Safi Jannaty | Caravan Daily
COME elections time In India, parties try different means to woo voters for winning the mandate to rule India, some fair while others not so fair. Money power, clout, influence, sectarian politics, and hooliganism play significant role in different forms and disguise. Intensity of these tactics and features differ from election to election, party to party, region to region and constituency to constituency.
All these notwithstanding, more or less, governments both at the center and States level have been elected by and large in a democratic manner. Barring a few sporadic cases, results of elections have not been questioned nor were there calls for a repeat of elections. We have even seen the change of guard at times when the party in power seemed very powerful and invincible. The rout of the Congress in 1977 defied the confidence of Indira Gandhi as the voters punished the party and its leader for imposing emergency on the nation in 1975.
Unfortunately, post-Babri Masjid demolition, sectarian politics crept heavily into Indian politics and started to affect polls and election campaigns. The 2002 elections for the State Assembly in Gujarat after the carnage marked the first successful attempt to win elections on communal lines. Since then, polarisation gained a stranglehold position which remains to be decimated and eliminated from Indian polity.
After gaining control of most of the print media and TV channels through their associates who have vested interest in the economy of India, the huge money power at the disposal of the party has been deployed now to dominate the social media sphere as well. The IT cell of the party is working overtime to further the interests of BJP and is employing different dirty tricks and ugly manoeuvers.
Individuals and groups on WhatsApp have recently been flooded with a video clip purported to have been created by a group of Muslims exhorting Muslim voters to exercise their franchise in a way to defeat the BJP candidates throughout the country. The dexterity and ingenuity with which the video clip has been designed made few to doubt its veracity and objective. The fake clip has caught millions of unsuspecting and gullible individuals unaware who have faithfully peddled the message embedded in it.
Syed Khalid Saifullah of Raylab Technologies who had earlier initiated a massive drive to register millions of missing voters through a mobile App ‘Missing Voters’ and who has a rich repertoire of demographic data, missing voters, voting patterns and vote share of different parties collected from different governmental and other authentic sources for ascertaining the missing voters data analyzed thoroughly the figures provided in the fake video clip.
Racing against time, Syed Khalid quickly released another video clip to counter the data given and to alert the naïve and gullible people about the devilry behind the campaign. Besides emphatically dismissing information about census dates and figures related to Muslim population in India, he conclusively asserted that the total Muslim voters do not exceed 12.9 Crore even if over 2.5 crore missing Muslim voters are assumed as registered compared to the figure of 15.42 Crore claimed in the fake clip.
He did bust another assertion that the number of voters who would be expected to vote for BJP in this election is 15.02 Crore. Based on the exact figure of 17.1 crore voters who had voted for BJP in 2014 and making a room for a fall of even 20%, he contended that BJP could expect to get 13.7 Crore votes and hence the equation would still be in favor of BJP, namely 13.7 Crore Vs. 12.9 Crore.
Of course, if the fall in the vote share of BJP were not to be as sharp as 20%, the gap between the Muslim voters and the BJP voters would be very high, thus totally demolishing the objective of the fake clip. The video points and refers to one website www.indianmuslimvoter.com which lists a host of rich data and statistics to let it sound authentic and genuine.
Although the website has just been created two weeks ago, it has a very long and well-structured Q & A section related to Islamic topics. All of the issues have just been copied in their totality from one portal www.islamqa.info. As the element of fear seems to be overpowering the senses, very few people questioned the relationship between elections and dissemination of information on issues of faith and practice through the portal.
In short, the sinister design behind this insidious ploy is straight and simple. It is actually aimed to target the majority community in alarming them of the unity being forged among the voters of the Muslim communities to defeat BJP and inciting them to join hands to vote for BJP as the party would then be their saviour.
The open call by Adityanath Yogi to Hindus to vote for BJP in response to Mayawati’s attempts in garnering the Muslim votes is clear evidence of this tactical manoeuver. The very first clip of the video which urges the receiver to spread the message across his or her contacts and groups reflects the treacherous urgency to instill fear in the minds of different communities.
As the BJP is going to the electorate with an empty hand insofar as the promises it had made in 2014 elections are concerned, it has laid its bet around two core issues, viz. terrorism and communalism. Its manifesto which has been released just four days ahead of the first phase of polls says it all. It has woven a very strong narrative around national security and armed forces.
The Pulwama tragedy which resulted in the killing of 40 soldiers of the paramilitary forces in a suicide bomb attack last February and the airstrikes by the Indian Air Force on the alleged hideouts of terrorists inside Pakistan to avenge the killing gave this narrative the required thrust. After the Balakot air strike, speeches and statements of BJP leaders are fully laced with this narrative and they are leaving no stone unturned to extract political capital out of it.
In the face of its total failure to deliver on the economic front, the party is screaming atop its voice about national security and laying a claim that it could only protect the nation from terrorists. No one would question them as to how the touted demonetization, president’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir and two excessively talked about surgical strikes failed to curb terrorism and terrorist activities in the country, though the fact of the matter is that besides Pulwama, Uri and Pathankot incidents, no major terror attack has occurred in India after the Mumbai attacks of November, 2008.
The loose talk about the possibility of attack by Pakistan directly or through proxies is as preposterous and ridiculous as their claim of development and growth. The warmongers forget the fact that the Western neighbor of India is reeling under great economic crisis and whose GDP growth is the lowest among the SAARC nations. With mere two and half percent GDP growth projections and stopping of aid by the US, it just cannot afford any misadventure against India. It is misery as well as a mystery that India failed to prevail decisively over Pakistan and allowed its media and the foreign media to ridicule the efficacy of India’s air strikes.
Secondly, the most concerning and alarming part is the continued attempts by the Saffron brigade to polarise communities across the nation. Again, despite a clear ruling by Supreme Court banning the use of religion or religious issues for seeking votes, BJP has blatantly placed the promise of building Ayodhya Mandir and protecting traditions associated with Sabarimala temple in its communally skewed manifesto.
Very predictably, communal bias marks the speeches of its leaders and the party has unleashed monks of hate like Yogi Adityanath and Amit Shah to make the atmosphere toxic and communally charged. Even the esteemed position of prime minister did not deter Narender Modi in using the religious card to mock Rahul Gandhi in selecting Wayanad constituency for having a sizeable minority voters.
Obviously, Rahul Gandhi was not his ultimate target. He was just extracting pleasure to ridicule minorities as that gets him points from the top echelon of RSS and other Hindutva fringes. It is an open secret that he needs their patronage and logistics to win elections and the duo thus complete the cycle of quid pro quo.
Safi Jannaty is Contributing Editor of Caravan Daily. Views are personal