For the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Kairana in Western Uttar Pradesh is no ordinary town. It’s from here that the party had launched its second campaign to mobilize Hindus by making them fear and hate the Muslims. It was undertaken at a time when the memories and the impact of the Hindu-Muslim divide created by the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots were fading, and a year before the largest Indian state was to go to the polls. The riots had helped BJP win a landslide victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as majority Hindus saw Narendra Modi as a strong Hindu leader and voted for the saffron party.
In 2016, besides ‘love jihad’ and ‘ghar wapsi’ ploys that targeted Muslims directly, BJP had also tried to raise the bogey of the exodus of Hindus from Kairana, a Muslim majority town, to kick a backlash against them and a possible unity among the Hindus. However, for various reasons, it didn’t work and yet the party’s leaders kept harping on it. The exodus of Hindus was found to be a highly exaggerated reality. Some people had indeed moved out of Kairana but not necessarily for reasons of harassment from Muslims.
On May 31, as the opposition-supported Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) candidate Tabassum Hassan scored a convincing victory over the BJP’s Mriganka Singh, for the first time, Kairana offered a Eureka moment to all those in search of a formula to defeat the BJP’s aggressive, manipulative and fascist politics. Hassan’s nomination was agreed upon by all the opposition parties – Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and even the nascent Aam Aadmi Party. Some of these parties openly campaigned for Hassan and others did it subtly and by tactics of not fielding their candidates in the elections. This not only led to the defeat of the BJP but also changed the ground realities of Kairana and the politics. In the run-up to the elections in Kairana, the traditional brotherhood between Muslims and Jats got revived. According to one Muslim leader, during voting in Kairana, the Hindus insisted on Muslims casting their votes first in view of the fasting during Ramadan. This kind of gesture was unimaginable till some time ago as both the Jats and Muslims had turned foes after the 2013 riots.
More significantly, Hassan became the first Muslim Member of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha from UP. It is worth mentioning that BJP had not fielded a single Muslim in 2014 elections from UP which has 18% Muslim population.
The fallout of Kairana and other bye-elections is clear: over the years Narendra Modi’s charm as a sole vote catcher for the BJP in elections is fast waning; the Hindutva party had still been managing to win elections and form governments in states by default of a weak and disjointed opposition. BJP is already in deep trouble from many of its NDA allies; Telugu Desam Party has broken off the tie-up while Shiv Sena is fuming and JD(U) is repenting after each by-election. BJP’s popularity ratings have been constantly falling under Modi and there is a hushed talk within the party to replace Modi with leaders like Rajnath Singh or Sushma Swaraj in the 2019 elections.
The outcome of the Karnataka elections in which BJP failed to get a clear majority and finally JDS forming the government with the support of Congress seems to have emboldened the opposition. After a long gap, in Karnataka, the Congress party took charge of the post-election scenario and managed to prevent the BJP forming government through the same dubious means it had used in Goa and Nagaland to set up its government without having requisite numbers.
JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy became the chief minister with Congress supporting his government and leaving BJP red-faced. His swearing in ceremony was aptly turned into a show of unity by the opposition, signalling that its leaders are willing to come together on the plank of ousting Modi and the BJP regime.
Earlier Karnataka and now Kairana election results have proven clearly that a tactical alliance of the opposition parties will be easily able to put BJP in the dock in the general election next year. However, for it, the opposition leaders have to shelve their larger than life egos and set aside their personal ambitions of becoming Prime Minister until they overthrow an overbearing BJP and end its misrule and divisive politics.
In the past similar alliance had been tried and those had achieved limited objectives and disintegrated quickly mainly due to egos and ambitions of individual leaders. However, to all of them – be it Rahul Gandhi who had boasted that if his party wins he is ready to become Prime Minister to Mayawati with her dream of making it to the country’s top leadership and others – it must be clear that it’s a now or never battle. The voter is clearly fed up with Modi government’s policies and is looking for an alternative. The opposition has to offer this alternative or the BJP would again manage to win. This will not only be disadvantageous for the opposition but also for the nation and people.
While there is less than a year for 2019 general elections, it’s only appropriate that the opposition puts its act together well in time. The BJP is clearly getting restless and may try to show more gestures and offer more sops to the aam admi. Interestingly, Modi never loses a chance to use an opportunity to showcase himself as the most benevolent and progressive leader. For this reason, he had campaigned for byelections for Assembly in Noorpur (BJKP lost this seat too) for the first time that a Prime Minister came to campaign in bye-elections. However, that does not change the harsh realities of India under BJP and Narendra Modi. BJP's thoughtless policies of demonetization and favouring the big industries and businesses have done irreparable loss to the livelihoods of the common man; the unemployment is at its peak. Women are dripping in large numbers from the workforce as demonetization and GST regime have spelled a death knell to the informal sector which generated a major chunk of jobs. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi making insensitive remarks like selling tea and pakora by the youth is also a job and by announcing a 1 paisa rebate on all-time high petrol price, there is a groundswell of anger against the Modi government across the country. The people have seen through the bogey of Hindus being in danger. In fact, BJP had overused this plank and has lost these tactics for all times to come. The farmers remain the most neglected persons in the country and they are yearning for a change.
Will the opposition let the people down? If they do because all the leaders believe they are best suited for PMs jobs, then they are sure to perish soon. The opposition has a great responsibility of converting peoples’ anger into hope or else, there will be anarchy in the country.
(Published on 04th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 23)