By Sriram Ramakrishnan
Rohit Vemula, Akhlaq Khan, Junaid Khan, Una…..What is common to all these names? All (except Una) were individuals and victims of unspeakable, horrible tragedies. Two were were victims of mob lynching and Una witnessed the brutal flogging of four Dalit youth by alleged self-styled gau rakshaks’ in an incident in 2016 that shook the nation to its core.
Why are they all important today? All of these incidents and others that don’t need recounting here were used liberally to paint the Narendra Modi government as a fascist, minorityhating, Hindutva-obsessed regime that would crush Dalits, Muslims and Christians as it sought to transform India into a Taliban-style theocracy.
Rohith Vemula died in January 2016, while Akhlaque Khan’s horrific death took place in
2015 well before the Bihar elections. Some of the other incidents are more recent. But
since the Dadri tragedy, a powerful, outspoken clique of left-liberals, self-styled activists,
journalists have taken on the onus of project these deaths as part of a larger conspiracy of
Hindutva forces (read RSS, BJP) to impose their ideology on the country.
No effort has been spared to make political gains out of these tragedies and belittle the
country and the entire Hindu community as bent on aggressive majoritarianism with little
thought for the lives and feelings of minorities.
The examples are too numerous to recount here but many people know how the leftliberal,
Lutyens ecosystem with considerable support from Congress and other opposition
parties has sought to create the impression since the assumption of power by Narendra
Modi that India has suddenly become a dangerous place for minorities and the
The latest is an attempt to paint India as dangerous for journalists and media but more on
that later. Lets just stick to how successful this effort by the left-liberal intelligentsia has
been and what this means for the 2019 elections.
The only place where success or failure of a particular strategy can be measured is the electoral battlefield. A party or coalition that fights an elections based on a particular pitch or a game plan must realise the writing on the wall when that strategy backfires.
More than a year after Vemula’s suicide and more than six months after the Una tragedy
and bang in the middle of the high-pitched narrative that Dalits were angry with the BJP,
we had elections in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP not only romped home but did so by making
massive gains among Dalits and other lower and depressed castes. The numbers tell their
own tale. Out of the 85 reserved seats in that state, the BJP alone won 69, up from 3 in
2012. The party not only managed to grab a major share of the Dalit vote but also ended
up cornering a significant chunk of the OBC and upper caste vote too.
Now, let’s turn to Gujarat. One of the little-discussed stories about the campaign is how the
BJP has been able to increase its vote share among Dalits, tribals and Muslims. The Dalit
vote share alone rose 16% to 39% while its vote share among Muslims rose by 7%. Okay,
these are not big numbers and the Congress obviously got a major chunk of the vote, but it
is still surprising that the BJP managed to increase its share of vote among these groups
despite a shrill, negative, scaremongering campaign against the party. Let us now look at
the northeast which has been the topic for discussion especially after Saturday’s results.
The BJP won handsomely in Tripura, posted a creditable performance in Nagaland and
won only two seats in Meghalaya though its coalition managed to assume power.
Of these, the last two are Christianmajority states and the church played a big role in trying
to prevent a BJP victory. The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) asked voters to
shun the BJP and the Congress endorsed the NBCC’s stance by asking voters to choose
between the `cross and the trishul’. The voters in Nagaland appear not to have heeded the
advice. The BJP won 11 out of the 20 seats it contested and its pre-poll ally the Nagaland
Democratic Progressive Party won 18. The NDA is forming its government in Nagaland as
in Meghalaya where it emerged victorious.
What do all these things tell us? If you are a partisan left-liberal you would want to brush
this under the carpet. But as any dispassionate observer will tell you, these results show
that the BJP has managed to entrench itself as a party of choice among the Dalits, tribals
and marginalised section of the electorate and that this does not appear to be a temporary,
transitory phenomenon. It may be because of the appeal of Narendra Modi, it may be
because of the programmes targeted at these communities like Mudra, the free LPG
connection scheme. It may be a combination of all of them.
What does this mean for 2019? It means that the opposition can no longer rely on creating
caste or religious divisions or hope for success by painting the BJP and Mr Modi as
divisive and autocratic. That narrative has failed as we have been seeing in election after
election. The opposition which includes the Congress and others, not only need a new
leader to take on Mr Modi in 2019 but also a new line of attack. Saturday’s victory in the
north-east has dashed all hopes of caste and religious polarisation.
(Source: Economic Times)