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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The BJP game plan for 2004 elections

How to defeat deceit, disinformation and misinformation and save democracy and secularism

By Syed Shahabuddin

The coming general election in April-May, 2004 shall be a test of the political maturity and wisdom of the people. By stages, the communal extremist and fanatical forces of Hindu Rashtravad have come to occupy the centre of the stage and have exercised power for nearly 5 years by applying what Atal Behari Vajpayee has called the Coalition Dharma, under the banner of the NDA but really under the leadership of the BJP, which is nothing more than the political front of the RSS.

Effectively, therefore, the RSS which was banned after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 and again on the promulgation of the Emergency in 1977, has become the extra-constitutional power behind the throne, the Rajguru, whose advice is sought and acted upon by the Prime Minister and his Ministers and which regularly monitors the functioning of the Central Government. The RSS is an ideological source-spring of hundreds of streams which fan out in practically all fields of human activity. In 5 years, the RSS control of the Central and some State governments has changed the political landscape and environment; the saffron wave has penetrated the academe and the mass media. The BJP has accumulated many IOU's from sympathizers in the bureaucracy and the security forces, in commerce and industry. All dissenters have been systematically and ruthlessly eliminated. Indeed, Democracy and Secularism are today in a state of siege and the shadows of Fascism are falling on the land.
The BJP leadership also sheds tears on how powerless the Muslims have been, treated as mere vote banks by the secular parties, and how they have been cheated of all progress or development. But the Sangh Parivar does not promise anything concrete if the Muslims do indeed trust them and come over. This confirms that they have no real interest in the welfare and progress of Muslims. 

The present electoral system based on single-member constituencies and first-past-the pole system, is helpful for any anti-democratic party, which does not believe in freedom but in coercion, so that once established in power on a minority vote, it will have no hesitation in unlawfully using the patronage and power of the State to extend its domain to crush all democratic opposition, to persuade the people to believe that it has come to stay and resistance in futile. The minorities and other marginalized sections are prone to such pressure and begin to see their own protection and survival in the goodwill of the ruling party and its ideological masters.

It is interesting to note that the BJP secured 182 seats on 23.75% of the votes cast while the Indian National Congress with 28.30% secured only 114 seats. The major allies of the BJP in forming the NDA Government have been the TDP with 29 seats, Shiv Sena with 15, Samata with 12, Biju Janata Dal with 10, A.I. Trinamool Congress with 9 and JD(U) with 6. In 1999, It also included DMK with 12, PMK 5 and MDMK 4 but they have walked out of the NDA. Their total % of votes comes to 37.47 as against 49.07 that of the parties opposed to them (See Table-I).

Since 1996, in the 3 General Elections, the BJP vote has been stuck at 25-27%, despite the massive propaganda and high pressure campaign financed by limitless resources. This means that more than 70% of the Indian electorate reject the narrow-minded exclusivism and fanatical anti-minorityism which are the hallmark of the RSS ideology and philosophy. The RSS and the BJP had realized this limitation by 1998 and, therefore, adopted the idea of forming coalition with the resurgent regional forces which cannot attain power at the Centre on their own but find it expedient to share power or to support the Central Government and in return obtain special concessions for their States. So this was a mutually beneficial deal. This time also the BJP is going to contest only 350 seats out of 543. The BJP President claims that it may win about 300 seats. This is impossible. Observers feel that the BJP may not even reach the 1999 total.

So to form the government the BJP is banking on 200 seats of its own, plus 75-80 seats of its allies. The AIADMK has replaced the DMK, the PMK and the MDMK. So the major parties clustered around the BJP today are TDP (AP), Shiv Sena (Maharashtra), Samata merged with and reborn as JD(U) (Bihar), AIADMK (Tamil Nadu), Biju Janata Dal (Orissa) and All India Trinamool Congress (W. Bengal).

On the national level, the real adversaries are the INC and the Left (the CPI[M], the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc). But the INC has, under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, also struck out to make new friends and partners. This was a realistic move and the line up includes DMK in Tamil Nadu, NCP in Maharashtra, TRS in AP, JMM in Jharkhand, RJD in Bihar and perhaps SP or BSP in UP.

