The Uttar Pradesh assembly election
results have hit the secularist lobby where it hurts most. India’s largest and
politically most important state has demonstrated once again that even if half
the Hindus decide to vote as Hindus, they can easily trump the Muslim vote
bank. Uttar Pradesh has the largest Muslim population in the country. Muslim
votes make up more than 19 per cent of its electorate. In an assembly of 403
seats, 134 constituencies have been identified as those where Muslim votes can
swing the result.
Naturally, the campaign in the elections
saw a fierce tussle between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party to
garner Muslim votes en bloc. Most of the analyses and reports in the mainstream
media typically purveyed speculation on which way the Muslim votes would swing
- SP or BSP? Reading them, one got the impression that skull caps and burqas
held the key to power in the most populous state. In stark contrast, the Bharatiya
Janata Party did not field a single Muslim candidate. Its poll plank was
inclusive development, epitomised in the catchy slogan sab ka sath, sab ka vikas.
The results were astounding: BJP and
allies won 325 seats in an assembly of 403. The number of Muslims elected to
the assembly dropped from 68 in 2012 to 23. This shows that Muslims cannot get
elected in most places without Hindu support, although the secularists would
have us believe the opposite. The BJP’s resounding victory even in Muslim dominated
areas was sought to be explained by pointing out that the Muslim vote was
divided between the SP and BSP, allowing the BJP to win easily. Another
explanation offered was that Muslims voted for the BJP in large numbers, lured
by the promise of all-round development. The Shia-Sunni cleavage and BJP’s
progressive stand on triple talaq were also thrown in as part of the
On a closer look, however, both
explanations appear to be erroneous. While individual votes cannot be traced,
voting patterns in constituencies dominated by the community could give some
indication about its preferences. Results in 59 constituencies with more than a
quarter of Muslim voters show that the SP (29 per cent) and BSP (18 per cent)
together polled 47 per cent of votes, almost unchanged from the 48 per cent
they got in 2012 (SP 26 per cent and BSP 22 per cent), and higher than the 43
per cent they got in 2014 (SP 27 per cent and BSP 16 per cent). So, Muslim
support for the two “secular” parties remained intact. The difference was made
by the consolidation of the Hindu vote in favour of BJP, which managed to
secure 39 per cent of the total votes, indicating a jump of 17 per cent from
2012, though a fall of 4 per cent from 2014.
Indeed, an analysis in Swarajya
magazine yields an even more interesting insight. Hindu consolidation was
stronger precisely in areas where Muslims formed a sizable chunk of the
electorate. For instance, in Deoband which has 71 per cent Muslim voters, SP
and BSP together secured 128,229 votes, whereas the BJP candidate polled
102,244. Muslim independents claimed other 11,000 votes.
The importance of this trend toward
consolidation of Hindu votes cannot be overstated. Islam has distorted our
democracy with its vote banks. No other democracy in the world has such a
sizeable minority determined to vote tactically with the sole aim of thwarting
the majority community. The care and concern of political parties for Muslim
vote banks has led them to divisive and anti-national policies.
Now the wheel seems to have turned a
full circle. Hindus are realising that they can capture the Indian state if
only they stand together, even as Muslims are realising that they have been
used by secularist parties to gain power. As this twin realisation sinks in,
Hindus could not be taken for granted whereas Muslims could not be scared into
voting in a particular way. All this is happening at a time when a very large
part of the population cutting across all barriers is tired of identity
politics and yearning for good governance and economic opportunities. This will
bring about a much needed balance and sanity in our polity. A Ram Vilas Paswan,
for instance, will no longer dare to campaign with an Osama bin Laden
look-alike in tow.
Hindus facing increasing heat of Islamism
and church machinations, as in West Bengal and Kerala, can take heart from the
UP election results. All is not lost for them yet, if only they realise what is
at stake and make the right choices.
The road to balance and sanity will not
be smooth. Secularist parties, long used to garner votes by invoking identities
and fear-mongering, will be loath to adapt to the new rules of the game.
Muslims, feeling cheated by Hindu politicians, may fall for exclusively and
overtly Muslim outfits floated by the likes of Owaisis and Ajmals. With that we
may see a determined push towards greater polarisation in the coming years.
However, Muslim outfits will risk marginalisation if they adopt aggressive
anti-Hindu postures which will be supported neither by secularist parties
fearing Hindu backlash nor by Muslims who are realising what it means for them.
As can only be expected, secularists
may deny of demonise the Hindu assertion implicit in the Uttar Pradesh assembly
elections. But the genie seems to be finally out of the bottle. Whatever the
name given to them, what needs to be emphasised is that forces released by that
election are benign and positive for the country, and our polity will not know
rest till these forces finally prevail.
Quite a few Hindu nationalists are
dissatisfied with Narendra Modi for neglecting Hindu issues such as freeing
temples from government interference and Hindu educational institutions from
discrimination. They should also give him the huge credit he has earned by
breaking up the power and awe of the Muslim vote bank.
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