The Assembly elections results announced recently have shocked many people. While election results in Kerala and West Bengal were on expected lines, the saffron win in Assam has been a shock. The BJP campaigned full throttle in the North Eastern state and cobbled together a very effective coalition.
The Congress that had escaped the anti-incumbency trend in the last Assembly elections in 2011 failed to read the writing on the wall and went solo. Tarun Gogoi had warmed the chief ministerial chair for fifteen years and there was a serious anti-incumbency factor against him. The Congress had also antagonised the Bodos while refusing any tie-up with perfume baron and cleric Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). From 78 seats in the outgoing state assembly, Congress' tally was reduced to just 26 seats.
The BJP and its allies were victorious in as many as 86 seats, showing a groundswell of support from largely Hindu population in the state. Ajmal’s AIUDF has been relegated to the margins as it could win merely 13 seats. The drubbing was precipitated by the massive loss that Ajmal himself suffered. A little known Congress member from his own community beat him by a margin of more than 16000 votes.
The Urdu media has been trying to decipher as to what went wrong. While the Congress is being attacked for its insensitive decisions, Ajmal and AIUDF are being held responsible for division of Muslim votes. Muslims make more than 30 percent population of the state.
Muslim political parties divide secular votes
A report in Hyderabad based Siasat says AIUDF was responsible for Congress’ loss in Assam, the same way Asaduddin Owaisi’s MIM destroyed the chance for Congress in Maharashtra.
The report says: “Should Muslim organisations be representative of Indian Muslims? This question has perturbed political analysts for a very long time. Muslim organisations and leaders are worried about accusations that the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was trying to indirectly help the BJP win election in Assam. This has finally proved right.
It is being feared that AIUDF, following the footsteps of the local political party (Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen known as MIM) may do the BJP’s bidding in Assam. This seems that the apprehensions were right and BJP was able to win the election for the first time. BJP benefited immensely from the AIUDF dividing the secular votes in the biggest North Eastern state.
This is almost identical to what happened in Maharashtra some time ago. The MIM, that had decided to field the candidates in assembly election, couldn’t get even one percent of the total votes polled in Maharashtra despite contesting from 24 assembly constituencies.
The party was able to win two assembly seats. Nonetheless it immensely benefited the BJP and Shiv Sena as it helped the two saffron parties polarise the voters on religious grounds. The division of secular votes helped the BJP and Shiv Sena manage a thumping victory and led to the complete marginalisation of secular parties in one of most prosperous states in the country.
If you analyse the latest win for the BJP in Assam you would realise that the division of secular votes helped the BJP win the state in a spectacular way. The combined vote share of the Congress Party and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF was higher than 44 percent of the total votes polled. On the other hand BJP got 30.1 percent of the total votes polled.
Congress polled higher percentage of votes compared to the BJP in the state despite losing the election. It got 31 percent votes and AIUDF 13 percent of the votes polled. BJP ally Asom Gana Parishad got 8.1 percent votes.
It was being said even before the assembly election that if secular parties don’t unite, it would directly benefit the BJP. The local political party (MIM) had said it will not fight election there as Maulana Ajmal’s party is already there. Ajmal fought from 71 assembly seats and could win merely 11 seats while two seats were won by its allies.
Their fighting in so many seats directly helped the BJP in Assam, the same way MIM’s foray in Maharashtra assembly election benefited the BJP in last assembly election there. Now Muslim community leaders are finding out to their horror that political parties that claim to help the community are actually helping the saffron parties win elections in one state after the other."
Muslims no longer kingmakers
Delhi-based Urdu daily Roznama Khabrein says the belief of Muslims being kingmaker has finally ended. The newspaper while analysing the results of election in Assam says: "We were used to beliefs that every party needs Muslim votes to win elections.
This was truer in states where Muslims had substantial presence. Nonetheless this was simply a myth and the BJP and its saffron alliance partners have broken it completely.
The 2014 Lok Sabha election had proved that the Muslim votes have been relegated to margins. BJP’s win on 282 seats was clear signal that it was no longer true. Now the same experiment has been repeated in Assam by the BJP that had cobbled together an unbeatable alliance in the state with Mahanta’s Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodos.
The BJP has realised that by fragmenting Muslim votes, their chances improve substantially. This is the reason that it props up “Muslim parties” in different areas and cuts Muslim votes to size.
This was the reason that Lalu and Nitish Kumar’s Mahagadhbandhan in last year’s Bihar assembly election made it very clear to a Muslim clergy organisation Amarate Sharia not to announce its support for the.. It made it clear to the Muslim clergy that this will destroy their chances in crucial assembly election if they publicly announce the support to Lalu -Nitish Kumar alliance. Muslims voted for the alliance surreptitiously (chori se vote dala).
What can be more disheartening than the fact that in state like Uttar Pradesh where Muslims make around 17 percent of the population and are in large number in different parts of the state, their votes were made irrelevant by the BJP.”
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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.