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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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In a judgement of far reaching political and social consequences, the Allahabad High Court today ruled that Muslims in Uttar Pradesh can no longer be treated as a religious minority. This development comes with Uttar Pradesh going to polls for the state assembly in 2 days for the first phase of constituencies. Meanwhile in a pre-emptive “secular strike” ahead of the “communal” court decision, the Election Commission ordered the filing of a FIR against BJP President Rajnath Singh and Leader of the Opposition in UP Lalji Tandon over a controversial campaign CD that was not to be. The EC has also asked BJP to show cause why its symbol as a national party should not be derecognized.

Only the Rajiv Gandhi assasination in the middle of a general election comes closest to the current developments in Uttar Pradesh. Offstumped examines the “Shock and Awe” effect of these twin developments ahead of the first phase UP Polls.

First the High Court Judgement on Minority Status to Muslims. The high court ruling is set to trigger a constitutional debate on who is a minority. National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chief Hamid Ansari has already laid the contours for which way that debate will head from the psuedo-secular side of the political divide. According to Ansari

“In relation to 51, 49 is a minority and in relation to 49, 51 is a majority. So if there is an arithmetical test to be applied, this figure of 13 or 18 per cent will stand self-evident as a minority,” he remarked

Well Ansari maybe spared the mental arithmetic for Minority Politics in India and world over has not been about numbers but about the ubiquitous “paranoia”. Playing to the fear of the Majority has been an universal trait and psuedo-secular politicians in India have been no exception. While the court battle plays out, the question comes back to who stands to benefit from this decision. To answer the question one must examine the immideate psychological effect of the decision. If one were to go with the assumption that Muslim vote will consolidate behind viable Muslim or Pro-Muslim candidates, this decision goes further to catalyze that consolidation. On the larger question of who would benefit from that consolidation one should not be surprised if Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP stages a smart comeback. Offstumped’s analysis of the Muslim Vote Bank revealed that in about 86 odd seats such a Muslim vote consolidation can influence SP’s prospects.

The 5 phase polling in UP is bound to influence how this plays out depending on the Supreme Court’s reaction and how the psuedo-secular parties attempt to appropriate the Minority Cause for the Muslims. On the other side of the political divide however this ruling and the CD episode are perhaps good news for the BJP despite media reporting to the opposite. The High Court ruling reinforces the BJP argument of Muslim Appeasement in UP and thus could have a motivating effect on the BJP’s base to turnout on election day. The CD episode while inconvenient from an election commission standpoint will have a further consolidating effect on the BJP vote base more than anything else.

The media has been attempting to paint this as some kind of a setback for the BJP, the fact of the matter however is this actually will help more than hurt the BJP. Any tough action by the EC against the BJP will trigger a greater backlash politically in UP than the supposed secular backlash the media is imagining the CD episode would trigger. One must remember that UP is a fragmented and polarized state politically. There are no secular undecided voters to win over. There maybe further muslim vote consolidation but there will be no anti-BJP backlash. Those who are voting against the BJP are those who have already made up their minds on account of caste and community considerations. So the entire CD episode while mildly amusing for the mainstream english media is more of an opportunity for the EC to appear even handed and to assert itself than anything else.

Offstumped Bottomline: As UP goes to polls the shock and awe from the twin developments of the High Court Decision and the BJP CD episode will have a consolidating effect on the twin vote banks. The key beneficiaries will likely be the SP and BJP. Come election day, pay close attention to the turnout for there in lie early signals of which way the votes have consolidated. A low turnout will mean a battle of vote banks while a high turn out could throw all predictions, the present one included, out of the window.

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