By Sushil Kutty
Voting for elections to the assemblies of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram are to take place from November 7 to 30. Counting of votes will be on December 3 and by evening of the day, the results will be plain to all and sundry and the question whether the Israeli-Hamas war affected the outcomes would be known to discerning political analysts.
That it will impact the elections is sure because the two prominent adversaries have already chosen sides between Israel and Hamas – the Bharatiya Janata Party is entirely and wholly with Israel, preferring to label Hamas “terrorists” while the Congress is fully on the side of Hamas, quite clear in the head that Israel was “oppressor and occupier” and that the Palestinians are victims of historical wrongdoings.
The Congress and the INDI–Alliance look at the Hamas with a different set of eyes. And the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter applies. Of course, state and local issues will be at the forefront, with “caste” and “Hindutva” also roiling the electoral ambience. But chances are the fight over Israel Palestine “war” will leave its indelible mark on these semi-final elections.
The “Israel-Hamas” bifurcation rests on the Muslim-Jew paradigm and suits the Hindu-Muslim divide that permeates the Indian political scenario. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have appropriated Israel and Hamas has the Congress party’s back. The battle-lines are drawn and it is to be seen how the Congress will defend its decision to stand with the “evil Hamas”. The BJP will find it relatively easier to defend its decision to align with Israel.
Don’t forget India’s ties with Israel got a boost after 2014 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also went to Palestine to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. Modi should have spoken friendly to the Hamas during his visit to the region. It would have guaranteed the Pasmanda votes to the BJP. But it does not matter anymore because Israel values India as its best friend in the whole wide world and the Hamas loathes Hindus of all the people of the world.
The bifurcation along religious lines is at the centre of electoral battles in India and the civilizational war in the “Holy land”. The Congress will risk taking Hamas’s side because of the rich dividend in Muslim votes it fetches. Similarly, the BJP will slam-dunk India’s decades-old solidarity with Palestine because in the changed scenario after 2014, the majority identifies with giving Muslims a good rest.
Rahul Gandhi may keep gunning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “Caste Census”, saying that the Prime Minister was “incapable” of carrying it out, but the Congress party’s Muslim votebank will be restless watching helplessly the situation worsening for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The more desperate it gets, the more agitated will the Congress party’s Muslim votebank get.
Meaning they’ll have to be placated, otherwise voting trends will be affected massively. Both the INDI-Alliance and the BJP-led NDA will be compelled to rework their election campaigns and come out openly in support of or against Israel or Hamas respectively. Constituencies will be turned into Israel-Hamas hothouses. Israel and Hamas will become euphemism for BJP and Congress/Hindu and Muslim. As the assembly elections get closer and closer, the Hamas-Israel war will increasingly become the idiom for the elections in India.
That is because the subcontinent is no less battleground for a civilizational war than the region of Israel and Palestine. And India has had its share of terrorists enacting evil within its boundaries after jumping borders. There was 26/11 in 2008 and then Uri. There was also Pulwama. A lot of Indians died. Also foreigners. No doubt such horrible murderous acts affect elections and voting trends. Especially when political parties welcome them and use them to polarize and win. ‘The Hamas-Israel War’ fits the bill and it will definitely vitiate electoral ambience to cast its shadow on the electoral outcomes in the assembly elections.
Polling in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram will be conducted between November 7 and 30. And the Israel-Hamas War isn’t going to end before that. If anything, the fighting will getting worse and bitter with every passing day. The danger is not the war turning into a Ukraine-like attrition war but the war jumping boundaries. The effects will be felt all over including in India and India cannot just up and cancel the elections. (IPA Service)