Should the Muslim community start moving towards the BJP?
BJP has stormed to power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most politically significant state, demolishing any myths of demonetization or identity politics. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has trumped all odds and emerged as the sole winning factor, in a political battle that was predicted to be three-cornered. The saffron party picked up 325 out of 403 seats. Well, it couldn’t have been better than that.
What does the result mean for the Muslim community? Traditionally, the party always aligned with those who had the best chances of defeating the BJP. But what does it do when there is nobody in the race at all. The opposition has been bulldozed into submission.
Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, and Rahul Gandhi that were banking on the support of the community failed because they couldn’t hold on their own constituents. There has been a massive shift from the SP and BSP towards the BJP, largely in the majority community or the Hindus, primarily due to the level of polarization that has become a hallmark of Indian politics these days. The UP election results show that Jawaharlal Nehru’s idea of secularism is now dead, buried and cremated. In such a fast-changing landscape, the community will have to come to terms with the realities of present day India and find ways to align its vision with that of the mainstream.
Traditionally, there has also been little love lost between the Muslims and the BJP and everyone knows that. The party on the other hand has been unkind to the community and belies its own claims of an inclusive India by giving not a single ticket to a Muslim. Naturally, the Muslims too didn’t vote for it.
The larger question is: How long can the community afford this estrangement with a political party that has caught the imagination of the Hindus and the average Indian. The community that has usually prided itself as being a deciding factor or a kingmaker stands at a political crossroads. Anymore disengagement would only lead to further marginalization of the community as is happening in Gujarat, where the community is these days largely restricted to urban ghettoes.
Keeping in mind the present political realities, it would get increasingly difficult for the community to stick to its aversion of the BJP and its exploits in the past (Gujarat riots) or risk further isolation and marginalization. The community needs to get into the system if it aspires to reap the benefits of India’s economic growth. In order to retain some modicum of political relevance in the fast changing and highly polarized political landscape the community will have to find ways to engage with the party which has caught the fancy of the Hindu community.
The BJP on the other hand did try to reach out to the community, with the BJP’s minority cell working on developing connections with Muslim voters over the past few years. However, eventually, the party seems to have been unable to overcome its distrust of the community and didn’t give a single ticket to a Muslim in a state that has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. Uttar Pradesh has 19% Muslims. That, in effect, whitewashed whatever rapport the minority cell may have built over time. Although, Union ministers such as Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Uma Bharti did feel that the party could have given some tickets to the Muslim community, rather than leaving it out completely in the blue.
“I am really feeling sorry that we could not field a Muslim. I spoke with (BJP President) Amit Shah and (state party President) Keshav Prasad Maurya about how we could have brought a Muslim to the assembly,” Bharti said in an interview.
The BJP, on its part, too needs to introspect and come to terms with this glaring reality that the biggest minority community of the country is not part of its designs for a robust India. Its slogans like sabka sath sabka vikas and acche din will ring hollow if such a large chunk of the population continues to be outside its vision of a future India and be a victim of BJP’s ghettoisation. If Modi really wants to be remembered as a statesman, he will have to include the Muslim community in its designs.
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