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. – Punarvasu Parekh
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, campaign in the recent assembly elections saw a fierce tussle between the SP and BSP 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 burquas held key to the power in the most populous state in the country. In stark contrast, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate. Its poll plank was inclusive development, epitomized 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 explanation.
On a closer look, however, both the explanations appear to be erroneous. While individual votes cannot be traced, voting pattern 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 BJP candidate polled 102,244. Muslim independents claimed other 11,000 votes.
The importance of this recent 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 realization 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 election results in Uttar Pradesh. All is not lost for them yet, if only they realize 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, will be loath to adapt to 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 polarization in the coming years. However, Muslim outfits will risk marginalization if they adopt aggressive anti-Hindu postures which will be supported neither by secularist parties fearing Hindu backlash nor by Muslims who are realizing what it means for them.
As can only be expected, secularists may deny of demonize 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 emphasized 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 the 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, and Modi should reciprocate by addressing Hindu concerns..