Result of UP assembly election has made both sympathisers and detractors of prime minister Modi by surprise. Not many had imagined such a stellar performance where an alliance bagged 325 out of 404 seats. Exit polls, barring a few outliers, had pointed out that BJP may race ahead in the triangular contest for the UP throne. Generalised anticipation was that BJP alliance was unlikely to get enough numbers to form government on its own. Given the uncertainty associated with exit poll predictions, many had Akhilesh Yadav by forming a strategic alliance with congress party may race ahead or give BJP alliance enough competition to prevent them from capturing Lucknow.
During the long drawn out election that lasted close to a month, there were many experts that had predicted dooms day scenario for BJP. Many had anticipated that BJP would be punished for its demonetisation move. According to critics, demonetisation of high value currency notes had lead to wide spread inconvenience and job loss, more so among poor and marginalised sections of society. It was said that Jats of western UP had deserted BJP. It was said that muslim voters would vote for either SP – congress or for BSP. Given, minorities constitute nearly 20% of UP population, they may form a decisive factor for any party getting their support. Many had said, BJP had given a subliminal message of communal polarisation that had shifted the vote in their favour. Many had even claimed, BJP to be nerveous that is why prime minister himself had spent three full days campaigning in Varanasi, his constituency.
I think, opposition and media have not read and/or understood Modi correctly. Many do not read Modi’s message and action where he claims not to discriminate based on religion and caste. From the time of his chief minister days in Gujarat, he had refused to identify people based on religion. He said I look at people as Indian – rich or poor, farmer or industrialist etc. More over, many of the programs started by Mr. Modi are identity neutral. For example, as explained by Mr. M J Akbar, “swacch bharat”, “beti padahao beti bachao”, “cooking gas scheme called Ujjwala jojana”, “building toilets”, “transferring money to the account of poor and expecting mothers”, creating “zero balance jandhan account”, and giving “collateral free loan from mudra yojana” etc. are caste and religion neutral.
It is a frequent point of discussion that BJP is a party that did not field a single muslim in 404 seats it contested as an alliance. Can a party govern by ignoring nearly 20% of a states population? To be fair, it is important to accept that BJP has less number of muslims. Many muslims do not trust BJP. Past track record of BJP, utterances of many front line leaders against muslims may be responsible for such predicament. As a result, BJP may not have access to many muslim candidates that can win an election for the party. An election is fought to be won. If a candidate is fielded and election is lost, then no one benefits. BJP definitely has to earn trust of Muslim masses by working and delivering in an unbiased manner. Yet massive number of seats that BJP had won in UP assembly elections, even from muslim dominated areas, may suggest muslims may have voted for the party. At this time there is no data available to support this view. There is report, however, that muslim women may have felt empowered by stand BJP had taken because on issues, like triple talaq, that relates to muslim women.
It can also be argued that BJP had played its caste card better than Mayawati / BSP. Unlike Yadav’s of SP and Jatav dalits of BSP, BJP has given voice to many communities that consitute a sizable populaiton yet there was no one to give them a representation in power structure. BJP has done that. I think that is what electoral democracy is all about. About opposition parties, removal of Rahul Gandhi may or may not be the solution. Opposition has to find an idea that India can relate to. SImply calling Modi fascist, BJP communal may not work.