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OPINION: India’s secularism under threat

By Zahid Jamil

Uttar Pradesh election results have alarmed Muslims around the country. Strategists in BJP have successfully calculated various parameters and took advantage of division of non-BJP vote among two main opposition parties of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The BJP president Amit Shah was so blunt in openly displaying the communal card that he did not give a single ticket to a Muslim candidate. The biggest political party of the Indian nation, who claim to represent all Indians, was so bold and blunt in sticking to its Hindutava agenda that it denied any representation to more than 40 million Muslims of the state, 20% of the population. While many Shia and Barelvi Muslims including a few of their leaders, supported Modi and his political party over past few years, even these sects of Muslims were denied any representation. Perhaps, BJP high command, did not want to anger Hindu extremists for whom a Muslim is a Muslim, irrespective of which sect he may belong to.

Uttar Pradesh is the largest state of India with a population of more than 200 million. If it was a separate country, Uttar Pradesh would be the world’s fifth most populous nation, next only to China, India, the US and Indonesia.

The electoral system varies between different democratic countries and that may be a major factor in producing election results. US president is a single person who is elected by the entire nation. Yet, Hillary Clinton, who won whopping 2,864,974 (more than 2.8 million) more votes than Donald Trump, lost the election. Surely Donald Trump, as democratic election claim, does not represent majority of Americans.

Secularism1In recent UP election BJP got 39.7% of the votes, while SP and BSP, combined polled in total 44% of the votes. As more than 60% of the population did not vote for BJP, if there was a single second party, that party would have won the elections. In all likelihood, non BJP vote would have gone to the single party if SP and BSP were a single party, instead of two. Such deficiencies in electoral systems often result in the government of the political party or the candidate, not representing the will of majority of the people. This becomes even more hurtful when it results in election win of controversial figures like Donald Trump in US or Yogi Aditayanath in current UP elections.

Australia and a few other nations follow preferential voting system which tends to overcome the above deficiencies. Here, the voter is allowed to rank all candidates according to their preference. If no candidate secures an absolute majority of primary votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is then eliminated from the count. The votes for this eliminated candidate are then redistributed among the remaining candidates according to the number two preference indicated on the original ballot. This process of elimination based on preferences continues until a candidate secures an absolute majority. Such a process enables a two-party system to ultimately emerge, whereby all votes are effectively divided between two major parties or two major candidates within a constituency. This seems to be a much fairer system.

If such a system was applied in current UP elections, SP or BSP voters would have given their second preference to each other and not to BJP which would have resulted in far more wins for SP and BSP candidates.

However, what is even more disturbing is that while there were many capable candidates for the CM office, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah picked up the most controversial candidate who can only be described as the most notorious in disturbing communal harmony in UP over past few years. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Aditayanath have become axis of evil of Indian democratic system. Surely Indian secularism faces biggest challenge in current political environment.

[Zahid Jamil is currently based at Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at [email protected]]

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