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'Hindu middle class doesn't like anti-Muslim rhetoric'

March 12, 2017 10:28 IST

'If he is sensible, he will keep the fringe elements in control.'
'If he allows them to run amok, then 2019 may not be possible, provided the Opposition also does something wrong.'

Narendra Modi campaigns in Varanasi, March 5, 2017,

Few thinkers know Uttar Pradesh politics the way Sudha Pai does.

The professor, who has written several books on Uttar Pradesh politics, discusses the BJP's electoral triumph with Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

How much stronger has the prime minister emerged and where does he go from here?

Obviously, he has emerged stronger because UP is a strong state.

It is the consolidation of majoritarian democracy.

In that he is stronger and the right wing forces have become stronger.

This might help him perhaps in 2019.

You are saying it 'might' help him when many believe that this victory has paved the way for another term for the prime minister?

There is time between now and then.

The Congress can make changes if they really try because they have not done badly in Punjab, Goa or in Manipur.

The word 'perhaps' is quite sensible because no one knows in politics.

What are the changes that the Congress need to make urgently?

They need to make leadership changes.

They need to recognise that Rahul Gandhi has not delivered.

It is quite evident that wherever there is space for local leaders like in Punjab, the party has performed much better.

A large number of younger leaders who have been sidelined.

They need to be given space. They were not allowed to campaign.

Rahul Gandhi was the only one campaigning which gives the idea that there is no such party behind him.

They need to broaden the top base of the party, bring in more people who make decisions and not just keep everything in Rahul Gandhi's hand.

This also proves that the Gandhis' can no longer bring votes for the party?

Yes, it proves that they no longer are vote winners.

The younger generation which has not seen Nehru, the national movement and the Congress as it was earlier -- they see it as just another party led by somebody who is not very capable.

From that point of view they are no longer vote gatherers and not seen as very capable.

You mentioned the consolidation of the Hindu vote earlier, how will it impact the country?

It will impact Hindu-Muslim relations. It already has after 2014.

The victory of the party is not due to just Modi's campaign, but a long term mobilisation to bring the Hindus together.

The prime minister's communal remarks about kabrastan etc were not so much an attack on the Muslim as an attempt to consolidate the Hindu vote.

I think it did help because the Jats, OBCs voted for the BJP.

There is an attempt to consolidate the Hindu vote and culturally to make the Muslims fall in line and recognise the fact that they are a minority and follow certain values -- like not eating beef.

It will be more difficult for minority communities after this.

What political narrative will Opposition parties have to present if they have to counter Narendra Modi?

I think they should stop criticising him and offer some alternative.

If you remember anti-Congressism didn't help the Opposition either.

All that Opposition parties are doing is negative campaigning. They are not saying what they will do if they come to power.

The Congress has no ideology, no programme -- Rahul Gandhi has not put forward a single substantial idea.

They need to first introspect and look at themselves before they criticise Modi.

Whatever it is, Modi has taken a number of risks, like demonetisation itself or Swacch Bharat, whether he has implemented it successfully or not, he has put forward ideas and people recognise that.

In Akhilesh, what people saw was the fight with his father.

Mulayam not coming out to campaign also went against him.

So Akhilesh's expressways and bridges don't seem to have got him votes?

How many of the really poor in rural areas would have used the metros?

You need to create jobs, and schemes that give people opportunities.

People are not asking for welfare, they are asking for quality education, jobs and rapid development.

Akhilesh also tolerated Muzaffarnagar.

He has the image of belonging to a party which has a feudal outlook, connections to mafia dons like in the past to Mukhtar Ansari, Gayatri Prajapati.

They have to change their image. That is the tragedy, it's not that Narendra Modi is so great or charismatic, but there is nobody else (to counter him).

What does Mayawati need to do reshape or redefine BSP to be relevant again?

In the 2000s, identity politics has weakened.

Both the younger generation of Dalits and Muslims is no longer attracted towards only identity. They want something more.

She must try and bring caste and development together.

She must make it into a party that may have a Dalit core, but also takes other people along.

I think she will be able to do it. I wouldn't write off Mayawati.

But she has lost two elections in a row and is in perhaps in the worst political situation she has ever been in?

One other thing that has worked against the BSP is that in the 2000s, it has been more concerned with capturing power and has stopped being a movement.

The BSP represented a kind of democratic revolution which went lower and lower, but that has stopped.

The Pasis, Khatiks in Eastern UP are no longer connected with the BSP like they were earlier.

The radical promise of the 1990s is not there.

It has become like any other party and Dalits feel why should we vote for her?

That edge has gone and that is true of Mulayam Singh as well because they have both given up the main plank of being a Socialist, backward party in the pursuit of social justice.

This win shows that there is no challenger to Mr Modi in the current scenario. How does that reinforce his image and position?

If he is sensible, he will keep the fringe elements in control.

If he allows them to run amok, then 2019 may not be possible, provided the Opposition also does something wrong.

The Hindu middle class is prepared to put up little here and there, but I don't think it likes riots and an active anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Ram Janmabhoomi backfired on them (the BJP) and they declined in UP.

He will have to stay on the path of development, reform and see that fringe elements don't go beyond a certain point.

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Archana Masih / Rediff.com