Muslim Alienation as an Electoral Tactic of BJP

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Sabina Babar

In the political narrative, the adoption of Hindu identity is based on the notion that adherence to the Hindu ethos will distinguish Indians and non-Indians. This notion has become the preamble of Hindu identity in India.

The idea has been further enforced by stating that India is a Hindu-majority country and does not entail any shared cultural past along socio religious lines. Being in power for the past two tenures, the Modi government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has established a power nexus by constructing a Hindu nationalist and linguistic discourse in India.

In India, Hindu nationalist intellectuals supported by the Prime Minister’s office have replaced secular liberalism ideology with religious extremism. Under Modi’s leadership, the new power elite class prioritized the Hindu identity over the Indian identity. Hindu nationalism has had a significant influence on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modi’s regime has adopted these policies by constructing the narrative of Hindus as sons of the soil and focusing on alienating the Muslim community. The BJP is construed as a party based on identity politics that seeks to find the pre-eminence of Hindu identity by adopting the concept of otherization for all other identities.

To further strengthen Hindu nationalism, The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was introduced by Modi’s government; on the one hand, it has constructed the notion that the CAA has nothing to do with religion; on the other hand, it served Modi’s purpose of establishing nationalism, as he mentioned in his 2019 speech that Hindu migrants would be accommodated and all others (Bangladeshi Muslims) would be infiltrated from Asam.

In 2019, Amit Shah, the home minister, used the same language, saying that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh should be deported and that the BJP would pick them up and throw them into the Bay of Bengal. This language adoption at the institutional level by the BJP was never condemned under Modi’s government; in fact, it has constructed this.

In contemporary times, Modi’s self-deprecating speeches have constructed his image of Karmayogi, articulated in Hinduism’s primary text, the Bhagavad Gita. This choice of words in his language referred to Modi’s emphasis on Hindu narrative dominance by side-lining other communities. One of the largest Indian states, Uttar Pradesh, led by the saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath, used the term “green virus” to describe opposite parties courting Muslim voters. All BJP leaders’ main agenda in the recent elections was to keep Muslim voters at bay, either through linguistic discourse or by constructing a discriminatory narrative.

Overall, a three-way race is anticipated in the city, with the Congress and the AAP hoping to gain ground in the BJP stronghold. Results from the second round of voting are expected on Tuesday, December 8, 2022, and the situation created before the elections were favorable to the BJP.

In Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where Muslims make up a significant portion of the BJP’s voter base, the party has frequently reversed course. The BJP has not put out a single Muslim candidate for the upcoming state assembly elections, even though Muslims make up approximately 9% of the population of Gujarat and are significantly represented in about 25 assembly seats. In Gujarat, the party has adopted a consistent approach by refusing to provide tickets to Muslim candidates in recent elections.

This electoral tactic is completely consistent with Modi’s reputation as the main instigator of Hindutva politics in the state. A communist stated accurately that Modi sits on an anti-Muslim consensus (within the state), and his support originates from this. The BJP actively excluded Muslims following the Gujarat riots and the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement in the 1990s. Since then, BJP election victories have corresponded with Modi’s political victories. This indicates the BJP’s total boycott of Gujarat’s Muslim voting population.

The BJP is using a similar tactic in Assam, where the party is alienating Bengali Muslim settlers by using false rhetoric against the group. The party is led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma. Local Assamese and Bengalis’ animosity for one another has been the root of the region’s ongoing social unrest. The same is true for the states of Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, which are preparing for elections, where the BJP has decided to advocate for Hindu interests in line with its long-standing Hindutva agenda.

Overall, these examples show that the BJP’s alternating support for and marginalization of Muslims depends only on its electoral tactics in various states during various elections. The party seeks to be a more inclusive force to be reckoned with now that it has decisively displaced the INC as India’s leading national party. It acknowledges that it is unacceptable to alienate all Muslim voters completely. Hindu nationalism is central to India’s political discourse and the BJP’s manifesto. The BJP has come to power with the construction of this discourse, which has further marginalized and ostracized minorities in India.

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Disclaimer: Muslim Alienation as an Electoral Tactic of BJP - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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