Battle of 2014: ‘Operation Muslim Vote Bank’
With Narendra Modi’s elevation as the potential PM candidate of the BJP, the battle line for 2014 polls was drawn on communal vs secular plank. The Congress took the lead in cornering Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots and his so-called “anti-Muslim” posture. Other regional parties also see this situation as an opportunity to consolidate the voters.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, a vocal critic of Narendra Modi for various political reasons, was the first to raise the issue in a grand manner, as he not only made his party JD(U) withdraw from the BJP-led NDA, but also dumped the saffron party in Bihar, ending the 17-year-old association at the Centre and nine-year-long relationship in the state. Nitish and his leaders are busy in convincing the Muslim voters that they are their real saviours and can save them from a “demon” called Modi. The ultimate goal of the JD(U) to polarise the Muslim voters in their favour, leaving little chance for Lalu Yadav’s RJD, who share a good rapport with the minorities for vociferous anti-BJP stand.
In Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav have launched all-out offensive to woo the Muslims. They recently defied the law to set many criminals and terrorists from the minority community free. They define terrorism and crime on religious basis, which is the biggest irony of this country.
Recently, Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh, banned the VHP’s proposed “chaurasi kosi parikrama” in Ayodhya, but announced 20 per cent share for minorities in all welfare schemes on the same day. The message is loud and clear. And, the crackdown on IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal for allegedly demolishing the illegal wall of a mosque, can be seen as an attempt to consolidate the minority vote bank.
The Congress Party finds it very difficult to convince the Muslims that it can improve their living conditions, as it could do little in the past 65 years for the deprived sections of the minority community. However, they have just one-point agenda – to leave little option for the Muslims but to vote for the Congress where the battle is direct between the grand old party and BJP led by Narendra Modi.
Many other political parties such as Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, Telugu Desham Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha are reluctant to ally with the BJP under Modi’s leadership because of vote bank politics. They are worried about their Muslim voters if they take that plunge. And, Subramanian Swamy’s earlier comment that he wanted the BJP create a divide between the Shias and Sunnis and rule, is not yet forgotten.
On the other hand, Narendra Modi has claimed that BJP gets at least 25% Muslim votes in Gujarat and the same can be replicated elsewhere in the country. The way he is winning the polls in Gujarat, gives credence to his claims although the Congress and others have dismissed it. We should not forget the fact that BJP’s Muslim candidates did exceptionally well in the ULB polls in Gujarat. As many as 100-odd Muslim councilors had won in Gujarat local body elections on BJP tickets.
That shows the acceptability of Narendra Modi in a state that witnessed the worst kind of riots in 2002 and is still used as an example to corner Modi and BJP across the country. However, in a desperate bid to woo the Muslims, BJP is reportedly planning a vision document for the minorities, which will come up very soon.
Whatever the political parties, Muslim intellectuals refuse to believe that a ‘Muslim Vote Bank’ exists in the country. They rubbish the theory and claim that Muslims vote for all political parties depending on the circumstances and local factors instead of showing loyalty to any particular party, as they are well aware of the goals and intention of the political fraternity irrespective of the party affiliation.