When Prime Minister Narendra Modi paused his victory speech at the mint-new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi at the sound of the evening azān, it wasn’t for the first time he had done it. It is his silent but eloquent way of conveying that this government respects Muslims — even if it doesn’t hold iftār parties or wear skull caps to say so. And it subliminally suggests to the biggest minority of some 170 million Indians — come vote for the BJP in the world’s most populous democracy; you have nothing to fear.
Leading Muslim nations of the world, irrespective of their own rivalries and differences, have joined the West and the Jewish State too in recognising the exceptional energy and leadership provided by this current Prime Minister of India. His Hindu religion and practice, including the fasting during state visits during Navratras, is not seen as an impediment. Hinduism does not, after all, annoy. All talk of “Hindu terrorism” has been unmasked as a sham. It does not have a reputation for aggression, evangelism, or territorial lust. Consequently, India is welcome as a friend, ally — and interlocutor — in most parts of this troubled world.
Perhaps, the minorities in India, nurtured on division, need to update their attitudes and take a cue from this warm reception Modi gets in many countries abroad. And maybe the Northeastern Christians, modern by temperament, have already moved on.
However, while Muslim women are increasingly voting for the BJP, particularly after its support for the anti-triple talāq legislation; the men, particularly in the Sunni majority, have yet to overcome their prejudices. They need to recognise the present reality of the only national party left standing. The Shi’ahs have been far more forthcoming for some time now. This has been both prescient and advantageous for them.
Long-standing minority opposition to the BJP is now self-defeating. The political parties that play that kind of politics have dwindled into nothing. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) of West Bengal, the only substantial minority-enabled Modi-basher left, is changing tack as fast as it can. It is afraid that Muslim appeasement and encouragement of illegal immigration from Bangladesh may not work in future. A consolidation of the Hindu vote — and a backlash — as in Tripura, could cook its goose too.
The communists, in cahoots with Islamists, in Kerala, have their faces to the last of their walls. And for all Muslims in the country, radicalised or otherwise, there is the realisation that, refusing to vote for the BJP or the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will no longer be enough to stop it in its tracks.
The BJP intends to usher in a Uniform Civil Code. It will build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, given a favourable court verdict. It will legislatively eliminate the historical distortion of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir. All this and more, by way of levelling the playing field, with, or without, Muslim support.
The death of appeasement politics, attended by its pseudo-secular hypocrisies, is well underway. The train has left the station. There is only some catching up to do for those who won’t want to be left behind.
The Christians, now well beyond those in Goa, watching the march of electoral victories that has taken the NDA-ruled States to 22 out of 29, have signalled recognition of this fact. They refuse to be left out of the vikas juggernaut. Particularly, when the now pathetically reduced Indian National Congress (INC) and its allies have nothing left to offer them.
The talk of uprooting the BJP at the next general elections in 2019 is not being supported by the BJP’s burgeoning vote shares and formidable electoral organisation. The Christians know this now and have acted upon their knowledge. It remains for the Muslims to follow suit.
Modi was addressing jubilant BJP workers and remembering those karyakartas from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who were martyred on the killing fields of Tripura. He was thanking the tens of thousands who worked for the spectacular electoral wins in the Northeast when he paused for the azān. It was, like the speech itself, televised all over the country.
The election results announced on 3 March extended the day and full moon Holi celebrations by yet another. Rightly so, because it was to celebrate a season of firsts in all three States polled.
BJP, along with its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), routed the entrenched communists in Hindu majority Tripura. It also won decisively in Christian Nagaland, alongside its ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), reducing Congress to a zero tally. And it is well on its way to supporting a coalition government with Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) party (which includes sister Agatha and brother James as MLAs), in Christian Meghalaya as well.
Conrad Sangma, the likely new chief minister of Meghalaya, has made it clear he will not join hands with the INC to form a government. His father, the late Purno Sangma, the highly respected former Lok Sabha Speaker, was insulted, treated shabbily by the INC, and expelled. This, for daring to raise his voice against the legitimacy of Sonia Gandhi!
Amongst many other significances being commented on, these spectacular shifts in secular voter behaviour in the Northeast, have put paid to the virulent opposition propaganda. That the “majoritarian” and “communal” BJP cannot win outside the Hindu northern “cow belt”! That it wants to tell people what it can eat and how it may worship. That it seeks to impose vegetarianism, and certainly, a beef/pork ban on the whole country. In addition to its narrow version of the dharma. Narrow Hindutva, as Shashi Tharoor would have it, in place of the inclusiveness and vastness of Hinduism.
In the highly evangelised Christian Northeast, funded by foreign churches and the Vatican, none of its surging number of Baptist and Catholic voters for the BJP have paid heed though. The Church bigwigs, on their part, repeatedly raised the bogey of religious interference, and exhorted its flock not to vote for the Lotus. Regardless of this, the Saffron Party has been believed and welcomed by the people. Its promise of tolerance, harmony, peace, and Vikas has been accepted at face value. Its efforts at integrating the Northeast with more developed parts of the country have been noted. The lotus has now bloomed in 6 out of the 7 north-eastern States. The last, Mizoram, will decide when it too goes to the polls.
The BJP won in partially Christian Goa, for the first time, years ago. There too, it did not seek to interfere in the local food and beverage habits, or the distinct customs of the former Portuguese colony, which is 40% beef/pork eating Catholic. But when there was just one such State in its line-up, it was easier for the opposition to project the BJP live-and-let-live doctrine as an insincere aberration, likely to be eroded in time.
But when the BJP wrested power in Arunachal Pradesh from the INC, it did not interfere with the customs of its mostly Buddhist population either. Ditto when it formed a coalition government in Christian Manipur.
So, does all this signal the end of the mileage the opposition can extract from pseudo-secularism? How can it gain a traction if the demonization of a so-called Hindu revivalist party no longer frightens the horses? And when the ubiquitous BJP voter goes to pray in temple, church, gurdwara, synagogue and mosque alike?