By Soroor Ahmed
As the by-polls in May last had exposed the vulnerability of the BJP the results have its shadow on the electioneering in the states going to poll, in particular in 3 states where the BJP was in power
As Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh do not have substantial Muslim population the Bharatiya Janata Party is finding it difficult to raise the communally sensitive issues such as shamshan, qabristan, Pakistan etc during the coming Assembly elections in these three states.
True, Rajasthan has some pockets of good Muslim population, so has Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh yet the overall population of the community is no match to that of Uttar Pradesh 19.3 percent and Bihar 16.9 percent––not to speak of Assam, Kerala and West Bengal where they form more than one-fourth of population.
No doubt Rajasthan has in the last couple of years witnessed several instances of lynching in the name of cow vigilantism yet along with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh it has not seen any big communal riots as in Gujarat in 2002 or Muzaffarnagar in 2013.
It has been observed that in the post-demonetisation period, the BJP has done well in the states where Muslims have substantial population or are in one way or the other a factor in the election. So not to speak of only Uttar Pradesh, even in Karnataka, which has less Muslim percentage than the former, it tried to make Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary an issue to polarize the society.
Incidentally, names of none of the city or towns of the three poll-bound BJP ruled states have been changed in the recent months. Thus the note ban, Maoist menace, Vyapam scandal, sorry plight of farmers etc are electoral issues during the campaign.
Sensing the seriousness of the challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on demonetisation and started speaking on what he claims as its achievements.
Incumbency factor and absence of sizeable Muslim population ensured the defeat of the Shrimoni Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab in 2017. Later in the year Gujarat almost slipped out of the hands of the saffron party. It was only then that Modi raised the issue of dinner in the house of former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and which was attended by former PM Manmohan Singh, former vice president Hamid Ansari, former chief of army staff Deepak Kapoor, former diplomats etc. the occasion was the launch of the book of Pakistani politician Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri and those present also included that country’s envoy to India.
So Modi, while addressing a public meeting, alleged that a conspiracy was hatched in presence of Pakistani envoy to defeat the BJP.
Till now Modi-Amit Shah duo have not whipped up such passion. Shah is yet to come out with the statement that crackers would burst in Pakistan if the BJP loses election.
The saffron brigade is treading cautiously as the memory of 2003 Assembly elections in these three states is fresh in the mind. Along with Delhi the three states––MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh––went to poll. While Congress won Delhi the rest went to the BJP prompting it to advance the election date of the 2004 Lok Sabha poll by six months. The move proved suicidal and Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA was rather unexpectedly voted out of power.
This time the situation is much different. The BJP is not at all on strong wicket in these states. The rank and file of the party is feeling somewhat jittery as they fear that the countdown of the Modi government may start if it did not perform well in these states Assembly elections.
It needs to be reminded that there was no palpable anger against the Vajpayee government as now and there was no issues like note ban or shoddy implementation of GST, yet it lost to Sonia Gandhi led Congress. This had happened even when mass leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu were with the NDA and Sharad Pawar had broken away from the Congress to form NCP in 1999. Even in UP there was no such anti-BJP alliance. It was only in Bihar that the RJD lend support to the Congress and fought unitedly.
As the by-polls in May last had exposed the vulnerability of the BJP the results have its shadow on the electioneering in the states going to poll––in particular in the three where the saffron party was in power.
The Modi-Shah combination appears to be confused over the strategy for the next year’s Lok Sabha poll. If they openly applaud any move to build the statue of Ram or renaming of cities/towns there is fear that Yogi may become too big for his boots. So unlike in the past there is contradictions galore within the Sangh Parivar.
[Soroor Ahmed is a Senior Journalist based at Patna, Bihar. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]