Amit Shah used to be a master poll strategist who almost single-handedly helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win 71 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in Lok Sabha. The saffron party’s performance in UP was instrumental in Narendra Modi being crowned as Prime Minister of India. That was 2014.
Barely three years later in 2017 just days before Uttar Pradesh is set to go voting to elect a new state government, Shah is leading the saffron party as if it was a fringe political outfit catering just to Hindus. How else would one explain BJP’s decision to not award a single ticket to a Muslim, in the state with the largest Muslim population in the country?
In an interview aired on Hindi news channel India TV on Saturday, Shah explained the logic behind ignoring Muslim candidates saying that the BJP believed in the philosophy of “sabka saath sabka vikaas” (Inclusive development for one and all).
“Do you think awarding a ticket to a Muslim candidate would bring development?,” Shah quipped to an audience member who asked why the saffron party didn’t nominate a single Muslim candidate.
Shah went on to claim that distributing tickets on religious lines was never a priority for the BJP, citing the example of BJP’s stronghold of Gujarat. “Every home in Gujarat, including the Muslim ones, have power.”
If you fell for Shah’s explanation, here’s why you should not.
Most importantly, Uttar Pradesh is not Gujarat. It really is not.
Nearly four crore Muslims call Uttar Pradesh home, with the community forming 19 percent of the northern state’s population. Gujarat, on the other hand, had just 9 percent of its population as Muslim as of 2011. The Muslim population in urban areas of UP is as high as 32 percent. According to the 2011 Census, 231 out of UP’s 931 towns had predominantly Muslim populations.
Muslims in Uttar Pradesh form significant part of both urban and rural social fabric, more than our current national leaders perhaps realise.
How on earth can one compare UP with Gujarat, where BJP didn’t field a single Muslim candidate in 2012 state election and won? Clearly, electoral math didn’t feature in Shah’s calculation when handing out tickets in UP.
BJP’s ideology of Hindutva, which makes minorities including Muslims uncomfortable, is the only other explanation. Firebrand BJP leaders such as Gorakhpur MP Yogi Aditynanath have been railing against Muslim communities in western UP in the lead up to voting, accusing the region’s Muslims of triggering a Hindu exodus.
BJP, no matter what its leaders say, has never been a fan of the Muslim. In 2014 national election, the party didn’t return a single Muslim candidate from Uttar Pradesh. Incidentally though not surprisingly, our current Parliament has the lowest number of Muslim MPs since Independence, even as it is the first time that BJP is in complete majority.
Could BJP make good on its flagship pledge of “sabka saath sabka vikas” by denying political representation to Muslims and claiming that its candidates speak for all Indians?
Still not convinced?
How many Muslims do you know who could trust their vote to the BJP? I can’t think of anyone.