Friday, 20 October 2017

BJP Government in UP Doesn’t bode well for poor and democracy

The shocking victory of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with over three fourths of the seats in the assembly elections appears too one sided to be true. Leader of the BJP Narendra Modi has given a slogan ‘With everybody’s support, Development for all.’ However, in the last general elections for the Parliament and in the recently concluded state elections BJP did not put up a single Muslim candidate and neither does it expect the Muslims to vote for it. Muslims constitute 19.3% of UP population. BJP and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) have sent out a clear message that they don’t care for Muslims and can win elections without their support.
            BJP doesn’t represent one fifth of the state population and worse does not want to take any responsibility on their behalf. During India’s partition between India and Pakistan communal violence engulfed the sub-continent and people were thoroughly communalized. The second phase of communalization started in 1992 from the Ram temple movement and has created mental gulf between the Hindu and Muslim communities. In India Muslims were insecure then and are insecure now. This doesn’t portend well for the country. The demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992 has invited the problem of terrorism to India, the first series of bomb blasts taking place immediately after the demolition in early 1993 in Mumbai as a reaction to the incident.
            This is precisely the Gujarat model. Segregate the Hindus and Muslims and then deny the Muslims of their basic rights. In today’s Gujarat Hindus and Muslims can’t live together. Sachar Committee report reveals that the social, economic and educational status of Muslims is only slightly better than dalits. If the national level of poverty is 22.7% then 31% Muslims and 35% SC-ST are poor. 40.7% Muslims fall in the Other Backward Classes category and constitute 15.7% of the OBC population. The condition of Arzals in Muslims is as bad as the Most Backwards Classes.
            A politics which boycotts a section of population is inconsistent with spirit of democracy. Narendra Modi is first Prime Minister of the country who is establishing himself as a leader of the Hindus. The kind of statements he made during the UP election campaign – of more electricity being given on Ramzan than on Diwali, money given for constructing boundary wall of Kabristan but not that of Shamshaan and blaming elements from across the border, implying in Pakistan, being responsible for a train accident near Kanpur which had taken place a while back – have not been made by any PM in the past. When Modi became the PM, the now deceased President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Ashok Singhal claimed that Hindu rule was back in India first time after the Mughal rule. Interestingly he didn’t make this claim when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM because Vajpayee didn’t have a communal image. Narendra Modi is living up to the pompous claim of Ashok Singhal. The idea of PM identifying himself with only one community is also incompatible with democracy.
            Consolidation of Hindu votes by creating a false impression that other political parties have pampered Muslims is a cruel joke with Muslims. The reality is that Muslims are a deprived community in India, most of them self-employed but poor. In many incidents now it is becoming clear that youth from this community are made accused in bomb-blast or terrorist incidents and then acquitted because of lack of evidence after having spent a number of years in jail, completely devastating their lives. Such ploy strengthens the notion among majority community that Muslims are behind all such incidents as the news about their arrests are highlighted but not of their acquittal.
            Irom Sharmila securing merely 90 votes in Manipur is as shocking as BJP’s victory in UP. People in UP have voted Amanmani Tripathi, accused of his wife’s murder and whose both parents are in jail on the murder charge of Madhumita Shukla, and dons Mukhtar Ansari and Raja Bhaiya with a criminal backgrounds as MLAs.
            Hence it is clear that people don’t vote in a rational manner. To win an election it requires money – legal and illegal, organisation and even adopting unethical methods of exploiting the caste and religious sentiments of people even if it may mean creating more friction in society. People may not vote for a candidate like Irom Sharmila who symbolizes simplicity, commitment to high ideals like truth and non-violence and sacrifice but may prefer to vote for criminals who symbolize everything wrong in society.
            Some people harbour the illusion that a BJP government will offer clean governance or will usher in an era of merit.137 candidates of the BJP in UP elections had criminal background. Every one in four BJP candidate was accused of serious criminal charges. Every three in four BJP candidates were crorepatis. Can anybody claim that the BJP candidates spent within the prescribed limit set by the Election Commission on election campaigning? Where did the  amount spent over and above the prescribed limit, obviously in form of black money, come from, especially in new currency notes? Are these candidates representatives of common citizen, who is neither criminal nor rich nor corrupt? It is a party of the rich and capitalists and will work for them. Like other parties BJP too manipulated the caste arithmetic by focussing on non-Yadav OBC and non-Chamar-Jatav dalit votes. Alliances with Apna Dal and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party were caste based alliances. Keshav Prasad Maurya is BJP President in UP because of his caste. To dispel any doubts that caste and not merit will continue to guide Indian politics we need to go back to Bihar elections. Narendra Modi had to claim in a most melodramatic manner that he will lay down his life but nor dismantle the caste based quota system after the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat made an adverse comment against the system of reservations.

Sandeep Pandey is an Indian social activist. Magsaysay Award recipient, Gandhian and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a co-founder of Asha for Education. He is a Former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

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