Demonetization Was Sold In a Communal Package
MUMBAI: The Assembly election results of 2017 have come as a bolt to many, and a matter of celebration for the BJP and its ilk. While there is a slight dip in the voting percentage of BJP from 2014 general elections, the number of seats it has wrested is astounding. With close to 39 percent votes it has cornered over 80% of the assembly seats.
The wave which was created around Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 elections got the BJP 31% of the votes and nearly 60 % of the Lok Sabha seats. The issue that time was Acche Din, (Good Days) with the so called Gujarat model of development in the background. The massive victory had two major pillars, one of solid Corporate support and the other, the workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This time also the support base remains the same while the propaganda plank assimilated many different goal posts at the same time.
Demonetization was sold in a communal color. That demonetization has forced the terrorists to destroy their currency notes, Muslims anyway don’t keep money in the banks so they also had to burn their currency notes, was the word of mouth propaganda. While PM Modi kept a subtle distance from the communal rhetoric initially, he soon droppped this for the most polarizing language; he soon pronounced the most horrific polarizing sentences when he talked about Kabristan-Shamshan (Graveyard-cremation ground) and electricity supply on Divali and Id. PM Modi’s massive campaign machinery kept up communal language all through, taking further their propaganda of Love jihad, the promise of forming Anti Romeo squads to “save” the Hindu girls from “ruffians” (read Muslim youth.) The stock in trade Ram Temple issue was in operation all through.
Large number of RSS workers and sympathizers spread all over the villages. Their plank was that SP is pro Muslim and Mayawati is also pampering Muslims, BJP was presented as the only party which can save the Hindus. While the issue of development remained as the fig leaf, the roots saw a deeper communalization with the help of large numbers of RSS workers. And became the key factor ensuring the tilt of many OBCs and Dalits in favour of the BJP.
The BJP election machine had been close to perfect, with the foundation of communal polarization set with Muzzafarnagar and the Ghar Wapasi, Cow protection campaigns. From booth level organizations to co-opting the neglected caste formations, all were taken care of. BJP’s alliances with small caste groups like Kurmi’s and Rajbhars have added a lot to the kitty of its electoral support. Dainik Jagran’s publication of Exits poll results doctored by its advertisement department also played significant role in victory of BJP.
As far as the Opposition is concerned,the biggest failure has been to stitch the alliances among the regional electoral forces. In Bihar the magathbandhan of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, along with the Congress, was able to check the BJP. The Congress failed to put up an alliance in UP; BJP successfully did it.
Many a factor was well exploited by the BJP, snatching victory from what could have become the jaws of defeat. The surgical strike, whatever its truth, was propagated as a great victory and that Pakistan has been taught a lesson and that acts of terrorists have come down was part of the propaganda.
The caste arithmetic in UP has been taken over by the communal arithmetic. While caste equations and issues continue, BJP has drawn a bigger line of religion to overcome caste based interests, aspirations and loyalties. The non BJP parties have miserably failed to forge together an alliance and a strategy to counter this. The argument that SP and BSP have too many differences does not hold water, with the Bihar example before it.
This time around the number of Muslim MLAs has come down from 86 in previous Assembly to a mere 24. The argument that many Muslim women have voted for BJP as it had raised the issue of triple talaq is untrue. Though the issue of triple talaq is a matter of concern for Muslim women, they will not vote for the BJP to resolve this, because of the BJPs visible communalism.
Interestingly BJP had not given a single seat to any Muslim this time. This was to demonstrate, and propagate, that the Muslims are not required to win the elections in UP. Instead the argument that there is injustice against Hindus, and only the BJP can rectify this has been sold successfully. The result was the core Yadav votes went to SP, Jatav’s to BSP and most other Hindu votes gravitated to BJP. With this the marginalization of the Muslim community in the electoral arena seems to be more than complete.
(Ram Puniyani is a former professor of biomedical engineering affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology, He is a reputed writer on issues of Indian democracy and secularism)