Naushad Ansari for BeyondHeadlines
After two phases of Bihar voting, the NDA is finding itself in choppy waters. The Hindustan Times, a leading English daily of Patna, reports that an internal assessment by the BJP has the party worried about its prospects in the crucial Bihar election with two phases of polling out of the way. (H.T., Oct. 18) In phase – 1, the BJP was expecting a difficult battle in JD (U) strongholds. But a seat-by-seat analysis suggests the party fared worse than expected with the Grand Alliance firmly in the lead. The phase – 2 was considered Majhi’s stronghold, but report suggests that the BJP faces a tight race even there. Alarmed by this report the BJP has completely changed its strategy, starting with replacing hoardings and banners with the pictures of the PM and Amit Shah with local leaders.
Using a different card the PM, at a public meeting in Buxar on October 26, alleged that the Grand Alliance is plotting to deprive SCs, STs and OBCs of their job quota and give it to ‘a particular community’. Unveiling a new strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi further stated that ‘this son (himself) of a poor EBC tea-seller will put his life on the line to protect your job quota’. Rebutting this Chief Minister Nitish Kumar accused Prime Minister of changing his caste profile to suit BJP’s electoral needs. “From a development driver, he became OBC and now he is calling himself an EBC. We don’t know if Gujarat has EBCs. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a Dalit also in course of polls,” Kumar added.
On the other hand Muslim named leaders of the BJP are campaigning in Muslim localities on war footing. They are appealing, through personal contacts and also using Urdu dailies, to come out of the vote bank era and to vote for the BJP. They are trying to convince that Muslims have equitable share in the development and are quite safe in Gujarat, and that India had thousands of communal riots and why should one remember only 2002 Gujarat riot!
But there are few takers of such statements and appeals and it will hardly affect a single secular-justice-loving voter, Muslim or non-Muslim. Today the voters know the clear line of demarcation between secularism and communalism, between Hinduism and Hindutva. They will never betray the country’s ethos of communal harmony. They are aware that the secular parties are, more or less, governed by the Constitution. But for the communalists, Gujarat pogrom is what the Muslims deserved; Babri Masjid demolition is moral and a matter of belief; no democratic rights but majoritarianism, law or no law. The PM’s long time silence on lynching incidents is very fresh in their mind. They can foresee major changes in the Constitution suiting to the whims of the parivar.
The BJP leadership shed tears on how powerless the Muslims have been treated as mere vote banks by the secular parties. But the same party opposes implementation of Prime Minister’s 15 points program on the development of Muslims. Even the government of Gujarat has challenged the legality of ‘Sachar Committee’ report. This confirms that they have no real interest in the welfare of Muslims. Indeed, the scale of killings, rapes, physical loss and property destruction in Gujarat pogrom was so huge, in terms of time and geographical spread, that this could never have been occurred without the collusion of the Government machinery.
As for the development, the CAG reports and data on economic and social development from various sources make it evident that the much-touted “Gujarat model” of development is non-inclusive, socially divisive and highly ineffective in key areas.
Representations made to Sachar committee reveal what issues the Muslims think are important to them. For no other state, security was such an important issue as Muslims of Gujarat, they ranked it as their third most important issue while the all India level this issues was placed fifth out of the nine categories. Again, poverty incidence is 34 for Muslims of Gujarat residing in urban areas, which is better than many states but almost double the state (Gujarat) average of 18.
Unfortunately, by stages, the communal extremist forces have come to challenge the very fabric of secularism. The Bihar election shall be a test of the political maturity and wisdom of the people of Bihar.
(Author is a President of Peace Foundation, Patna)