Long Night of Marginalisation
Mr. Narendra Modi-led BJP’s hat-trick in Gujarat should set us thinking. His third victory—and the BJP’s fourth straight—has come about in a state that is seen as the most industrialized and fast urbanizing (if not already sufficiently urbanized) one. Despite having toned down his Hindutva rhetoric, he remains remorseless about the communal mayhem Gujarat witnessed in February-March 2002 in which his tacit approval is strongly suspected. An indirect apology ‘for past mistakes’ that he recently offered, is more likely to be viewed as part of expedient politics, given his impending foray into the national politics, rather than a genuine regret for the lapses on his part. The consistently impressive, if not landslide, mandate in Gujarat for a party led by him, points to irrelevance of Muslim minority vote in the event of a leader deliberately choosing to build a constituency on the plank of anti-Muslim plank.
Mercifully, few states in India are as bipolar in political terms as it happens in Gujarat today. Multipolarity does indeed provide the Muslims some space in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. But things would not remain static in future. As the pace of industrialization quickens, urbanization too would gain momentum. And economic issues and social equation are not bound to remain in future what they are today. It is in this context that the Gujarat mandate needs to be studied. Muslims would need to change tack and see to it that they are not game to politicians and parties with partisan appeal.
The long night of marginalization for Muslims has failed to end with a fresh mandate for Mr. Modi. Not alone that he has refused to accommodate legitimate aspirations of Muslims, even the BJP’s splinter, Keshubhai’s Gujarat Praivartana Party (GPP) seems similarly resolute in its refusal to even touch them with a barge pole. With Congress’s stock constantly on decline, it is for the community in Gujarat to introspect and find a way out of this political log jam.
In the post-independence decades, it was Muslims who had chosen to remain away from the mainstream. Now Mr. Narendra Modi has shown that if it comes to him, he can alienate them more effectively. By huddling them into Kalupur-Dariapur and Juhapura localities, by denying them access to Central Government’s Minority Scholarship schemes and by raising slogans such as hum panch, hamare pachchis, the siege has graduated up from mere psychological to physical and economic. This is painful for even an average observer, let alone the real sufferers. To a certain extent, the overdrive of identity element had earned the Muslims this unenviable situation for themselves. To boot, Mr. Modi has also shown as to how to precisely cash upon this strategy to garner majority support.
It is time, Muslims visualized the future trends. There should be conscious effort on their part to be seen as part of the common Indian masses and issues to be couched in prevalent socio-economic idiom rather than politico-religious terminology. How best this could be achieved, is something that would need much research and investigation. But the willingness to change the direction must come first.