Gujrat elections: Muslims on the margin


BJP’s convincing victory (though not without nervous moments) in Gujrat assembly elections has brought to the fore a brewing reality in Indian political system. The idea of secularism which formed the very basis of the State of India is paving way to the majoritarian idea. Apparently, there is no change in constitutional rights of the citizens but the social ethos of the country is changing very fast. The Hindu consolidation against Muslims—the second largest population—is becoming a norm. The way BJP and its satellite groups conducted themselves during election campaign said it all. BJP began its campaign for consolidation of Hindu votes by not fielding a single Muslim candidate despite more than 5 million Muslim population in the state. Then all the communal and contentious issues made their campaign agenda. “Babar”, “Aurangzeb”, “Khilji”, “Pakistan”, “Ahmad Patel” “Mughal Mindset”, BJP leaders including its star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi left no stone unturned to make it a Hindu versus Muslim contest. The “Muslim factor” dominated the election campaign so fiercely that the premier opposition party Congress, which claims to be representing all religions and regions of India, did not dare even to campaign in Muslim-populated areas. The campaigning in Muslim areas was left to respective candidates with central leaders including Rahul Gandhi fearing even to pass through those areas. Rahul Gandhi, instead, visited Hindu shrines and temples to communicate to the Gujrat voters that he too was no less a Hindu. Though this paid substantial political dividends to the Congress but it also exposed the brute fact of India fasting turning into a “:majoritarian” conceptual state. The election was fought under the direct leadership of Modi as BJP had not nominated any chief ministerial candidate in the state. Modi’s rise to ‘popularity’ has roots in the massacre of Muslims in Gujrat in 2002 when Modi was the chief minister there. Modi’s pro Hindu posturing during election was more than evident when he said that Congress was hobnobbing with Pakistan to make Ahmad Patel as chief minister of Gujrat. The much-touted Gujrat model did not find even a feeble mention in the BJP poll campaign. All the focus was on Hindu-Muslim divide, which ultimate worked in favour of the BJP. The Gujrat voters returned BJP to power fourth time in a row, endorsing the brand of majoritarian politics. During election campaign BJP, definitely, had some nervous moments but that were rooted in some local anger. The Patels, a substantial Hindu caste group, were angry with the BJP for not conceding their demand of reservation. They sided with the Congress after the party promised them “reservation quota” in government jobs should it won the elections. The Muslims would little count now in political and poll strategies. The verdict is nothing short of endorsing BJP’s idea of Hindustan as more than 41 percent of the population put their seal on majoritarian idea. Some political Pundits believe that Gujrat elections could cast its shadow of 2019 general elections. The political isolation and irrelevance of Muslims has come about steadily under Modi, and because this has enabled him to consolidate Hindus behind him, the ploy is unlikely to be given up. India is firmly under the grasp of a majoritarian idea, and while constitutional rights - irrespective of religion - remain, social isolation has reached worrying propositions. This obviously has left a large number of secular Indians, including Hindus, with a sense of queasiness. The tragedy on the side of upholders of ‘secular’ values is that there is no leader of national stature who can match Narendra Modi. Rahul Gandhi, who heads the country’s largest secular party, too had to go by his “Hindu” identity. Gandhi must realise that his strength lies in being a young, modern, pan-Indian leader, and not in projecting himself as a temple-hopping janeu dhari Brahmin. India has no dearth of janeu dhari Brahmin leaders. If at all, India needs any such leader, then Rahul Gandhi is no match to Narendra Modi. Rahul Gandhi needs to understand this fundamental reality, and instead of trying to become just another Modi, he needs to stick to the basic idea of India—secularism, and challenge Modi from there to restore India’s past image of a secular, tolerant and civilized nation.