The election results in 5 states, where the BJP managed to come to power in 4 and the Congress in 1 could well be an indicator of voter fatigue with regional parties and their appeal on narrow regional, caste, and parochial lines and a precursor to the emergence of a pan Indian Virat Hindu/liberal Hindu identity.
The standard formula of regional parties and even the Congress, perfected over several years has been to divide the Hindu vote on the basis of caste fault lines and consolidate the minority vote-bank by playing up the narrative of Hindu/majority domination.
This twin strategy of “divide the majority” and “appease the minority” has worked successfully for the better part of seven decades since independence. Essentially, this formula worked by pushing an egregious form of secularism where the minorities (read Muslims) where handed out sops in the form of grants, permission to establish and run madrassas, cash handouts etc. to ensure they would vote en-bloc during elections, while the Hindu votes were fragmented and scattered along caste lines – in this formula development was never on the agenda, the goal was only to grab power. The Muslims remained poor and indebted to the doles being handed out and the Hindus disgruntled and divided.
However, the first signs of fissures in this strategy have started appearing and it looks like they will only widen further. In this article we examine three key reasons for this paradigm shift in Indian polity and the emergence of a pan-Indian Hindu identity and ethos:
- Consolidation of the Hindu vote: This has been happening steadily over the last decade and it is only now that it has started to reach the “tipping point” where the numbers are starting to matter. The Hindus have started to realize that if they do not bury their differences and get together they would have very little say in the politics of emerging India. The recent results in UP were a clear case of Hindu consolidation in response to blatant Muslim appeasement by the BSP and SP. The BSP fielded 99 Muslim candidates and the SP 59 hoping to woo the Muslim vote-bank monolith. The fact that the BJP won a landslide despite not fielding a single Muslim candidate even in some constituencies where Muslims form 30% of the population (which is more than the overall UP average of 20%) is a clear indicator of Hindu consolidation that blurred even the caste fault lines. The BJPs victory in Deoband with a 65% Muslim majority cannot be attributed to anything other than complete Hindu consolidation and fragmentation of the Muslim vote across SP and BSP. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, emergence of a strong Islamist ideology in Muzaffarnagar and nearby Deoband, and the forced exodus of Hindus from Muslim-majority Kairana have all contributed to Hindu consolidation. It is important to realize that this is not restricted to UP alone and is in fact a pan-India trend. Mamata Bannerji’s brand of communal politics that even sought to brush aside the Dhulagarh riots where Muslim mobs targeted Hindu homes and business establishments has led to Hindu consolidation across the East of India as is evident from the recent election results in Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. Even in West Bengal, the BJP’s vote percentage has steadily risen and one should expect it to reach tipping point soon if Mamata continues her brand of appeasement politics. We are seeing the same emerging in Kerala as well where for long the communists and Congress have shared the spoils between them but are now facing an emerging and strong Hindu backlash after years of minority appeasement and favoritism.
- Blurring of Caste lines amongst Hindus: Rapid urbanization, the steady flattening of economic disparities, social welfare schemes and empowerment that have ensured representation of the so called lower castes across the political spectrum has seen a steady rise in the economic, cultural, social, and political status of the once deprived classes. This has also coincided with a realization even amongst these social classes that their interests are best served by aligning themselves with the majority and also with parties that promise even-handed development for all as opposed to doles and handouts on narrow, sectarian lines. Further, the realization has dawned that the Hindus affected in Dulagarh, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar and in several other places have been those belonging to the lowest strata of society and not a single so called secular party has come to their rescue or even made perfunctory noises of support.
- Disaffection amongst sections of Muslim population: Sections of the Muslims have clearly decided that it is time for them to shun the appeasement politics practiced by the so called secular parties who while handing out doles have ensured that the Muslim population of India remains the most backward in terms of education, economic, and social development. Three clear trends are emerging here:
- Sections of the educated Muslims who have seen through the “secular” argument are leading the integration of the community into the mainstream.
- Those who are alarmed at the radicalization of Muslim youth influenced by Jihadi rhetoric and ISIS ideology are also lending voice to the change that is taking place.
- The Muslim women, for long subjugated by their menfolk and mullahs are emerging out of their veils asking for justice, equality, and abolishment of regressive practices like triple Talaq.
There are clear indications that in UP large sections of Muslim women did indeed vote for the BJP defying diktats from people within their own community.
These three trends clearly point towards an alignment of the Hindu community in India along two distinct lines – those who are “right-of-center” and those who are “center-right” the latter could be termed the “liberal-right” who were formerly aligned with the “secular-left” but have made the shift in recent times.
This trend will clearly mean that regional parties will have little say in the emerging India. Parties like AAP which base their survival on a narrow BJP-hate strategy will also be brushed aside as was evident in their rout in Goa and Punjab. The only other party that can offer resistance to the BJP is the Congress party. This is because despite their recent flop shows and consistent failures, the Congress is the only other party that can be called a party with a truly pan-Indian presence besides the BJP. However, for the Congress to be relevant they have to reinvent themselves and change their outlook towards the Hindu majority and shun their minority appeasement and work towards the politics of inclusion and true equality.
If this happens we will be looking at a true 2-party “Virat Hindu” “Liberal Hindu” polity that will usher in the much needed balance in the politics of new India.
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