So, on the whole, the coming general election will be a battle royal between the BJP-led NDA cluster and the Congress-led phalanx of Secular Forces which has unfortunately not yet crystallized into an alliance. What has brought the latter together is their faith in Democracy and Secularism and their commitment to struggle against Religious Exclusivism and Fascism.
The 1999 General Election results clearly show that had by a miracle, all political parties which are ideologically opposed to the RSS and the BJP, combined to form an alliance or make mutual adjustment or reach informal understanding on the basis of the last general election results (either on the basis of seats won or votes obtained) and given a one-to-one fight to the BJP and its allies, the NDA strength could not have exceeded 200 and the BJP itself may come down to between 50 and 100.

In keeping with the Coalition Dharma, the BJP has adopted the strategy of maximizing its strength within the 350 it will contest. It secured 38.78% votes for all 339 seats it contested in 1999 including 182 which it won. It polled 23.75% of the national votes on these 182 seats. The BJP lost many of these 157 seats by a small margin. The BJP cannot, under the Coalition Dharma, increase the number of seats to contest in 2004. It is, therefore, anxious to increase its vote in the seats it does contest and win them or at lest most of them. This means on an average 10% more votes in the seats it lost in 1999.

There is an ideological divide but there are many voters who are essentially liberal democrats, tolerant of religious differences who normally would not vote for an extremist or fanatical, anti-democratic and anti-secular party. And if they see no positive option, they may not exercise their franchise. Also in situation of violence or tense confrontation they may stay at home. There are many voters belonging to the weaker sections and the minorities who are terrorized into voting for a particular candidate because of his power, or influence or the pressure of the administrative machinery or because they live in an environment of fear, like a small group of Muslims living in a largely Hindu village in Gujarat, Rajasthan or MP.

As it came out in the Gujarat Pogrom, the BJP and its supporters had a complete list of the voters, area by area, family by family. So the BJP is well-organized to increase its votes in the constituencies it lost in 1999, using all possible means - propaganda, publicity, pressure and coercion.
It has also realized that if 18% of the electorate, of whom 12.5% are Muslims, which consists of religious minorities are hostile to the RSS and, if among them, they dominate, say, 20% of the Lok Sabha Constituencies, the BJP and its allies cannot rise beyond a certain level.

Hence, apart from everything else, they adopt a new approach of persuasion: the BJP is not against the minorities; it recognizes their identity and regards them as equal citizens, it is interested in their security, welfare and development and it is prepared to give them their due. In one word, it has put on the secular mask to deceive the minorities. It knows the state of insecurity in which the Muslims have passed their days under Vajpayee, the lack of concern shown by the Government in their educational uplift or economic development, the occurrence of hundreds of violent incidents - not to speak of the Gujarat Pogrom, 2000, the Sangh Parivar's continuing emphasis on building a Mandir on the site of the Babari Masjid even in defiance of judicial orders and their threat to demolish 30,000 other mosques and shrines, the routine performance of Hindu rites at State functions and the continuous harassment of Muslims by the administration and the police force at the ground level in BJP-run States. But the BJP with its fascist methods, can always out-Goebbes Goebbels, simply by repeating an untruth many times!

But the bigger and the real target is the fence sitting liberal and secular, tolerant Hindu voter. The idea is indeed to deceive him by show of concern for the religious minorities, by lip service to their welfare, by speaking and acting as a 'secular' party, by silencing the rabid hate mongers like Singhals and Togadias for the time being and by making a show of a few Muslim notables who, out of sheer opportunism, jump onto the Sangh bandwagon. In this game of deceit, if the BJP can secure 10% more votes of the common voters, it can win many more seats and may even form a government on its own, with outside support.

