Understanding BJP’s victory: Critical questions, electorate response and the way forward

By Md. Aariz Imam

The reconciliatory efforts by the country’s largest minority should focus on establishing a SHURA, a council of visionaries on the lines of a think tank

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Ravish Kumar’s piece – Have I also lost? – is insightful and heart touching but fails to call out in unequivocal terms that the elections were won on anti-Muslim hate propaganda. He has said everything but stopped short of openly articulating the consolidation of Hindu majority. At a time when the electorate has given such a resounding verdict, it is important to keep a tab on every such beating around the bush by liberal voices. This hate project cannot and should not be normalized even if it succeeds in capturing all the seats in assemblies and parliament.

In an environment of utter chaos before we proceed to respond we must try to identify the varied voices and devise means to constructively engage with people across communities.

When it comes to politics based on some of the more standard response citizens can be categorized in one of the five categories.

The arrogant citizen, who after having attained a substantial financial security believes politics doesn’t affect his life, and he is the master of his own destiny. That whatever opportunity he explored and fortune he amassed were of his own accord. A common refrain among such people is that they don’t care about politics. So, what if the scholarships and subsidies they enjoyed in their way up were secured after a long drawn political struggle.

The disillusioned citizen, whose disappointment is evident when he says that all parties care only about their own benefits and hence it no more matters to him who wins or loses. These people disenchanted with politics have either been witness to or were passed the stories from their elders about the political struggle that failed to change the status quo in their life.

The third category of citizen is one who is filled with hatred for fellow citizens, from other caste, region & mostly from other faith.  Such people want a particular party and ideology to win only because they see it as dominating their perceived enemy. It is to mention that all along while they participate in electoral battle to defeat the other, deep within they believe that politics would not bring about any positive change in their own life. These are the proverbial hate mongers, the hate peddlers and foot soldiers of divisive politics. If you speak to them about politics, they are always up defeating someone.

Then comes the fun driven or rather fun deprived curious citizen. Hailing from a fat middle class that considers itself apolitical, slogs day and night for a modest living and has its concerns limited within the four walls of his house. For such people it is me, my family, my job and my fitness that is the alpha and the omega of their existence. A life forever in stress with no time for leisure or pursuing any hobby, leaves them with only the television and WhatsApp forwards to divert their agony and derive fun after a day’s work. A habit which overtime makes them more curious about the developments around rather than sensitive. Their curiosity about politics is as good about IPL or climate change. Their best political articulation is the half-wit jokes and memes they relentlessly forward. Their best political engagement is watching prime time cockfight. Seek their response and they will parrot whatever they have last read or seen.

The fifth category based on the standard political response is of the concerned citizen. Itself a minority in the world’s largest democracy, yet a true believer in the power of people’s choice. Irrespective of their political affiliations and ideological underpinnings these people believe that its politics that decides their everyday life and hence as concerned citizens they must stake claim in how it should be.

After having identified the broad categories in which the electorate falls, the dialogue should commence. People should be initiated into the discussion with questions that challenge the establishment narrative.

They should be asked,

If the mandate is for development, then where was it?

 If the mandate was against dynasty, then where was the rage against other sources of privilege like caste, class, race, faith, region, reference, recommendation, source, contact, inheritance, patronage etc.?

The electorate of India is smarter than the party it votes for. BJP for its honesty during its entire campaign not once uttered even the “d” of development and carried out a full throttle campaign centered around its polarization agenda. Five years of dog whistle politics had prepared its voter to receive direct messaging. It was the voter who covered it with the robe of development and national security, thereby hiding his own communalism. Howsoever one may believe that the polarization took place because of the top down dissemination of propaganda, the fact is BJP only articulated what was always there in the subconscious of the fence sitters, the critical mass apart from its loyal base that helped it secure this massive mandate.

If at all one was to concede that the elections were held fair and square and it wasn’t credit EVM, one must unequivocally admit that it was the widespread hate against the Muslim community that manifested itself through a variety of robes. People from within the community trying to dissociate Muslims from the opposition’s loss claiming it wasn’t their fight to lose must take note of this.

The accusation of propagating dynasty on Congress as well as other regional satraps was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims, because the community remained loyal to them.

 The attack on regional parties fighting for social justice carried out in the name of caste was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims, because the community remained loyal to them.

 The daily reinforcement about Pakistan fed to public memory done in the name of advertisement of the imagined, actual and fabricated national security threat, was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims because the community shares faith with the neighbour.

The extremely waste hawkish approach in dealing with Kashmir, was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims because the community shares its faith with the border state.

 The very project of Hindu revivalism encompassing a range of start ups like ghar wapasi, love jihad, gau raksha, massive Ram Navmi and Ganesh Chaturthi processions was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims because the community was at the receiving end.

 The rewriting of historical facts about medieval Muslim rulers was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims because it held currency in contemporary times.

 The opposition of Gandhi, and honors to Savarkar, Patel and Godse was the veil that concealed the hate for Muslims because the Mahatma died fighting for Muslims which the later envied.

 Done with questioning the majority community, the Muslims need to be told that neither it’s a moment of despair- the rise of the far right, a matter of relief- the election of over two dozen Muslim MP’s, and nor a moment to be laid back. The fear that a majoritarian government in the country would soon declare the country a Hindu Rashtra is too farfetched and out of question. Having secured all key constitutional posts and having occupied all state institutions the proverbial Hindu Rashtra is here and now and flourishing by the day without any constitutional amendment whatsoever. As Christophe Jaffrelot says in his Indian Express column the country has taken one more step towards invention of a de facto ethnic democracy; the like of Israel. The new government at the center would be well served with advice not to further adventure with the constitution lest it disrobes its credentials of being the largest secular democracy in the world.

The fear if at all exist are from crony capitalist lobby that could have asked for no further consolidation of power. Under the circumstances the only edifice that faces a more serious and imminent threat is the country’s economy, it’s natural resources land, forest and minerals. Besides the hard state’s political brinksmanship in Kashmir and North East would cause heightened hostility and raise a question on the country’s sovereignty. The issue of Article 35-A, Article 370 and NRC would fuel secessionist forces and would push the country into yet unchartered waters.

As for Muslim India lost in the translation, a full grown, developed and flourishing community can only afford multiplicity of political views. Muslims hanging on to the margins are nowhere in a position to avail such luxury. In its public exclamation the biggest problem community faces is lack of a consistent, coherent and compelling political outlook, which is accepted and followed by all. The importance of it was for everybody to see when in the run up to the general elections, an array of conflicting, diverging and seemingly amateurish political opinions filled the community’s thought sphere and is visible now when the community is at a loss of consistent and coherent response.  In times of political oppression, it’s important that a united voice is raised against oppressors. Diversity of opinion is acceptable and should be encouraged at all times. But, when it is a fight for survival, care must be taken so that it doesn’t hamper the larger cause.

On the questions of raising a united voice, it’s getting all the more important to establish a Shura or a council of visionaries to chalk out a strategy. As only a committee acting on the lines of a think tank, can help in formulating a coherent and consistent message that resonates with the masses, leaving no room for confusion and ambiguity, in such times of political upheaval. A Shura with a pan India presence, and active members in local areas to relay its message, is the need of the hour.

Md Aariz Imam is a freelancer, currently residing in Oman, contributing for citizen journalism portals reflecting on the contemporary issues from a subaltern’s point of view.