Are Muslims becoming political irrelevant in the country?

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2018 11:14 hrs
Indian Muslims

The BJP/RSS juggernaut has finally been halted in the Hindi heartland as the BJP that was in power across the cow belt has bitten the dust. From Chattisgarh to Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan –that account for more than fifteen percent of the nation’s population –the BJP has been unceremoniously removed from power.

Despite the high-pitched campaigning involving the top leadership of the BJP, and the Sangh’s efforts to strengthen the hands of its protégé in the crucial elections, BJP’s defeats in all the three states is simply shocking.

The defeats in the Hindi heartland, along with in Telangana, where it again performed miserably, losing four seats and winning just one seats, suggest that the slide is not just centred around the cow belt but across the nation. The invincible looking BJP, till the other day, seems beaten and bruised, while the Congress party that many said looked destined to the dustbin of history has come out strong and full of confidence and vigour.

The BJP that had completely ousted the Congress party from the political spectrum for much of the last four and half years, will have to contend with not just a self-conscious Congress, but a very aggressive opposition as a whole.

Till merely a few weeks ago we used to admit the formidable, unbeatable electoral machinery that Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have built over the last few years.

Nonetheless, it also seems to be badly bruised and mangled. While the BJP’s war machine is still much more formidable and powerful than the Congress or the entire opposition as a whole the fact that the aura of invincibility has been taken off will make much of the difference.

Another aspect that the BJP and its top leadership will have to contend with is the fact that the narrative that won it not just the 2014 General Election but a host of other elections seems to have shifted. The BJP’s narrative surrounding the corruption, mismanagement and the Gandhis role in the whole affair seems to have been defeated. On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi’s narrative seems to have become much more power full. People seem to be much more receptive to Rahul and Congress’ narrative. In an era where narratives win or lose election, it should be a bigger worry for the Bhartiya Janata Party and its bosses in the Sangh.

Muslims remain relevant

One major myth that these elections have busted is the oft-repeated theory of the BJP that the Muslims’ vote has become insignificant. In a democracy, the importance of any group of people can never diminish, much less the importance of a huge community of around 200 million people. The sooner the BJP understands this fact the better. The way the BJP has been sticking to anti-Muslim plank, including but not limited to Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhhomi issue, seems to have obscured the larger picture of farmers discontent and other structural issues from its leaders’ minds. They wrongly inferred that these issues will win them votes without delivering on the promises they had made four and half years ago.

Muslims expected a balanced approach from BJP

When the BJP had come to power at the Center in the year 2014, it was not on the plank of the anti-Muslim rhetoric. On the contrary, the elections were won on lack or slow pace of development and high level of corruption during the UPA-2. Fed up with fast escalating cost of living and other issues that people in much of the country faced, Muslims too voted for the BJP in considerable numbers. BJP has itself conceded that at least 15 percent Muslims in Rajasthan voted for the saffron party in the year 2014. The percentage of Muslims voting for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh was even higher the same year. Many analysts believed that the Muslim votes played a role in the massive victory of Shivraj Singh Chauhan in 2014 assembly elections.

While the BJP had come to power in the year 2014 on issues like good governance, eradication of poverty and corruption besides improving the lives of the common people, its focus on anti-Muslim policies completely shocked the community. The BJP that is now opposing the entry of women in Sabarimala Temple, created a huge issue on triple talaq and made it cognizable offense though the Apex Court had announced it to be void.

If that was not enough, the Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhoomi issue has been taken out from the safe vault of the Sangh to rally the support base. Alas, the BJP bosses forgot that roti, kapdra and suraksha have become much more important for the common people than the communal issues that won it multiple elections.

The Cow vigilantes were given a free hand to not just harass the innocent Muslims but create a fear psychosis among them. Dozens of people lost their lives in the mindless lynching that have been witnessed from Rajasthan to Jharkhand and from UP to Madhya Pradesh. Prime Minister who had been conciliatory towards the Muslims, immediately after coming to power at the Center, seems to have changed, probably to cater to his core Hindutva support base.

Muslims remain major power in Hindi heartland

The BJP should take a cue from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elections where the margins of victory have been rather negligible. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has slightly higher vote share than the Congress that has emerged victorious. The gap in Rajasthan is also rather negligible. When elections are won and lost over just a few hundred votes, the BJP’s policy to keep distance from the Muslims, with 16 percent population, seems rather surprising.

Muslims are not very happy with the Congress and other political parties. A real change within the BJP and an effort on the part of the BJP to distance itself from the divisive Sangh policies will attract large number of Muslims towards it. There are reasons to believe that the party may opt for hard core Hindutva in the run-up to the General Elections 2019. Apparently this is going to be suicidal for the party as its old issues have lost their sheen and will not curry favours with the electorate.

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