The only antidote to this strategy is the consolidation of the secular votes. If secular parties respect each others' strongholds, do not contest against each other, and do not divide the secular votes, and give a one-to-one fight to the BJP, they can defeat the BJP and its allies. In many constituencies, even then in 1999, they together secured more than 50% of the votes. While the BJP or its allies together totalled 10% lower. There are indeed very few Lok Sabha seats in the country which the BJP or its allies won by 50% of the votes cast.
So the electoral strategy boils down to the BJP trying to expand its popular base by tunneling through the secular divide and the INC trying to consolidate the secular votes.

There are no data on the exact % of Muslim on the electoral roll or on the % of Muslim who voted. But normally a minority group tends to poll a higher level of votes. Since the general level of polling was 60%, Muslim turnout may be 65%. Muslims constitute 12.5% of the total electorate of 619.6 million i.e. 77.5 million. So the Muslim turnout may be just over 50 million. If the BJP and its allies are able to secure, by hook or by crook, 10% of the Muslim voters (or 20% as they proclaim as their target) they would have an additional 5 - 10 million votes which would make a difference of 10 - 20 million between the two contenders. Since the Muslim voters are not spread out evenly in all States or in all Lok Sabha constituencies, and are concentrated in just about 10 States and in about 100 Constituencies, the impact will obviously be very strong in the areas of concentration.

That explains why a massive propaganda campaign has been launched by the Sangh Parivar using all available techniques of misinformation and disinformation to accentuate Muslim dissatisfaction from the secular parties, to promise him a place in the Hindu Rashtra's paradise, to play upon his human fears, terrorized as he is by the persistent phenomenon of communal violence (in which the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and even the Durga Vahini, the women wing, play the active role). He is threatened with many Gujarats to be enacted all over the country and advised that common sense demands that he be prudent and make peace with his oppressors or in the RSS Chief's memorable phrase 'seek the goodwill of the Hindus'! The Sangh Parivar projects itself as the legitimate representative of all Hindus. And then he is offered the carrot of freedom of religion in terms of performance of rituals, of course in private, at home. After all he is only a Mohammadi Hindu!

The BJP leadership also sheds tears on how powerless the Muslims have been, treated as mere vote banks by the secular parties, and how they have been cheated of all progress or development. But the Sangh Parivar does not promise anything concrete if the Muslims do indeed trust them and come over. This confirms that they have no real interest in the welfare and progress of Muslims. They only pay lip service and wish to make a show of the crowds they can gather or of the caps and turbans their leaders get themselves photographed with.

The real target is indeed the secular Hindu masses who should know that Fascist India will be shining only for 15% of the High Castes and not for the other 85% of the Hindus.

The rising flood of disinformation through the saffron media would have bowled out the secularists but for their deep commitment to the cause of Secularism and Democracy. The saffronized media predicts the restoration of the NDA. Even Vajpayee's leadership is projected as inevitable. All this is to caution the secularists against standing up and be counted; since the victory of the Leader who has placed his status as Parcharak above the office of Prime Minister is certain, prudence demands that everyone falls in line and joins the chorus of welcome for the Second Coming. A more serious analysis, on the other hand, brings out that the battle for successism is not yet decided, the jury is still out and if those who dare come out of their homes and vote for the strongest adversary of the BJP/NDA, the tally for the BJP may come down to 150 and that of the NDA below the magic number of 272.

The Muslims are largely addressed to respond enthusiastically to Vajpayee's call to them to vote 'thoughtfully'. This advice itself carries a delicate aroma of threat: Vote for the BJP or else! However, no one sees any politically important or nationally eminent Muslims even among filmstars - falling in the footsteps of Arif Baig, Anwarul Haque and Arif Mohd. Khan. One does not see any queues of Muslims outside the BJP's national or state headquarters. One does not even see the bearded, turbaned types vying with each other to get photographed with Vajpayee, Advani or Joshi. One recognizes the old-timers, the known Durbaris - Qari Mohd. Mian Mazhari, Jamil Ahmad Ilyasi and Dewan Zainul Abedin. A few more names have been reported but it is doubtful whether the entire list of the turncoats can affect a single Muslim voter to betray the interest of the country and the community and vote for the BJP.

