The lonely BJP candidate of UP
The BJP has just one Muslim candidate among its 403 in Uttar Pradesh where there live 37 million Muslims. It is symptomatic of the party's parochial agenda and vote bank politics.
I watched the BJP's spokesperson sporting the familiar self-righteous countenance indignantly trashing Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid's speech at Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh which has set the Ganges on fire. The Election Commission has been doing an outstanding job, so I will refrain from adding my three-bit of prudence on the EC's ire, excepting to say that other than usual electoral campaigning rhetoric that invariably occurs when addressing restless crowds, I did not see an orchestrated, deliberate attempt to undermine the constitutional authority of the EC albeit it may unintentionally have resulted in that consequence.
It seemed like a spontaneous outburst amidst cacophonous wild energy of teeming crowds that made for magnetic sound byte. But anyway, what was not surprising was the immediate collective chorus of the saffron brigade to demand Khurshid's prompt resignation for creating a "constitutional crisis". It was followed by a vociferous condemnation of "communal and vote bank politics". Really? The most flagrant revealing statistic of UP elections 2012 that reveals BJP's communal agenda will leave you flabbergasted. Let me elaborate.
UP would qualify as the fifth most populous country in the world based on its 200 million inhabitants. Larger than Brazil, with approximately 37 million Muslims residing in it (about 19 per cent of UP's denizens), more than in Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Morocco. And yet, there is one glaring revelation; the BJP has found just 1 Muslim candidate suitable for a ticket amongst 403 Vidhan Sabha seats. Isn't that an amazing expression of BJP's "exclusive politics"?
Incidentally, while BSP and SP have fielded 85 Muslim candidates, the Congress has 59. Communalism is not just about cosmetic minority appeasement, it is also about practicing absolute majoritarianism. Does the BJP believe in a multi-cultural, widely -ethnic secular society where political formations need to ensure broad-based representation ? Does it practise principles of fair representation? It is a question that the Sangh Parivaar can best answer.
It is expected that Muslims can significantly impact results in 130 of the 403 Assembly constituencies. After all, they comprise 20 per cent of the electorate in about 70 seats. In some others (roughly 30 seats), that percentage rises to a staggering 30-45 per cent. The Muslim vote has become a manipulative tool, part of caste arithmetic, but to ignore Muslim representation is virtual hara-kiri and sends out a categorical message.
Given BJP's salient communal Hindutva brand of politics, isn't it guilty of playing religious blocks by consolidating Brahmin and Hindu vote banks through dubious manifesto commitments such as a Ram temple at Ayodhya, when that matter is sub-judice as it is in the Supreme Court? Isn't that a clear model code of conduct violation as well, even if shrouded in legal niceties?
Unfortunately BJP has become more orthodox, obscurantist than before when it was actually expected to absorb a modern and flexible approach in its political philosophy in a fast-changing India. If indeed Mr LK Advani and other distinguished members of the saffron faith did not shed bucketful of crocodile tears post the Babri Masjid demolition, then two decades later was a time for atonement. The truth is that the Babri Masjid demolition was an unbridled hideous act of hooliganism done by religious fanatics assiduously masterminded by the Sangh Parivaar that ruptured our social fabric.
The fact that 21 years later, the BJP has only a lone candidate amongst 403 is a manifestation of its continuing anti-minority (essentially defined as Muslim) obsessions, and inability to build bridges with a clear conscience with them. Narendra Modi remains unrepentant, remorseless and unsympathetic despite his commanding negligence over a brutal pogrom under his own surveillance in Y 2002.
Tragically, the frosty, feared but feisty Modi is BJP's trump card which accentuates their problems in assimilating with the disaffected Muslims. Modi magnifies BJP's woes, whatever the legal outcomes of the innumerable investigations against him, he is universally perceived as the perpetrator of the ghastly post-Godhra genocide in Gujarat.
The fact that Modi has now expressed prime ministerial ambitions will propel India soon into taking a moral stand, devoid of amorphous claims and counter-claims. But the BJP's alienation from large sections of India looks comprehensive. In UP elections, the discomfiture of the BJP with the electorate is so apparent.
The Gujarat government's abysmal, repugnant attempts to pressurise the EC was evident in the infamous JM Lyngdoh fracas during Y 2002. Thus, in the light of several damaging circumstances, it seems rather odd that the BJP puts on that sanctimonious mask.
Notwithstanding the EC's severe reprimand of Khurshid's speech, it was actually consistent with the party manifesto and there is universal agreement that socially and economically backward sections of society, irrespective of caste/religion do need state support. Four and a half per cent of reservations for backward Muslims under OBC category of 27 per cent is not inconsistent or illogical with the general recommendations of both the Sachar Committee report and those of Mr Rangananth Mishra commission.
Economic backwardness can only exacerbate identity politics. One can find fault with tone, tenor and timing of Khurshid's election speech, but not with either content or intent of the proposed benefits being espoused.
In any society, minorities and the marginalised sections need a big push through state intervention, politicising the same is both unethical and unbecoming of political parties. Whether there is a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter or not, we need to still empathise with the ordinary people of Azamgarh who see themselves as perpetually suspect, carrying the onerous burden of a social stigma. It is an understandable sentiment.
Therefore political representation (which gives a legitimate public platform for elected representatives) becomes a germane factor, hence, BJP's solitary candidate for the UP elections is reprehensible. In a sense that is ultimately symptomatic of vote-bank politics, as it ignores almost 19 per cent of the state's population amongst its key priorities.
Of course, the secular credentials of Indian democracy will be best reflected when political parties put up candidates not just in large concentrated caste/religious populated constituencies where there is high probability of a victory, but where the winnable proposition is determined by credibility, character and competence of the person standing for elections. Utopian perhaps, but it does not hurt to dream, does it??
More about Sanjay JhaSanjay Jha is a hard-core “Congressi” largely on account of being enchanted by the incredible brilliance of the Gandhi-Nehru mystique, its array of inspirational leaders and the party’s secular ideology. HamaraCongress.com will soon assume a larger platform for like-minded thinkers. Sanjay is a former banker and asset management specialist, who chucked up the monotonous routine of fund management for pursuing more entertaining diversions such as cricket. He has worked with ANZ Grindlays Bank, Bank of America, Alliance Capital, New York and ITC Threadneedle ( a venture of BAT plc) . His venture CricketNext.com is now part of Network 18 media group. Currently, he is Executive Director of the world-famous Dale Carnegie Training, and specialises in leadership development, executive coaching and motivational practices, having delivered talks in India and abroad. Jha has authored 11—A cricket anthology, a collection of poems and writes frequently for mainstream publications, particularly Tehelka. He is an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur, and a post-graduate in economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune University, having graduated with distinction from Fergusson College. Jha is an eternal optimist and believes that only inner-fighting and parochial politics can stop India from realising its true potential. He can be followed on Twitter@JhaSanjay.
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