Overdose of liberal politics, reaped harvest
Ramjas ruckus proved to be an element in propelling BJP to emerge stronger.
There is this watering hole in Connaught Place in New Delhi where politicians of every hue gather for their cup of tea and political 'gup-shup'. The place retains the coffee house culture of the yore where leaders of the rival parties came together for a chat with the fair understanding that their discussion would not go out of the premises of their tea club. This rule has been maintained for over half-a-century now. The place is also frequented by journalists to get an 'insight' if not a story.
About a fortnight back, as the Assembly polls in the five states inched towards conclusion, the discussion naturally took place around the politics of the politically most significant state, Uttar Pradesh. By then the results of the municipal polls in Mumbai had come out and the Congress had been routed. The man at the centre of discussion was Sanjay Nirupam, the Mumbai Congress chief, who had pointed fingers at the surgical strike launched by the Indian Army against the terror camps in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir late last year.
It was concluded that it is now increasingly difficult to do "anti-Hindu politics", which had increasingly come to be interpreted as concurrent to anti-India politics. The Congress leaders participating in the discussion were happy that the party had so far restrained from participating in the duel between the Maoist AISA and the right-wing ABVP in the Ramjas College ruckus. "It doesn't help us to take sides in the matter," they had said.
Much to their agony, the very next day, former Union Minister Manish Tewari was all over television channels, news portals, and newspapers going hammer and tongs against the "right-wing violence" without condemning in equal terms the "anti-national" politics of Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid. The more the Ramjas College ruckus occupied the news space, the more it helped the BJP consolidate in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Uttar Pradesh Congress president Raj Babbar, analysing his party's defeat, may have a point in claiming that the BJP managed to win the polls in the two states more than handsomely because of the polarisation of the votes. He would but also do well to examine how much did the parroting of the lines by its leaders like Manish Tewari, condoning the political activism of the ultra-left, helped the BJP to consolidate its position. The failure of the Congress party to take a stand independent of those taken by the Left activists has hurt the chances of its political survival more than anything else.
The aversion of people to "anti-India" sentiments also reflected in the Punjab polls and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) polls. The slide of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from a commanding position to an "also contested" state clearly reflects that a large number of people did not vote for them fearing the return pro-Khalistan agitation. Party leader Arvind Kejriwal committed a fatal mistake the day he took to question the surgical strike by the Indian Army across the Line of Control through a video broadcast, which was lapped up by the media in Pakistan.
Whatever the intellectuals and academia have to say about the Ramjas ruckus, it has proved to be an element propelling BJP to emerge stronger than its rivals at the hustling. We should not forget that the Indian Republic is the product of a long drawn freedom struggle, a movement which was not bereft of nationalist jingoism. There is also no doubt that religious resuscitation and cultural renaissance played a huge role in making the freedom struggle mass-based and widespread.
Even left-leaning historians like Sumit Sarkar accept the role of Durga Puja Pandals in Bengal and Ganpati Mandaps in Maharashtra as events that galvanised activities against the imperialist forces. These two festivals played a major role in mass mobilisation and spreading the message against the British occupation.
The results have clearly shown that the BJP has consolidated on the strategy, where expressions against majority sentiments have come to be interpreted as anti-national sentiments. By deciding not to field a single Muslim candidate in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP strategists cleverly capitalised on the resentment which the decision of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati must have caused through the allotment of one-fourth of the tickets to the Muslim candidates.
Hopefully, the spirit of the election strategy of segregating the Muslim does not transfer into the preamble of governance which the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand for that matter, would adopt. BJP governments in the two states would certainly eschew any open 'abhorrence' for the minority community but to satiate the hunger of its cadres, the BJP would certainly go for issues like introducing uniform civil code and playing up the controversy around 'triple-talaq'.
The in-house Muslim scholars of Sangh Parivar like Sultan Shahin, founder and editor of New Age Islam, have repeatedly suggested that India could adopt some of Pakistan's matrimony laws, which would be a step towards the uniform civil code. His enunciation that such a move would not be opposed by the Indian Muslim clergy and the more extreme Islamists, as they would find themselves in a dilemma to oppose a Pakistani law on the basis of being un-Islamic holds merit.
In times when the BJP's strategy is being rigorously examined and implemented, the lack-lustre Congress leadership, which has evolved from ancestral inheritance, is proving to be completely inadequate to match it intellectually and also in matters of mass contact. Poll manager Prashant Kishor would also vouch that it is not easy to market dynasts, totally clueless about politics which they claim to practice.
(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views expressed are strictly personal.)