But the real googly is: remember how you suffered under the Congress for 50 years and how you remained backward and jobless, how you were subjected to violence every now and then. Remember, they all cheated you in the name of secularism, posing as your saviour against Hindu hostility. Yes, the Muslim replies, we remember all that but they never had a free hand; they had their compulsions, they were confronted by your theory of appeasement and mollycoddling of the Pakistani fifth columnists, whenever they wanted to do anything for the Muslims. But the average Hindu is not hostile to the Muslims. Like any human being, he may turn into an arsonist, rapist or killer, only when his religious passions are aroused by you. The average Hindu is tolerant but he may turn into a destroyer of Masjids under your tutelage. Also, it is not true that Muslims have made no progress and are where they were in 1947 though it is true that they have not received their due share of the fruits of development; it is true that they have been discriminated against and suffered discrimination and bias in recruitment. But that is because the RSS has been poisoning the mind of generation of Hindus for the last 75 years and has succeeded in raising communalism to the level of ideology.

But what is more important for the secular voters is to realize that even if the performance of secular parties in power was not much different from that of communal parties, there is a clear line of demarcation between Secularism and Communalism, between Nationalism and Chauvinism, between Tolerance and Violence. A secular government can be shamed into action, you can argue with it. With a communal government, you cannot, as they have no sense of shame. For them, Gujarat is what the Muslim deserved; Demolition is moral because 500 years ago Babar (so they believe) destroyed a Mandir. They are not bound by rule of law but by force of numbers. For them democracy is majoritarianism. Every demand in the name of the majority is democratic, law or no law.

As if the campaign of disinformation and misinformation was not enough, the Sangh Parivar uses underhand methods. They put up Muslim candidates to divide Muslim votes and deny them to their adversaries; they have paid agents to establish new 'Muslim' parties and fronts to participate in the election. They even pay individuals to seek tickets of established groups. They even secure the services of a few so-called 'Muslim leaders' to advise the Muslims not to participate in the voting because all parties are the same; there is no difference among them; they are all anti-Muslim! The purpose is obvious. If the Muslims do not vote or if they cast their votes in the name of religion for Muslim candidates or Muslim parties and fronts which have no chance of winning, the ultimate beneficiary is the BJP and the cluster around it. Theologically, vote is a trust and a Muslim cannot but respect it and faithfully give his vote to the deserving candidate in the larger public interest. Politically, in a democratic system, a vote is both the sword and the shield in the hands of the people, to fight for their rights and to protect themselves against injustice. They want the Muslims to disarm themselves and lose whatever influence they can command.
There shall never be a perfect government. The weaker sections will always suffer some deprivation, discrimination, even oppression but, on the eve of the elections, they cannot engage in counting the old wounds; they should understand the importance of the present for the future and determine their priorities. The Battle of Democracy and Secularism, the struggle for universalization of Justice and Equality shall continue. In a country of continental dimension, something despicable will always happen somewhere and yet there is hope if there is rule of law and if there is political will and determination to deal with the situation effectively. So what is to be done: Save Democracy and Secularism and defer your own struggle for another day.

So the Muslim voters in the General Election 2004 must appreciate the critical importance of his vote, his duty to his country and to his community to use it to defeat the anti-secular and anti-democratic forces. They must vote unitedly and massively in every constituency in order to make an impact. They must totally discard those parties and candidates whose presence in the field only helps the BJP or its allies, directly or indirectly. They must ensure the victory of the strongest candidate against the BJP or its cluster, irrespective of his religion, caste or biradari.


BJP and Allies*

% of National Votes

Secular Parties*

% of  National Votes

BJP 23.75 BSP 4.16
JDU  3.01  CPI  1.48
AITC  2.57  CPM  5.40
BJD  1.20  INC  28.30
DMK  1.73  JDS  0.91
S.S.  1.56  NCP  2.27
TDP  3.65  RJD  2.79
SP  3.76    
Total  37.47    49.07

* Counting only those which secured more than 1% of the national votes.


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