The days leading up to the announcement of election results are always a time for excited debate. I purposely avoided much of the conversation involving predictions of the outcome, particularly the exit polls. After all, if there is one thing that we learn from Indian electoral history, it is that no one can predict what button the common man will press in that brief moment of card-boarded seclusion. This has been reiterated by one of the most fruitful results for the Congress party. As for me, I was curious about two things. Firstly, the effect of the strong Hindutva undercurrents in the BJP campaign symbolised by Narendra Modi/Varun Gandhi, and secondly, the activeness of the much discussed ‘Muslim vote’, particularly in UP and some of the southern leftist strongholds.
I was quite skeptical about the secular credentials of the majority community, and had expected more Hindutva bi-polarisation. We were first served with the controversial Varun Gandhi Pilibhit speech, a smart political move in the micro battleground, but which took on new dimensions with the advent of the media. Whether it was meant to cater to a much larger audience, thus enhancing polarity and assuming representation of the hidden feelings of the majority, we will never know. But even if it was supposed to, the message is loud and clear. The fact that every seat outside Gujarat that Narendra Modi campaigned for ended in a loss for the BJP sends out a clear message against hardline and right wing ideology, particularly in the current political scenario. Calling this outcome a beginning of a gradual decline of religion-based vote bank politics would undoubtedly be optimistic. Some right wing parties may have done well. The ones that didn’t may have lacked strong leadership and a broad-based political strategy. For all we know the next election might throw up a completely different picture.
But Gujarat has spoken. They continue to wallow in their blood soaked industrialisation. To the Gujarati majority, the balance weighs heavily towards the gain of one community at the expense of another. A man clearly culpable of genocide, and who has not shown an iota of remorse, still remains the king of his Gujarati bastion. The silver lining in this case is the shifting of blame for the bad performance of the BJP onto Mr. Modi by his own colleagues, but we know this would have hardly been the case if the party had fared better. The logical inference would be that as long as a party/person does enough (infrastructure/development wise) for a majority community, then that majority will vote that party to power repeatedly irrespective of suppression and oppression of any other minority community. Any politician capable of efficiently running a state and with good oratory skills can play this political move in a large number of states in this country.
The Muslim vote seems to have swung in favour of Congress even with increased availability of non-BJP (alliance) options. The inclusion of Kalyan Singh in the Samajwadi party in Uttar Pradesh undoubtedly helped in simplifying this choice. The general populace too seemed to find some solace and stability with the Congress party at the centre. The extent to which this feeling was a result of good campaigning by Congress party workers (including the Gandhi siblings) is a matter of debate. The layman, however, has definitely chosen the lesser evil (with ‘evil’ being connotative of confrontational, divisional and hence unstable parties). One good move by the Congress party was the removal of Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler from their respective seats in Delhi. What makes this move even smarter is that it hardly influences the indictment and punishment of ‘guilty’ individuals (Sajjan Kumar’s brother stood on his behalf), but still helps create an image of a remorseful Congress, which strengthens its moderate ideology, particularly in the backdrop of Pilibhit & Ghodhra.
Manmohan Singh’s importance as a leader has also been duly substantiated. An economist and educationist with a pleasing personality and a simple manner about him is the only prime minister, after Jawaharlal Nehru (1962), to be re-elected after finishing a five-year term. The general consensus has been that the urban middle class predominantly constitutes the Manmohan Singh support base, but after the comprehensive Congress victory it would be safe to assume that this support base has markedly increased. Does India want to be represented, if only in name, by a man whose image still remains free from political dirt? Did India choose a leader who showcases her intelligence, diversity and humility? I certainly think so.
Saiyid Lamaan Hamid