Godhra had polarized gujarat to such an extent that modi could afford to ignore
muslim opinion and yet retain his hold on the western state. Can he replicate this on the national stage, wonders Soumitro Das
The one political lesson that Narendra Modi learned from the post-Godhra anti-Muslim pogrom and the elections that followed was that he could afford not to give two hoots for Muslim opinion. Godhra had polarized Gujarat to such a degree that Modi could do without the Muslim vote – a dream for every BJP politician. Modi did not think it worth his while, for the sake of being representative, to field a single Muslim as a candidate in the recently concluded Assembly elections. He claims that many Muslims nevertheless voted for him.
Can he replicate this experience at the national level? Probably not. He will have to produce a polarization of massive proportions for which he would need an event of cataclysmic proportions – like Pakistan dropping an atom bomb on Benrares. That is unlikely to happen. So what does he do? It is not possible to secure a majority or even largest party status, in Parliament, without having a reasonable share of the Muslim vote.
We think that Modi can still get a significant number of Muslim votes despite his baggage. This is how.
There is a relatively wide swathe of Muslim public opinion that is not really hostile to the Hindu Rashtra project so cherished by the RSS-BJP combine. They are not hostile to Hindu Rashtra because they themselves conceive of the State as an essentially religious entity. They see no contradiction in a quasi-fascist Hindu nationalist regime being in power in Delhi running the country as it deems fit even against the democratic aspirations of lots of people. This is the section of Muslim opinion which is most in sympathy – albeit covertly – with the global jihad. These are the non-secular Muslims. Their aim is not to create enclaves of Islamic purity or even to unite the ummah behind a caliph or an amir-ul-momineen. Their aim is to roll back the tide of history such that History becomes once again a manifestation of the Divine Will, and not the sum total of human endeavour, that religious law takes precedence once again over Western secular law and the primacy of religion in public life be restored. Indeed, a representative of the Muslim community said in France, in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy that they speak for all faiths.
These Muslims would be prepared to vote for Modi for two reasons: one the Hindu Rashtra project fits in with their aims, two, for the sake of equality, and Islam is nothing if not an egalitarian religion, if Muslims in Pakistan can declare an Islamic Republic then Hindus in Hindustan have a similar right to proclaim a Hindu Rashtra. Such a stance has the advantage of proving the classical two nation theory propounded by Iqbal and others right thereby providing legitimacy to political Islam. No problems.
These Muslims, whose numbers are significant, would be willing to vote for Modi in spite of the fact that there is no reciprocity: non-secular Hindus do not support the global jihadi project.
This again for two reasons: one, non-secular Hindus view the period of Muslim rule in india as a period of foreign domination and Muslims themselves an alien presence if not exactly foreigners. This is straight out of Savarkar who said the first qualification of being an Indian is to recognize the geographical contours of Hindustan as his punyabhumi, his terrain of salvation. That is one. Two, the non-secular Hindu thinks Kashmir is Indian and, therefore thinks that Hindu overlordship of Muslim majority areas is okay.
The best illustration of this lack of reciprocity, this political asymmetry is to be found in the careers of Salman Rushdie and MF Hussain. Non-secular Hindus are indifferent to Rushdie – they are neither for him nor against him.
They are mostly non-committal, considering it to be a problem that concerns the Muslim community internally. But non-secular Muslims were positive that MF Hussain go to Qatar for having drawn "Blasphemous" (after Khajuraho one doesn’t understand how the concept of blasphemy can exist within Hinduism) pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses. Neither non-secular Hindus nor non-secular Mulsims have any passionate commitment to free speech and expression, or even to democracy itself.
However, the non-secular Muslims’ support for Modi would not be unconditional. Modi would have to reassure them that their lives and property would be safe under him. There is no reason to believe that Modi would not give such an assurance and that he would not be believed by his non-secular Muslim constituents.
This is essentially a battle for the kind of India that we, secularists, want and are willing to fight for and against the kinds of Implicit contracts that non-secular elements among the two major communities, the Hindus and Muslims, could arrive at to undermine Indian democracy and Indian secularism.
The author is a contributor