldozers. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, the state government ordered razing the properties of  those accused in stone pelting on the Ram Navami procession. Congress leaders accused the Shivraj Singh led government of targeting the people of just one religion. After this incident, wherever the violence broke out or riots took place or protests happened, governments ordered the police and municipal corporations to demolish the buildings in the violence/riot hit areas in the name of demolition of illegal structures or anti-encroachment drive or just as a revenge against those who attacked public properties in those areas. The opposition parties in all the states where these drives were taking place had called them a strategy to attack poor and minorities. Targeting BJP government on demolition drive in Jahangirpuri (New Delhi), Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had earlier tweeted that it was a state sponsored targeting of poor and minorities.

It’s not only being done by BJP-led governments, in Rajasthan where Congress is in power, the BJP and other parties have surrounded the government for bulldozing a 300-year-old temple in the name of anti-encroachment drive, some leaders even termed it a revenge of the demolition drive in Jahangirpuri. Bulldozer, which was a symbol of hope and peace for the people of Uttar Pradesh, suddenly became a symbol of brutality and destruction in the national media.

Bulldozer’s coverage was not limited to Indian media and politics, it was in the eye of international political uproar as well. When the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Mr. Boris Johnson visited India recently, his visit to a JCB (bulldozers’ company) factory in Gujarat was raised by some British parliamentarians who termed it as shameful in the light of Jahangirpuri anti-encroachment drive.

Boris Johnson, Prime minister of UK, on a JCB machine during his recent visit to India

The communication failure on the part of governments is not new, while the Modi government failed to convey the positives of Farm laws, which it had to repeal, state governments have failed to convey the message behind demolition drives. This has allowed the opposition parties to drive the issue in whichever manner they want, thus creating outrage against respective governments. The situation clearly indicates that the communication strategies employed during elections by various parties are carefully crafted and the message is clearly communicated to the voters, while the same parties when in power are not able to communicate their policies and decisions to the public.

Leave a Reply