By Ram Puniyani
In the recently held elections, MCD, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, BJP came with thumping majority in Gujarat, while losing badly in MCD to AAP and Himachal to Congress. In Himachal, though the total votes polled by Congress and BJP are having a narrow margin, Congress won with a reasonable majority of 40. While BJP was loser in Delhi and Himachal, its Gujarat victory is being hyper projected by the party and the media bowing to BJP. One purpose of this over projection of Gujarat is also to hide its debacle in two other states which went to polls recently (November-December 2022).
In Gujarat, it seems that Congress did not put in necessary energy and the Patel factor this time was with the BJP, with CM being a Patel, who was also projected to be the future CM of the state if BJP wins. Along with this, Hardik Patel’s rerun to BJP gave a big fillip to BJP. The KHAM or KHAM-like factor of Congress was no match to Patel-Hindutva politics of BJP which not only increased its seats but also increased its vote parentage.
While decline of Congress is also accompanied by a decline of its vote share, most of it has shifted to AAP. There are reports that in the minority dominated areas EVM machines were slow and many other irregularities also were observed, but allegedly not taken a serious note of by the Election Commission. Incidentally, many Muslim candidates were propped up (Apart from AIMIM) where Congress Muslim candidates had good chances of winning.
Social dynamics of Patel factor was very significant this time and probably more important was BJP’s polarising politics, which was prominently to the fore. AAP, with whatever its goal, kept a studied mum on the release of culprits of Bilkis Bano, BJP on the other hand used every opportunity to give the polarising messages. The very release of the culprits undergoing life imprisonment, and they being garlanded and welcomed with flowers-sweets was a matter of shame, but it came as a signal of majoritarian politics. BJP further deepened the signal by giving ticket to Chandrasinh Raulji, who was part of the committee which recommended the release of these guilty. Incidentally, the release was sanctioned by Home Ministry, headed by Amit Shah.
Raulji further went on to justify the release by buttressing salt into the wounds of victims and the marginalised community by saying that these who are being released as sanskari Brahmins (Cultured), and so deserve to be released. “They were Brahmins and Brahmins are known to have good sanskaar. It might have been someone’s ill intention to corner and punish them…” To cap it all, not only did he get the BJP ticket to him, he also won with a big margin!
The atmosphere of hate against Muslim minority is intensifying all over the country and likes of Parvesh Varma, Anurag Thakur and the clones of Yati Narasinghanad are proliferating in the country all over. This ‘Hate other’ was expressed by Amit Shah when as per whom Congress had been behind the violence for vote bank politics! A real case of reality being made to stand on its head! He rubbed it in by saying, “But after they were taught a lesson in 2002, these elements left that path. They refrained from indulging in violence from 2002 till 2022. BJP has established permanent peace in Gujarat by taking strict action against those who used to indulge in communal violence.” While what he means by ‘They’ is more than clear, Election Commission let it pass as no particular community was named.
As such the real culprits of violence, the likes of Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, undergoing life imprisonment, have been released. One also sees that the culprit of Naroda violence Manoj Kukrani, who was put behind the bars is currently on parole. His daughter was given the ticket and won the election with thumping majority.
While Amit Shah states that the guilty have been taught a lesson, the ground reality of Gujarat is that right wing workers have become more aggressive and assertive. Most of the Muslims have been put in the ghettoes, and the physical and emotional barriers between the two communities have become close to complete. The mixed culture and social life has been given the go-bye and most of the minority community members have to live the life of second class citizens bereft of social dignity and opportunities.
The recent case of public flogging of Muslim youth by tying them to pole was horrific. It took place in front of hundreds of Hindus of the village. It happened in Dabhan near Undhela. By now it has become a norm that Muslim youth cannot participate in Garba. In the newly erected pandal near a Mosque, the programme was organised. It went on peaceful for more than an hour. Later some of the Garba participants threw Gulal (red power of celebration by Hindus) towards the mosque.
On the complaint of the Sarpanch (Village chief), many Muslim youth were taken to the police station and cases were lodged against them. They were brought back and tied to the pole one by one and beaten mercilessly. We had been a society where joint celebration of festivals was part of our culture. Now we have come to a pass where provocative actions are planned to ensure the divisive trajectory in the society.
The BJP victory in Gujarat may be an indicator of the type of politics, which may follow in the future. While Bharat Jodo Yatra is trying to put a soothing balm on the strained intercommunity relations, the huge political and electoral machinery of BJP associates have resorted to divisive politics all through. The emotive issues, Ram Temple, Cow, Love Jihad have been spread through diverse mechanisms. This has been intensified by the overt hate speech of the likes of Narasinghanand, who go on unchecked spreading the divisive ideology through and through.
Hinduism teaches us ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’, loving the whole world as one family, here we are in a dark tunnel where ‘hate other’, ‘othering the people of diverse religions’ becomes the central focus around which politics is unleashed.