Of the five state elections now held in India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won two, but among the states his party has won is Uttar Pradesh which is not only more than the other four put together but also where Muslims with 19 percent of population are expected to be critical stakeholders in national politics.
In that state the BJP has won 311 of total 403 seats, as against 47 in the last election. The last time it won a two-third majority in Uttar Pradesh was in 1991 at the height of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement. Is it then the case that Modi’s party won massive majority now by flaunting the flag of Hindutva? Most probably, yes. As against its opponents who thought the Muslims as a group were enough as counter-weight to Hindu vote bank, the BJP did not field any Muslim candidate and won hands down.
That Muslims should not be fielded was Narendra Modi’s lesson that he had learnt by winning in Gujarat where too none of his party’s candidates was Muslim. As Hindutva digs its feet deeper in India’s society, the BJP was bound to win Hindu majority-India. The anti-Muslimism now sells in India, and that is the “new direction” the BJP President Amit Shah talks about. So what a joke that having spent so much time in UP flashing the Hindutva card during his electoral campaign Prime Minister Modi would tweet that he was overjoyed by the “unprecedented support from all sections of society”.
In fact the shoe is on the other foot. Neither the Modi’s demonetization move nor his drive against corruption in Uttar Pradesh won his party the landslide victory; what won it the victory is his party’s anti-Muslim stance – recall the episode of a Muslim butcher of cow being forced-fed the cow dung and their leader’s recurrent Pakistan-bashing during the campaign. And for the first time, there would be no Muslim minister in the upcoming UP government. The end result of the election in Uttar Pradesh is that while the preachers of Hindutva have scored a stellar victory the 50 million Muslims in Uttar Pradesh would have no say whatsoever in running their own affairs. They are in for hard times.
One may hope now that election in Uttar Pradesh – where Pakistan-bashing was one of his frequent calls – is over the Prime Minister Modi may like to mull resuming peace dialogue which broke down last year in the wake of the Uri incident and the Pathankot attack. To his Pakistan-bashing, Pakistan had played cool.
To whatever extent he went in accusing Pakistan of fomenting trouble in Occupied Kashmir or in India, the reaction from Pakistan side was generally low-keyed. Perception here was that shouting louder than usual against traditional adversaries is an accepted part of electioneering, and Narendra Modi couldn’t be an exception. There are going to be a few more state elections in India and it would be damn hard for Prime Minister Modi to resist resorting to anti-Pakistan sloganeering.
If Pakistan-bashing won him victory in Uttar Pradesh, he would employ this weapon in Bengal as well. At the same time given increasing severity of challenges its prot�g� in Kabul is confronted with there is every reason to believe that in times to come the Narendra Modi-led BJP’s anti-Pakistan posturing would be far more explicit and venomous.