Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nitish wins Bihar: Trend of Muslims voting for BJP or NDA alliance

Yeh kya ho gaya bhai!
The resounding victory of Nitish Kumar's JD(U) led coalition in Bihar has surprised even the most sympathetic psephologists. Most exit polls had indicated that the NDA was poised to win Bihar but this sort of thumping majority was not predicted.

It was clear that a section of Muslims would vote for JD(U). The reasons were simple. Nitish Kumar looked sincere, he kept the state riot-free, his decision to reopen the Bhagalpur riot cases closed by Lalu Yadav, and remaining steadfast on his commitment to let the AMU campus open in Bihar despite the open opposition of BJP's youth wing BJYM, earned him respect among the community.

Muslims fear nothing more than a communal riot. During Congress regimes in North India, large-scale riots used to occur in cities with substantial Muslim percentage. In each communal riot, tens of thousands would not only be snatched of their means for livelihood but also lost whatever little they had and took them at least twenty years back.

First Congress exploited this fear of riots. In fact, BJP had begun to get a fraction of Muslim vote and its vote share among Muslims would have risen long ago, had the massacre in Gujarat not taken place. Besides, the BJP-led Centre's inaction and the party's refusal to regret the events in Gujarat, turned Muslims even more wary.

No wonder almost everywhere Muslims made it a mission to vote for the candidate who appeared in the strongest position and capable of defeating the BJP. In Orissa, Navin Patnaik failed to keep a check on BJP and the latter's sister organisations.

The anti-Christian violence perpetrated by VHP and Bajrang Dal, later forced him to dump the party. However, in Bihar, the BJP cleverly played second fiddle. The Saffron think-tank was aware that Bihar has one of the highest Muslim concentration (17%) and has regions where Muslim population goes up to 50% or even more so it was prudent to use Nitish's charisma.

While Nitish Kumar succeeded in keeping his secular image intact, perhaps the Sangh Parivar also kept a measured stance as successive failures to form government in the Centre made them review their strategy. The lumpens were kept in check and Hindu remained on the backburner.

The decision to open Bhagalpur riot cases earned Nitish Kumar goodwill. But it was his tough stand of not allowing Narendra Modi for campaigning in Bihar, that proved crucial. Indian Express' editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta mentioned how a Urdu teacher at a rally told him that Nitish is 'sher ka bachcha' as no one else could do it elsewhere.

The tag of lion for not letting Modi into the state, is not unusual. Apparently this had caused enough strain in the coalition but Nitish stuck to his stand. Gujarat carnage is etched in collective Muslim consciousness as it was first large-scale riot shown on live television.

Meanwhile, the other Modi, Sushil Kumar Modi, as Deputy Chief Minister has all along maintained the image of a moderate. It is this sort of moderation which is expected from a right-of-centre party that aims to govern a nation of 110 crore.

The lack of development and the poor governance had dented the image of the state. In fact, the word 'Bihari' had turned into a derogatory term. This affected all Biharis irrespective of caste and creed as it hurt their pride. But during Nitish Kumar's regime, crime was controlled and law-and-order restored. Things were looking up and as a result he has received unexpected support from all quarters.

Right now the BJP is buoyed with its success. But the truth is that the NDA coalition has won Bihar over the plank of development. Any responsible government has to be inclusive and must ensure that all segments of population are looked upon as equal partners in shaping the destiny of nation or the state.

Despite having several polished and mature leaders at the national level ranging from Sushma Swaraj to Arun Jaitley, there is no dearth of communal and lumpen elements in the party who have an open communal agenda.

In Bihar, Nitish Kumar could rein them in. The BJP and the Bajrang Dal-VHP cadre also remained subdued as victor was in sight because of the alliance. But the million dollar question is whether the BJP change the course at the national level and emerge as a right-of-centre but moderate political party?

Let's see.

Similar posts on this blog in the past:
1. BJP and Muslims.
2. 'Pro-Muslim RSS' had irked radicals