Majoritarianism rules!

It's a shame that the Congress played realpolitik with Muslims

GN Bureau | December 18, 2017


#democracy   #BJP   #Congress   #Muslims   #Gujarat 2017   #assembly elections   #Gujarat   #majoritarianism   #minorities  


Just the facts first. In the Gujarat assembly elections, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate. No one expected it to; and its leaders make no bones about ignoring the nine percent Muslims of the state. The Congress, playing realpolitik in a state where the sentiment is well-known, chose tokenism: out of the 176 candidates it fielded, literally a handful were Muslims.

 
It's doubtful if either party fielded a Christian candidate, leave alone candidates from the other minorities like the Jews or Parsis (who have a significant presence though not in numbers). After all, each of these groups constitutes just about half a percent or less of the population. Jains, on the other hand, are so assimilated with the Hindus that they are no longer considered a minority – not even officially. Indeed, chief minister Vijay Rupani is a Jain.
 
Early results showed the two Muslim-dominated constituencies of Ahmedabad – Dariapur and Jamalpur-Khadia – electing Muslim candidates of the Congress. These, by the way, are the constituencies of Ahmedabad the Congress has been winning since 1995. And in Wankaner, in Rajkot district, Mohammed Peerzada of the Congress was leading at the time of writing. These will probably be the only representatives from the religious minorities in the state assembly, reflecting a nationwide trend: crowd out the minorities, act as if they don't matter, drown out their feeble voice in the din that is democracy today. 
 
The BJP goes further. It has had no qualms about consolidating its vote by raising the bogey about Muslims, linking Muslims everywhere to terror and separatism through campaigns of insinuation and plain fear-mongering. That Modi had to mention Pakistan in one of his election speeches in Gujarat speaks for the fact that such tactics work for the BJP.
 
More troublesome, however, is the fact that the Congress, having faced accusations all along of appeasing the minorities, did not go beyond giving them token representation on its list of candidates. This might have had to do with the Gujarat campaign being Rahul Gandhi's solo performance. After the disastrous Uttar Pradesh campaign, the Congress had to somehow salvage its prestige. Gujarat 2017 saw Rahul Gandhi coming into his element, standing up to prime minister Narendra Modi, the tallest leader of now who has national appeal. The trends show the Congress at just 20-22 seats behind the BJP, a creditable show by all means, considering that it was Gujarat.
 
But to make Rahul come out looking good after this prestige test, the Congress has had to take the soft Hindutva tack. Visits to temples and a showing of the sacred thread! The signal going out from the party once accused of cozying up to the minorities and treating them as vote banks is that winnability is what counts – and in that scheme of things, you don't. That is, majoritarianism rules.
 

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