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'Modi certainly doesn't exclude Muslims from governance'

Last updated on: March 16, 2017 22:31 IST

'How can the BJP give Muslim candidates tickets if they don't have any good Muslim candidates?'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a rousing welcome at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in New Delhi, March 12, 2017. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo.

Uttar Pradesh turned saffron on March 11 when the Bharatiya Janata Party won an astounding 312 seats in the 403-seat assembly.

Poll pundits were scratching their heads trying to decipher the triumph. For Dr A K Verma, director, Centre for the Study of Society and Politics, Kanpur, Modi's victory wasn't much of a surprise.

Dr Verma explains to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf the implications of the victory for the BJP and where the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are headeded from here.

What's your take on the UP results?

Much of the results were on expected lines. We had anticipated a clear majority for the BJP. We were predicting the BJP would cross 'Mission 265,' but we weren't expecting this kind of victory -- crossing 300 seats.

How come few anticipated this Modi electoral tsunami?

No, it is not like that. I had written in the Economic and Political Weekly on December 31, 2016, about a third democratic upsurge in Uttar Pradesh.

In this democratic upsurge my hypothesis was there is a massive OBC (Other Backward Classes) shift towards the BJP, a very substantial shift of Dalits towards the BJP and a miniscule Muslim shift towards the BJP. That was published in EPW. We had no doubt about this wave.

What was the reason for this third upsurge of voters for the BJP?

One reason was that the marginal sections like the more backward and most backward sections had become disillusioned with identity politics.

They were actually craving for aspirational politics and they wanted development. They had enough of identity politics.

Identity politics did not bring in substantial and qualitative change in their lifestyles.

There was dissatisfaction.

Post 2014, the BJP was supported by all social denominations. The BJP sensed that it is not difficult to access all these marginalised sections which was earlier not in the BJP's constituency.

So they started wooing them and they wooed them very well.

First, they tried to rope them in Delhi's basic structure. They accommodated people like Anupriya Patel, in the Modi ministry.

They then appointed the most backward category person -- Keshav Prasad Maurya -- as president of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

They also gave some Dalit representation in Modi's ministry.

They tried to capture this resentment of these marginalised people.

The masterstroke was that while allocating tickets to BJP candidates they allocated 40 per cent tickets to the more backwards and the most backward sections, a share which the OBC has in the population of Uttar Pradesh.

Therefore, by integrating them both in the leadership structure and representation in assembly seats they captured UP.

The Modi government gave M J Akbar representation in the prestigious external affairs ministry. To say, the BJP is not giving tickets to Muslims is unfair.

The Opposition says communal polarisation led to the BJP win.

I think it would be unfair to the electorate of UP to say that it was communal polarisation because many people will not understand and accept that several Muslims voted for Modi.

Young educated Muslim women and lot of Muslims from the Terai belt areas openly said they will vote for the BJP because of the triple talaq issue.

In Fatehpur constituency, we found lots of Muslims supporting demonetisation.

On the ground, we found that the Muslim psyche was changing towards the BJP and it is unfair to call it communal polarisation.

The BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate. Modi spoke of qabristan and shamshan at his rallies. Swami Adityanath was campaigning on communal lines.
Don't you think we need strong evidence to show that Muslims voted for Modi in UP?

This is actually the general perception of people from outside Uttar Pradesh.

How can the BJP give Muslim candidate tickets if they don't have any good Muslim candidates?

I understand that the BJP wasn't doing any tokenism as far as Muslim representation is considered, but they certainly don't exclude Muslims from governance.

The Modi government gave M J Akbar representation in the prestigious external affairs ministry. There are other Muslim members in the Modi Cabinet.

To say the BJP is not giving tickets to Muslims is unfair.

I think the more the BJP becomes proactive in reaching out to Muslims, the greater would be the representation of Muslims in the BJP.

What was the change in the minds of the Muslims with regard to the BJP and Modi?

I do not know what is their perception and what is their frame, but certainly Muslims are happy at the grassroot level.

There are certain things which are going on at the grassroot level and the BJP's Muslim outreach is happening at the grassroot level.

The politics of communal polarisation is tokenism because you see the counter question -- are the parties which followed and pursued the politics of secularisation how Muslims look at them?

You see the result -- there is vehement rejection of Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati and that speaks for itself of the changing Muslim perception about the BJP.

IMAGE: BJP supporters await Modi's arrival at the party headquarters, March 12, 2017. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

What went wrong with the Samajwadi Party? Did Congress become a burden for them?

From the very beginning, you have been talking to me about this and I have been telling you that the entire business (the family feud between Mulayam Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav) is structured and choreographed and it was going to be devastating for the SP.

People came to realise it was all a drama.

There was nothing wrong in the alliance for the Congress, but the Samajwadi Party tying up with the Congress was suicidal.

Secondly, the SP has always flourished on anti-Congress sentiments. So it couldn't explain the U-turn on the Congress.

The Socialist Party was founded on anti-Congress sentiments by Ram Manohar Lohia and he happened to be the only guide for the Samajwadi Party.

This party could never explain why it has come so close to the Congress.

Akhilesh was running a good government with a majority. By ceding 105 seats to the Congress, Akhilesh triggered a revolt in 105 constituencies. These candidates openly opposed the Congress.

The Bihar model did not take place in Uttar Pradesh because the Congress was nowhere near power since 1989. This, Akhilesh failed to realise.

The way they campaigned lacked any seriousness. It was all allegations and a reactionary campaign. They could not sell their development politics.

The caste factor and Muslim polarisation worked for Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar against the BJP in Bihar. Why did it not work for Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi in UP?

It is crystal clear. In Bihar, Lalu and Nitish were in power for so many years. They could also energise their cadres and get their votes transferred, but in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress had no cadre.

Whatever premise was there about the transfer of votes was absolutely flawed because Muslims or Yadavs were not interested in transferring their votes to the Congress and therefore they fared so badly.

The Congress has no stake in Uttar Pradesh; there was nothing wrong in the alliance for the Congress, but Samajwadi tying up with the Congress was suicidal.

What went wrong with Mayawati?

Since 2012, Mayawati has distanced herself from Uttar Pradesh and nursed national ambitions.

The Dalits of UP realised she is not interested in state politics.

Secondly, most backward classes always thought that Mayawati was unfair to them and favoured the Jatav community more within Dalit society. Therefore, they were not happy with her.

The Brahmin component was completely marginalised after the Daya Shankar episode. Brahmins, Thakurs and upper castes did not vote for the BSP.

Mayawati went for Muslim votes thinking that social engineering is like mechanical engineering, but it is not.

Dalit-Muslim bonhomie at the grassroot level was never there and suddenly on the eve of elections it was not to be found.

If she wants Muslims and Dalits to come together she will have to work more on that for some time. Only then you can see the results.

Do you think if the BSP and SP do not form an alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it will lead to a Modi sweep in UP, just like it happened in 2014?

As far as I understand, the coming of the SP and BSP won't happen in UP though nothing is impossible in politics.

The BSP and SP not only represent antithesis as far as the leadership of Mayawati and Mulayam is concerned, they also represent two social denominations, which are positioned against each other.

OBCs normally are looked as exploitative by Dalits as they own land in villages and are dominant people. Dalits work on fields.

So, there is an economic clash between the two communities and therefore it is difficult for them to come together.

Moreover, both are not interested in coming together, so it is difficult to see this in the future.

More importantly, people these days do not appreciate the politics of negativism. Two people coming to remove the BJP. This was demonstrated by the Congress and SP and it failed in UP.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com