Sunday, August 23, 2015

Will Modi play Muslim card in Bihar?


Will PM Narendra Modi gift Muslims a deputy Chief Minister if not a Chief Minister?
(This blog is a joint venture between me -your's truly Nirendra Dev- and a prominent Muslim journalist - Andalib Akhter of Indian Awaz)
The biggest asset in politics is the surprise element and who knows that best other than the master of symbolism – Narendra Modi himself. Even his worst critics would admire Modi’s way of doing things, his ability to fascinate people through his oratory skills and effectively using the media.
Recall: Modi’s infamous :“Hamare pannch, hamare pachis” or ‘Mia Musharraf’ barbs — all that linked to his anti-Muslim “vote bank in Gujarat”. Way back in 2002, Modi was asked why he raked up Muslim family life, his reply was curt: “I know people’s pulse”.
Well, Modi is not alone in this club. The likes of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi also used to make optimum use of the symbolism and play ‘surprise element’ to its hilt to play game-changer. Remember Indira Gandhi’s ‘ghunghat attired’ election rallies and how penetrating that simple gesture used to be to make a mark across the nation at a time when Indians thought the ‘urbane and indiscipline’ women folks were trying to ‘break’ the sacred cultural boundaries.

Vajpayee has been another master of symbolism. His speech in Pakistan, “aap ki chini khai meethi thi (we had sugar from Pakistan imported in India and it was all sweet)” and Hum Padosi nahi badal Sakte – had left people in a supposed ‘enemy country’ touched!
Cut to Bihar polls, circa 2015. None other than Modi himself knows the importance of elections in state which he terms a ‘BIMARU state’. The declaration of perfect secular alliance in advance has already left BJP strategists sleepless…
If media is concerned about the outcome, who will win or whether can Nitish -Lalu put a halt to Moditva’s rise in the cow-belt, for his part Modi understands the importance of victory too. But he would like to win the coming Bihar polls in style.
The timing of his UAE visit suited Prime Minister’s Bihar agenda. Therefore, unhesitatingly he agreed for a visit to the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. 
`Wazir-e-azam Modi pahli bar Masjid me dakhil’ (PM Modi in a masjid for the first time) — was the top story in almost all Urdu dailies. Indians and non-Indians – mostly Muslims chatted over it in the social networking for hours.
A devoted Hindu: Can he reach out to Muslims?
Prior to his UAE visit in the Independence Day speech of August 15, 2015, Modi made repeated mention of his new Team India – 125 crore Indians. Prime Minister also thundered “The poison of communalism has no place in India and we have to defeat these through development”. He warned that the communalism would not be tolerated in the country.
The timing of his UAE visit suited Prime Minister’s Bihar agenda. Therefore, unhesitatingly he agreed for a visit to the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
`Wazir-e-azam Modi pahli bar Masjid me dakhil’ (PM Modi in a masjid for the first time) — was the top story in almost all Urdu dailies. Indians and non-Indians – mostly Muslims chatted over it in the social networking for hours.
Prior to his UAE visit in the Independence Day speech of August 15, 2015, Modi made repeated mention of his new Team India – 125 crore Indians. Prime Minister also thundered “The poison of communalism has no place in India and we have to defeat these through development”. 

“If unity of India is destroyed, then the dreams of the people will also be destroyed” PM's message was very clear. He want to win a state where BJP never had a chief minister.
Certainly, he knows these 125 crore Indians – his new Team India – cannot be complete without Muslims. Bihar elections perhaps provide him a great opportunity to reach out to Muslims and not playing the traditional Congress and the secular brigade’s style of playing politics with them.
Prime Minister Modi knows he has moved over from his 6 crore Gujarati voters and the votaries of Hindutva politics. True, no Indian Prime Minister can afford to ignore Muslims and many believe, he has given an indication that he is now willing to reach out to the community. Look at the timing yet again, Modi’s Masjid visit came just about 48 hours after his I-Day speech when he pledged to uproot the “poison of casteism and religious fanaticism”. In the meantime as Muslims keep an eye on Modi, the Prime Minister knows if he has to make a mark he cannot be any longer perceived as an anti-Muslim leader – notwithstanding whatever the Hindutva school of zealots and RSS feel. Left to Modi, he would not mind visiting Pakistan before Bihar elections as Nitish Kumar once did ahead of Assembly polls in state.
Till now except Muslims, every section of society in Bihar is in dilemma as what to do in the forthcoming elections. Even Lalu and Nitish are not sure of the minds of people of their castes. They fully bank on Muslims’ support, even as they are fully maginalising Muslim leadership in the state and in their parties.
So what options does Modi have?
There’s a message going down the line that the BJP could surprise this time by fielding many Muslim candidates in Bihar polls. Which will send a tough message to the secular parties. That the saffron party has decided to play safe about Muslim sensitivity can be understood that the likes of Giriraj Singh, who in 2014 asked anti-Modi voters to look for a place in Pakistan, is now silenced. None among the BJP leaders are talking about hardline Hindutva or anti-Muslim issues.
There are already media reports where Muslim leaders locally in Bihar are talking how JD(U) and RJD have disallowed progress of any Muslim leader in their respective parties. So can Modi play surprise game of all and make a Muslim – the Bihar Chief Minister?
His task on this would be tough as BJP does not have any towering Muslim personality. Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and a new entrant Sabir Ali are not simply Chief Ministerial material. But in neighbouring Jharkhand, none thought a non-tribal can become the Chief Minister. Modi-Amit Shah opted for little known Raghubir Das.
Among the Bihari Muslims, BJP incidentally has an educated M J Akbar, known for sophistication and who does not shy to mention his Hindu antecedent. Another senior Muslim bureaucrat from state working in Delhi has also reportedly suggested BJP leadership to project him as CM. After all politics is game of eventualities. Nothing can be said perfectly or nothing could be rejected outright. The guessing game has just begun!
(ends)
Akbar: An Editor par excellence!

No comments:

Post a Comment