Article: Absence of Muslim factor leads to BJP’s humiliation in by-polls

Soroor Ahmed

A significant aspect of the recently held by-poll result of Himachal Pradesh is that the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the Mandi Lok Sabha and three Assembly seats notwithstanding the fact that Hindus form 95.17 per cent of the state population. Not only that about half of the population is of upper castes, which in recent years are overwhelmingly voting for the saffron party almost all over India.

Ironically, the BJP won the 2019 Mandi Lok Sabha seat by over four lakh votes. Mandi is the home-turf of Chief Minister Jairam Thakur. In one of the three Assembly seats, the BJP was pushed to the third position.

As per an estimate about one-third (33-34 per cent) of the state’s population is Thakurs or Rajputs and 18 per cent Brahmins. There are about 25 per cent Scheduled Castes and 5.7 per cent Scheduled Tribes population. There are 13.5 per cent Other Backward Castes in Himachal Pradesh, where like Uttarakhand, the political tussle is often between Brahmins and Thakurs.

A close look at the BJP’s performance reveals that in this state the party, which is in power at the Centre too, failed to capitalise on the anti-Muslim passion simply because there is little scope for that. Muslims are just 2.18 per cent of the state population whereas there are 1.16 per cent Sikhs. The Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh as well as in Gujarat is due in December 2022.

Apparently, Himachal Pradesh may be a small state with just four Lok Sabha and 68 Assembly seats. But this small sample may help understand many things. The Congress victory in by-polls came when everything was going against the party. Even one of the leading lights of the group of dissident leaders, Anand sharma, comes from Himachal Pradesh.

On the other hand, BJP’s national president JP Nadda and Union Minister Anurag Thakur hail from the state. They, along with the chief minister, did everything to win the by-election but failed. The defeat of the BJP came when usually the result of by-poll goes in favour of the ruling party.

While the BJP could win only one Lok Sabha seat, that is in Madhya Pradesh, it also lost Dadra and Nagar Haveli parliamentary seat to Shiv Sena. Here again Muslims were not a big factor. Hindus form about 94 per cent of the population while Muslims just 3.76.

The saffron party also lost one of the two Assembly seats in Karnataka that is, of Hanagal, the home town of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. True the BJP won all five seats in Assam, it lost all four seats in West Bengal to Trinamool Congress. In Rajasthan both the BJP and Congress won one each.

The poor performance of the saffron party in the state or constituencies where Muslims are not a big factor has made the top brass sit up and ponder. The party appears to have exhausted the Moditva card in those places where Hindus are in huge percentage.

In the coming Assembly poll in early next year the BJP may try to play this card in Uttar Pradesh where there are 19.3 per cent Muslims and in Uttarakhand where their population is 13.9 per cent. But what would be the strategy in the states where Muslims are not a big factor.

The party has also seen as to how this factor had backfired in West Bengal (in the last summer election), where there was a strong rival outfit in the form of Trinamool Congress. In Assam, the BJP succeeded largely because of the failure of the Congress which did not put up any chief ministerial candidate and where the Grand Old Party had no such strategy to counter the propaganda of the ruling party. This happened notwithstanding the fact that that the BJP had a very difficult time after the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019.

The by-election results of November 2 have certainly indicated that there is still scope for bi-polar politics at the national level and Congress is still relevant. There is no room for Congress-mukt (free) India. — Courtesy Clarion India