By Sushil Kutty
Less than 12 months are left for general elections 2024 and those of us asking what’s gonna propel voters to the election booths are being too smart by half. We all know one camp’s strategy has come a cropper, while the other camp has won the derby by a couple of horse’s length to spare. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategy to get the Pasmanda Muslims to vote for the BJP in lieu of ‘labarthi’ galore was effectively blunted by the Congress party’s make or break counter Muslim-strategy in Karnataka.
That the Congress-Muslim partnership relied on secrecy to succeed is part of the story. That the secrecy was itself kept snug and safe from an exposure was another part. That Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked into the trap set for him and his party was another part of the story. Modi and his supposedly well-honed team of strategists and tacticians couldn’t get a whiff of what was coming on voting day. And to think that Modi & Shah could not stop bragging of the advantages of having a “double-engine ki sarkara”.
How was it that the “double-engine ki sarkara” could not get intelligence inputs that pointed to a Congress-Muslim community non-negotiable pact of votes for ministerial posts? Meaning once the Congress won the elections, Muslims who voted en bloc to ensure the Congress victory would get their pound of flesh plus blood in separate tankards!
And, now, the non-negotiable pact is out in the open. The demands have been made to honour the pact. With promises made laid out in order, like in a restaurant, with the waiter poised with a notebook and pencil – 1 Deputy CM; 5 Cabinet ministers; plum portfolios…Home, Finance, Education…
Also, don’t blame anybody if the demands are being put forth even before a Chief Minister has been named and sworn in. Karnataka’s Ulema Wakf Board chairman Maulana Shaafi Saadi is only asking for what is rightly owed to the Muslim community. Maulana Saadi is not a Congress appointee. The outgoing BJP government appointed him .
But that is par for course in politics. Maulana Saadi’s loyalties are only to his community. Besides, one other thing is certain, the BJP is nowhere in the same league as the Congress when it comes to whinging and whining to win the Muslims over. Muslim votes seamlessly shifted to the Congress. All the Muslim votes – irrespective of Ashrafi, Pasmanda, Sunni and Shia…perhaps even the Bohra. And with nary a strain to the bloodless betrayal – all in a day’s work for the average Muslim.
To think that the Bharatiya Janata Party thought it had gotten ahead of the PFI and CFI, and other associated elements, with anti-Hijab and anti-halal? This was another occasion when the BJP learned that “still waters run deep”. Outgoing Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as also Union Home Minister Amit Shah, let the killings of Harsha Hindustani and Praveen Netarru go unpunished and leadership apathy cost Modi respect.
Also, building a strategy of consolidating Muslim votes had been in the works for the Congress since before Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Karnataka was an apt state to experiment. It had a substantial Muslim electorate, not too big to go awry nor too small to not make a difference. The near-total wholesale transfer of Muslim votes to the Congress kitty was smooth and easy.
Also, the triangular contest helped. The choice then was which of the two secular parties to sacrifice at the altar of expediency? The Congress party’s ‘national party recognition’ ruled regional party Janata Dal (S) out. With that the template also appears to have been set for the other states to go to polls in 2023. The Muslims of Karnataka have shown the way: Consolidate and get behind “national party” Congress. Regional parties are a waste of Muslim votes. Look at the ease with which the BJP was worsted and that, too, without making a difference to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s vote-share!
Yes. Every Modi apologist – the entire lot is out building a wall around Modi – is talking of how Modi is blame-free because the party’s vote-share in Karnataka remained intact in 2023 compared to 2018. This calls for greater introspection and further in-depth study. Absolving Modi cannot be made into a free-for-all. And Modi cannot be allowed to squirm away scot-free. Like the Malayalam saying goes “give away an elephant but never give hope to those looking up to you”! Modi needs his vote-bank behind him but the vote-bank appears vacillating.
Imagine the Congress party’s Karnataka template against the BJP in Telangana! Unfortunately, for the Hindutva hordes, Modi turned out to be as ornery a politician as another with the same flappable mouth. And, try as he will, Modi cannot duck behind his apologists’ back. The desperation is showing. Tuesday, the BJP lifted the ban on “firebrand Hindutva icon” T Raja Singh, the Telangana BJP MLA who was labelled “fringe” – a la Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal – and suspended for being too overtly Hindutva. Appears like Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being told some homilies as he rides the storm brought about by a Congress-Muslim understanding that has put paid to his Pasmanda-linked election strategy. (IPA Service)