Battle for States: Is It Really Advantage BJP? What’s the Road Ahead For Congress?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures as he arrives to address the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers meeting in Guwahati, Assam, November 30, 2014. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah/Files
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures as he arrives to address the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers meeting in Guwahati, Assam, November 30, 2014. REUTERS/UTPAL BARUAH/FILES

The media and political parties often talk of Muslims being used as a vote bank. But the truth is that Muslims have not been able to become a vote bank. Banks are hard bargainers and are almost always are on the gaining side. Muslims have always given their votes in charity without extracting anything in return. They will have to devise a strategy through which they become hard bargainers

DR JAVED JAMIL | Caravan Daily

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]pparently the results in the latest Assembly elections in five states appear to be a cause of big jubilation for the votaries of BJP and of utter disappointment for the Congress supporters.  The truth however is that it can neither be regarded a big victory for BJP nor a big defeat for Congress.  While it is true that BJP has got Assam and Congress has lost Assam and Kerala, BJP’s claim of the elections proving to be another step in the direction of “Congress-Mukt Bharat” is nothing but a preposterous claim aimed at self-appeasement. See the following facts:

  • In Assam, Congress vote share was 31 percent BJP vote share 29.5 percent. BJP won only because it had alliance partners while Congress did not.
  • In Kerala, Congress got vote share of 23.7 percent. BJP got 10.5 percent
  • In Tamil Nadu Congress had 6.4 percent vote share; BJP much less
  • In West Bengal, Congress got 12.3 percent votes, while BJP got 10.2 percent
  • In Pondicherry, Congress won 30.6 percent votes; BJP again nowhere
  • In Assam, Congress won 26 seats, BJP 86,
  • In Pondicherry, Congress won 15 seats, BJP none
  • In West Bengal, Congress won 44 seats, BJP got 3
  • In Tamil Nadu, Congress won eight seats, BJP none
  • In Kerala, Congress won 22 seats and BJP one

The above facts testify that compared to BJP the vote share of Congress has been higher in every single state including Assam. It is in fact substantially higher in all the other states. This also means that Congress won 115 in all while BJP won 90 out of which 86 in Assam alone. If Congress had formed an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s party the way BJP formed with AGP and Bodoland Peoples’ Front, BJP could not perhaps have got even the half of the seats it did.

BJP’s euphoria is therefore totally unwarranted and its dream of “Congress-Mukt” Bharat is not going to be realized in near future. Moreover, it is not to be forgotten that BJP is in power at the centre and if even despite that it has not been able to make a significant mark in 4 out of 5 states, it has no reason to celebrate. BJP also needs to understand that if it performed well in Assam, one of the significant factors is that BJP made a conscious effort not to allow its communal agenda to dominate the elections. It also gave some tickets to Muslims.

Ideally it should have allotted at least 40 tickets to Muslims but even if it gave 8 tickets, it signals a positive change. This brought some Muslim votes to its bag, and 2 of them won. If it can do something to attract Muslim votes, it would augur well for BJP as well as the country. But this can only be hoped if BJP gives up its hate-Muslim agenda, overt or covert, forever.

Congress needs not be disappointed. But it will have to take some big decisions immediately. First of all, it has to handover the command to Rahul Gandhi, and he should be given a free hand in choosing his stalwarts. He has been successful in last one year in posing a stiff challenge to BJP Government, both inside and outside Parliament. He has been on the forefront in raising the issues related to the deprived sections including farmers.

Through Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya issues, he has also been successful in carving a place for himself in certain sections of students’ community. On the economic front, he seems to be taking a line different from the previous Congress governments, and sounds much more people-friendly rather than corporate-friendly. If rather than taking BJP on its communal agenda, he concentrates on the economic agenda, this will bring BJP on the backfoot, and its communal agenda will backfire.

Congress has to understand that without the solid support of Muslims, it cannot hope to revive the fortunes of his party in a big way. And the Muslim support will not come just on the plank of “Secularism”. Muslims are economically and socially backward, and their backwardness has to be addressed through aggressive and practical rather than lackluster cosmic support. Before the last Lok Sabha elections, this writer had presented a Muslim agenda for the elections, and one of the measures demanded was that each party must allot at least 15 percent tickets to Muslims. The demand seems to be picking up.

In Bengal as well as Assam, the number of successful Muslim candidates on the Congress ticket nears around 30 percent.  Congress has to make the same happen in Uttar Pradesh. It should allot at least 20 percent tickets to Muslims, and if it takes this decision right now, this step alone will provide it an excellent opportunity to galvanise itself. If it enters into alliance with a major party like BSP, the challenge of BJP can be easily overcome.

Muslim political parties and leaders too have to learn their lessons. In India, the future of any Muslim political party will remain uncertain unless it forms a long term alliance with any other major secular party. Going alone will only lead to their extinction. They also have to learn that while they must not hesitate in campaigning for Muslim rights, they must also address common issues. During the election campaign in particular, they must avoid community issues.

The media and political parties often talk of Muslims being used as Vote Banks, but the truth is that Muslims have not been able to become vote banks. Banks are hard bargainers and are almost always are on the gaining side. Muslims have always given their votes in charity without extracting anything in return. They will have to devise a strategy through which they become hard bargainers.

All said and done, the latest results will herald changes in the tactics of almost all the political parties. Ultimately, it is the ability to capture peoples’ imagination and to consolidate votes that matter.

 

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