Muslim-Phobia Still Works for Modi
Gujarat Assembly Polls 2012
There are indications that Muslims have started voting for the BJP in Gujarat.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani in Ahmedabad
Narendra Modi has retained his seat in Gandhinagar, but success in his march to the PM’s seat is uncertain. His victory in Gujarat 2012 elections was a foregone conclusion. The simple reason being that he succeeded in reinforcing the fear psyche of Hindus through shrewd manipulation of a lot of issues.
Though Modi has never openly declared his ambition to be the prime minister, with victory for the third consecutive term, he will be increasingly seen as angling to lead the BJP into the 2014 national elections. But many in the BJP itself would remain wary of Modi, fearing that his rise would make the prospects bleak for many an aspirant of the prime ministerial chair.
Modi has thrived on Muslim-phobia since his rise. The 2012 elections was no exception. Though he has mellowed down considerably, he minced no words in painting his adversaries as ‘Muslim appeasers’. He was all through seen robed in saffron attire, a reminder to the majority that he was their biggest defender. The reference to Ahmed ‘Miyan’ Patel and the allegation that the Congress was keeping its plan to install Ahmed Patel, a secret came to be played with gusto. Though he himself refrained from repeating it in every rally, the task was transferred to BJP foot soldiers.
Another strategy was to paint anybody who challenges Modi’s development claims as ‘anti-Gujarat’ or ‘anti-national’ (including Keshubhai Patel) and the ever so subtle blowing of the conch of the myths in every advert. The not-so-subtle messages had always been there – refusing to don the symbolic skull cap on the Sadbhavana stage and not fielding a single Muslim candidate in any of the 182 assembly seats. Finally, the non-existent Sir Creek issue was pulled out to daub the Congress-led Union government in anti-patriotic light.
Analysis of the election outcome shows that Muslims, particularly rich and educated ones, have voted in favour of the BJP. One has to admit that after the 2002 mayhem, there have been no serious communal clashes in the state, nor curfew even for a day. These factors do have appeal with the wealthy and the business class Muslims.
The BJP has backed its claim by showcasing the fact that it won 24 constituencies which have more than 15% Muslim voters this time. That’s a gain of six seats since 2007 election, when they had won 18. The Congress, however, has rejected this claim. Modi was criticized for not giving a single ticket to Muslims this time, and yet his party snatched five Muslim-dominated seats which used to be with the Congress.
There were seven new seats with more than 15% Muslim population after the latest delimitation. Of these, BJP won five, while two went to the Congress. The BJP leaders claim Muslims have voted for the BJP even in Ahmedabad’s Muslim ghettos. The Vejalpur seat, which has 90,000 Muslim voters in Juhapura and Sarkhej localities, saw the BJP candidate registering his win by 40,000 votes.
Sufi Mehboob, the head of the BJP’s minority said, “Looking at the margin of victory on such seats, we believe that up to 40% Muslims voted for us.”
The BJP won four of the five seats with sizeable Muslim voters in Bharuch region. “We have bagged 22 of the 30 seats. This is an indication that Muslims seem to have reconciled with the BJP.” Moreover, Ahmed Patel, political adviser to Ms. Sonia Gandhi could not able to muster win even on his home turf—Bharuch district where all five seats went to BJP. Some even hold Ahmed Patel for blunder in selection of Congress candidates in the state.
The BJP performed well in most seats with a high Muslim population. Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, cleric and former Darul Uloom Deoband Muhtamim, who lost his position last year because of his endorsement of Narendra Modi’s development plank, now says Muslims may have voted for the BJP but that was because they knew the Congress would lose rather than their belief in Modi’s development agenda.
The BJP, he feels, did shrewd electoral management by fielding dummy Muslim candidates in Assembly constituencies with a substantial Muslim presence, dividing the community’s votes.
Uzma memon, a medical student in Baroda says, “Under Modi rule, the State has not witnessed a day’s curfew as no communal clashes have taken place after the 2002 riots.