Uttar Pradesh Election Results 2017: Muslim voters may have backed BJP but they can't embrace the party yet
Corruption, dynastic politics, nepotism are some of the keywords that have come to define secular parties like SP, BSP, Congress and TMC but they don't lie about who they are. They are what they are. Can you say the same thing about the BJP?
Is the voting choice of the Muslim voter in India decided by the religious inclination of the political parties? And if it's, who is to be blamed for that?
Is it the narrow-mindedness of the Muslim voter, who as Firstpost writer Tufail Ahmad recently argued, has traditionally failed to look beyond "counterfeit" secularism of parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and others, or is it because parties like BJP, Shiv Sena and the likes never shy away from polarising the Hindu voter, who stands at the other end of the secular divide?
Ahmad argued that the bulk of Muslims are unable to escape the religion-based politics of the secular parties in India and embrace the development-based politics of the BJP. In his argument, the Muslim voter appears as an insecure pet constantly yearning for sympathy from his master. In his eyes, the Muslim voter is satisfied with the once-in-five-years appeasement from secular parties as validation of its existence.
He suggests that it's time for the Muslim voter to escape this baggage of 20th-century politics and embrace BJP as a guide to the modern developed world.
His arguments are sound and believable. But Ahmad cleverly ignores the causes that led to this extreme polarisation of the Muslim voter, and the polarisation of the Hindu voter which the "pro-development" BJP has been actively participating in.
To ignore the religious overtone of the BJP's campaign in Uttar Pradesh or the comments made by several of its elected MPs is no better than following the seculars. If BSP is pro-Muslim for starting its rally with "the recitation of the Quran and references to hadiths", what does it say of BJP when Modi chanted "Har Har Mahadev" during his three-day rally in Varanasi?
Modi also alleged how the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh built only kabristan (for Muslims) and gave 24x7 electricity during Eid but not during Diwali. Accepting that SP did that (and so for votes per se), is it not communal of Modi to ask for votes so that he can build shamshan ghats and provide 24x7 electricity during Diwali?
Modi had made a statement in Varanasi: "Yahan bhi khuda, wahan bhi khuda, jahan nahin khuda hai, wahan kal khudega (It's dug here, it's dug there, where it's not dug, it will be dug tomorrow)." He was simply talking about the potholes in Varanasi, but once seen in the context of the election, it treads perilously close to religious lines.
And after all that, on 11 March, when it was evident that the BJP was on course towards getting a clear majority in Uttar Pradesh, the party's national president Amit Shah said the party doesn't believe in Muslim or Hindu votes, turning the win on its head claiming it as a mandate from the entire state of Uttar Pradesh.
A between the lines study of the entire campaign narrative of the BJP indicates that the party actually tried very hard to polarise Uttar Pradesh.
We are not going to raise questions about the Babri Masjid issue — that remains the high point of the BJP in its many years of existence — or argue about the beef ban and the "gau rakshaks". But even if we ignore them what about freedom of speech, and censorship or the use of India's history as per its convenience?
How can the Indian Muslim voter choose a party whose members jump to label everyone (doesn't matter what religion he or she might belong to) who dares to speak against the government as anti-national? One of the founding fathers of United States of America, Thomas Paine, once said, "The duty of a true patriot is to protect his country from his government." Surely, Paine must be joking!
How can the Indian Muslim voter embrace a party, which while criticises the Congress' governance, chooses to hide its own "autocratic" views and actions behind the rules and laws inherited from Congress?
The Indian Muslim voter does need to re-think his/her political choice and rise above minority appeasing. To vote for parties like Congress, SP, BSP or any other simply because they show "sympathy" towards Islam, but ensures that you remain holed up in archaic rules and laws that blatantly violate the rights of the Mulsim woman is wrong. But it doesn't justify embracing BJP.
The Indian Muslim voter also needs to think of development as the most important factor while exercising his voting right. In this regard, the BJP's developmental agenda seems enticing and necessary but only because there's no alternative in the country. The BJP has found an eloquent leader in Narendra Modi, one who draws crowds, has shown the courage to take difficult decisions and make strong statements at home and internationally. They have found a clever strategist in Amit Shah, one who is able to sieve the chaff from the grain and a pack of experienced leaders like Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sushma Swaraj.
Sadly, the same can't be said about the other parties in India. Either they are too arrogant (read Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party) or lacks the persona (think Rahul Gandhi) to be strong leaders. But a lack of them doesn't mean the Muslim voter should embrace the BJP.
The BJP seems like the right choice (to Ahmad) because the other parties have failed to evolve with the needs of the Indian voter. Corruption, dynastic politics, nepotism are some of the keywords that have come to define the parties that Ahmad labels as "counterfeit" seculars, but even then the SP, BSP, Congress and TMC don't lie about who they are. They are what they are. Can you say the same thing about the BJP?
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