By Sushil Kutty
Not mentioning “Hamas” in the Congress Working Committee resolution on the Israel-Hamas confrontation in the Gaza Strip is bothering the Congress as it shapes up for the assembly elections in five states. The election commission has spoken about the election deadlines and both the leading parties in the fray – the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress – are on their toes. The elections are suddenly too close for comfort and the assembly polls will set the stage for the all-important General Elections 2024.
The 2024 Lok Sabha polls are of great significance for the INDI-Alliance, as also to the NDA led by the BJP. The Congress virtually heads the opposition alliance at the national level and, therefore, 2024 holds the same significance for Rahul Gandhi as they do for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP is acutely aware of this burden on its leaders both in the government and in the party organization.
But with anti-incumbency a potential stumbling block in one state, Madhya Pradesh, and other poll-related challenges in the two other poll-bound states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP is on pretty sticky wickets in all three states, and compelled to experiment with candidates and gamble on electoral issues. The issue of the Israel-Hamas “war”, for instance. The Congress has placed all its bets on Hamas without naming it and Prime Minister Modi chose to stand with “Israel” without naming the “Hamas”.
Both Modi and Rahul Gandhi underestimate the electorate who knows the cards as they fall. The “Israel-Hamas war” has once and for all taken the Pasmanda card from out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hands and, to add to problems, INDI-Alliance has played the caste census card which is potentially life-threatening to Hindu consolidation which had been the BJP’s ace in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In 2024, the BJP has been left with nothing but Hindu consolidation to take it first past the finish line. Initial strategy was to go to town with the development plank. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular is vastly impressed by how India’s development under his watch has been a winner with young Hindu voters, the diaspora included. In 2019 huge numbers of Hindu youth voted for the BJP, such that the BJP believed the same can be expected of young Pasmanda Muslim voters if they got a taste of development reaching Muslim doorsteps.
But the BJP did not factor in certain Muslim Ummah truths – the historical depth of Islam and the geographical spread of the Ummah. For example, the Indian Muslim has gone against India’s official stand on the Israel-Hamas “war”, which is tantamount to treason. None of the other Indian religious communities will dare do. The Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are learning ground realities the hard way.
So, while wary of losing whatever few percentage of Pasmanda Muslim votes it has influenced in the last 10 years, with more than 300 Muslim-specific welfare schemes including scholarships and IAS coaching avenues, the BJP knows that without the majority of Hindus voting for BJP, the party has little or nil chance to win 2024. Both the party and the Prime Minister have understood this basic truth though the Jew’s and Muslim’s resolve isn’t the Hindu way.
But the Congress demand that the Modi government undertake a caste census leaves the BJP with no option other than to try and consolidate Hindu votes and continue living the illusion that 10 years of Modi rule has annihilated the caste system and the psyche of the Indian Hindu electorate has been conditioned to vote for Indian nationalism, the Tricolour, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Bajrang Bali, Jai Shri Ram, Har-Har Mahadev and Har Ghar Modi.
The next few elections including the 2024 General Elections will be watershed in as much as they’ll hopefully settle, even temporarily, whether the Hindus remain a caste-ridden community and that the ‘Annihilation of Caste’ will always remain a headline. Democracy, electoral democracy, has ensured India remains the “caste-cauldron” that Swami Vivekanand described India as at the beginning of the last Century and nothing has changed in the last 100-plus years.
Somebody even as modern and progressive as Rahul Gandhi has said that India’s politics and economy will be decided by the caste system in the years to come and, therefore, the Narendra Modi government must undertake the national caste census. Nobody asks the electorate what it wants, which is another democracy trait. The divided caste-ridden electorate is always taken for granted and then hailed for being uber-politically aware.
For whatever it is worth, after all other noises settle, after all the high-bred issues are discussed and thrashed and trashed, there will only remain Hindu consolidation and caste divisions, both at odds with each other. The INDI-Alliance will bank on caste to win and the BJP will be able to win only with a consolidation of Hindu votes. And it will realize that it cannot run away from its destiny and be a clone of the Congress. It is destined to be the far right Hindu nationalist party till its expiry date. (IPA Service)