Blinded by communal bile, BJP fails to read Bihar

Written by Mohammed Sajjad | Published on: November 26, 2015
substantial number of Mallahs didn’t vote for the RJD[xi]. Shankar’s defeat was a foregone conclusion, given his negative image. He was in the reckoning only because of the popular sentiment against the BJP. Also, Muslims constitute a significant proportion of Paroo’s electorate.

Twenty-one seats of Champaran and 11 seats of Muzaffarpur saw better performance by the BJP. While Champaran, Sheohar and Sitamarhi districts have a history of communal conflict and a relatively better presence of Hindu Mahasabha-RSS-like organizations, Muzaffarpur has been known for communal harmony. In all these parts, a good proportion of EBCs and Dalits are reported to have voted for the BJP.

However, as the JDU government prevented pre-election communal violence rather successfully, eventual communal polarization could be prevented.

This is in contrast with Akhilesh Yadav’s administration in UP, where numerous communal riots have occurred since the SP came to power in 2012. The worst was the Muzaffarnagar riots of September 2013. It became apparent that the Akhilesh administration was slow in checking communalization[xii]. Many surmised that he was looking for communal polarization in western UP so that the Jat base of the Lok Dal and the Dalit base of the BSP would switch over to the BJP and Muslims would have no option but to desert these parties and the Congress to eventually rally behind the SP. The strategy boomeranged.

Political analysts have also opined that the wilful communal politics of Akhilesh spiralled out of his hands in Muzaffarnagar[xiii]. Little did Akhilesh-Azam Khan realize that the sole electoral beneficiary of rabid communal politics would be none other than the BJP[xiv]. Consequently, more than 90% of Lok Sabha seats in UP went to the BJP in 2014. Things didn’t stop there. Western UP got much more deeply communalized even at the social level.

The Dadri lynching (September 28-29, 2015) was a logical culmination of this process. As the Bihar polls neared, majoritarian communal forces, failing to engineer riots in Bihar, tried to do so in UP to create communal polarization in the neighbouring state by contact. Not wrongly did Nitish attack the BJP, saying that the beef issue was being imported to Bihar. The BJP’s alleged strategy failed. The history of Bihar elections doesn’t have many instances of conflicts around the cow[xv].

Courtesy: Alessio Mamo/Redux/eyevine

Nationwide majoritarian violence leads to subaltern consolidation
The instances of lynching, mob violence, and Dalit persecution in certain parts of India by late September and early October, and BJP leaders, including Union ministers, defending the aggressors, contributed towards a subaltern consolidation in favour of the Mahagathbandhan. Not only did the Hindu majority resist communal polarization, but the Muslim minority also reciprocated by frustrating the efforts of Asaduddin Owaisi--whose AIMIM could not win even from Kochadaman (Kishanganj), where 74% of the electorate is Muslim.

Eventually, 24 Muslim candidates got elected, some with emphatic margins, including CPI-ML candidate Mehboob Alam. Nonetheless, for a pluralist democracy it is extremely worrisome that its religious minority would vote en bloc as a fear-stricken, scared community. The fear factor among Muslims was unprecedentedly high[xvi]. “Never has the Muslim community witnessed an election so bitter, a campaign so acrimonious, scattering seeds of distrust to pit faith against faith, caste against caste,” reported Muzamil Jaleel of The Indian Express, from Muzaffarpur, where his Muslim respondent belonged to the Sufi shrine of Kambal Shah (existing since 1880s), venerated by both Hindus and Muslims[xvii].

This fear factor in determining electoral behaviour is something to be taken note of. Such a situation is fraught with implications and in the celebration of the trouncing of two communal parties, the BJP and the AIMIM, one should not remain oblivious of the prevalence of communalisation of both majority and minority communities. It has been found that as the subaltern classes and castes move up the economic ladder, they tend to become more prone to communalisation. The middle classes (even among the OBCs and Dalits) tend to vote more for the BJP as this segment is more visible and aggressive