By Sushi Kutty
Much was made of the BJP’s, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s, great outreach to Pasmanda Muslims, said to account for up to 80 percent of the Muslim electorate. Talk of this emerging phenomenon started making headlines soon after the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections earlier this year, with BJP leaders emphasizing that the “double-engine Sarkar” of Modi and Yogi Adityanath with their ‘labarthi schemes’ had made a tremendous impact on Muslim women voters.
The question now is whether the Pasmanda Muslim electorate in Gujarat voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party? The answer to that is, if Muslims of Delhi chose to dump even the AAP in preference for the Congress, why would they stump for Hindutva at the urging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, at least not after Shah could not stop himself from reminding the Muslims of Gujarat of the “lesson taught in 2002”.
It does not require rocket science to know who was taught a lesson in Gujarat 2002. The Gujarat riots were revenge for the Godhra train burning and the deaths of kar sevaks. And the marauding mobs that took over the streets of Gujarat thereafter, when Chief Minister Narendra Modi sat paralysed and forgot his ‘Raj Dharma’, were Hindu louts and laggards led by rightwing Hindu riffraff including BJP leaders. Otherwise why would Bilkis Bano and Zakia Jafri still be crying out for justice?
Evening of December 8, at the celebrations at the BJP headquarters in Delhi, a short clip shown on one TV channel focused on loud remarks made by a BJP cadre on whether or not Pasmanda Muslims voted for the BJP in Gujarat? The BJP cadre spoke in two voices, one of which claimed that Modi’s outreach had had a tremendous impact, and the other which pooh-poohed the notion and insisted that Narendra Modi had come a cropper.
The second lot argued that with other, more palatable, options available why would any Muslim vote for the viscerally anti-Muslim BJP? Options like the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. With so many in the fray, the Muslims were spoilt for choice and it would be foolish to believe that Muslims shifted sides. And if Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra did “jodo” any one ‘people’, it was the Muslims. The BJY impact was felt in the Delhi-MCD polls, where 8 of the 9 Congress candidates who won their wards were Muslims, and that wasn’t fluke or chance coincidence.
The Delhi Muslims, the majority of them, plumbed for the Congress in the MCD polls, and it would do well for the Congress if it took the hint and took steps to carry forward the momentum in the 15-odd months left for the 2024 general elections. The time for push comes to shove has already come. For the Opposition, it is now or never. The Congress, especially, should not squander the Bharat Jodo Yatra-dividend as the momentum builds up to a 2024 climax.
The Congress has several opportunities to test the success of BJY in 2023 beginning from the Karnataka assembly elections. There is Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. The BJP’s big Pasmanda Muslim push does not seem to have caught on like fire. When it comes to the Muslims, there is more to the fight than just a difference of religious ideology, and a different manner of worship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah will have to take into consideration emotions and sentiments, which at least Modi is incapable of. People who lost their near and dear ones to Gujarat riots, people who had to face rape and rapine would not be forgetting and forgiving easily. Besides, ever since 2014, there has been a churning on, and to believe that the Muslim electorate would turn and vote for the BJP was to believe in fables.
Especially the ‘Vikram-Betal’ type. The BJP did try to convince the Muslim electorate and make them believe that Modi, who refused to wear a “Muslim cap” and who once said that one can recognize the “type” from the clothes had turned a new leaf. The day Narendra Modi turns a different colour leaf, the sun will set in the morning.
From all accounts, it can be said that the Muslims of Gujarat voted in the majority for the Congress. And from other accounts it is safe to conclude that halfway through the campaign, Modi and Shah realized that the BJP should backtrack to Hindutva. Therefore, the “we taught them a lesson” and the dragged out scare when the AAP went for BJP’s Hindutva jugular with Krishna avatar and goddesses on currency notes. Together, the AAP and the Congress, shattered the BJP’s overhyped Pasmanda dream. (IPA Service)