The Puzzle of the BJP’s Muslim Supporters in Gujarat

Raheel Dhattiwala examines a political phenomenon in Gujarat: the support of Muslims for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that many Muslims perceive as responsible for the brutal violence in the State in 2002 when at least a thousand Muslims were killed. The findings are based on 23 months of ethnographic fieldwork — in periods spanning three elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — and an analysis of 101 polling booths in Ahmedabad city.
The following article is a summary of a policy report by the author.

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Image credit: Hindu Centre

Are Muslims shedding their resentment for the BJP and voting for it? The potency of this question is greatest in context of Gujarat where it gained significance soon after the BJP’s political rapprochement with Muslims in 2009. This report attempts to answer why Gujarat’s Muslims would support the BJP, a party that many continue to acknowledge as having perpetrated violence against Muslims in the State less than a decade ago. In doing so, it examines the profile of the BJP Muslim supporter and what ‘support’ actually means.

Findings of this report are primarily based on in-depth fieldwork evidence spanning three election periods in Ahmedabad city (2010 to 2014). Indeed, interview evidence suggests an unprecedented surge in public support of Muslims for the BJP in this period. Motivations of support varied for those Muslims who had joined the party as members, from those who were supporters/campaigners for the party. For Muslim party members, political patronage of a party deemed to stay in power in the State was a strong incentive to vocally support the BJP as opposed to value rational incentives for the supporter/campaigner (“to get rid of our anti-national image we have to be with the BJP”). Common to both groups of supporters was the effect of personal experience of the violence. A Muslim with direct experience (e.g. death of a family member) of the violence in 2002 was least likely to voice support for the BJP.

At the same time, inferences drawn from 101 polling booths in seven assembly constituencies in Ahmedabad highlight a distinction between public and electoral support: more Muslims were likely to have supported the BJP in public only, than going out and voting for it as well. This is plausible given that anonymous referendum implies the possibility of public behaviour being distinct from electoral behaviour. The sample booth analysis suggests not more than 10 per cent votes were cast by Muslims for the BJP. This figure is not very different from Muslim voting for the BJP in Gujarat in the years prior to 2009. Of course, making ecological inferences from booth-level data has its own set of caveats, which further highlights the uncertainty of claims— “over 30 per cent Muslims voted for us”—made by the BJP from constituency-level aggregate figures.

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2014 Elections: The Waves of Change?

Although the public discourse surrounding the 2014 general elections seems to be centered on the effects of a “Modi Wave”, Mathew Idiculla stresses the need to remember that elections in India are ultimately a multi-polar contest fought over varied issues.  

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That 2014 would be a year of change seems inevitable. Whichever political formation wins the upcoming national elections, India will soon have a new Prime Minister after nearly a decade under Manmohan Singh. But beyond a mere change of guard, this election has the potential to alter the political and economic trajectory of India. This is not merely because Congress is projected to get one of its lowest ever tallies as per most opinion polls, but also because its chief challenger seems to embody a thought quite different from that held by all previous prime ministers.

2014 could very well be remembered with other landmark years in India’s political history- 1967, when Congress domination ended as it lost power in half the states; 1977, when for the first time Congress was unseated from power at the centre and 1984, when Congress won its highest vote share ever and had for the last time a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family as the Prime Minster. In terms of economic policy, 1991 saw a major policy shift in India with the opening of the markets which was further taken forward by the BJP led NDA government. However, since 2004, India has followed an “inclusive growth” model which sought to go beyond economic growth and focused on delivering social welfare by enacting various socio-economic rights. But with economic growth lowering to 5.5 per cent this year and rising inflation, the viability of this model is under the scanner and the policy priorities of the next government could hence undergo a major shift.

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The politics of apoliticising gender in India

Bhoomika Joshi and Sanober Umar

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The widespread protests after the rape of a young woman in Delhi during December-January 2012-13 were analysed as signals of a mass awakening of gender consciousness in India by many commentators, especially among the urban metropolitan youth. Political parties across the spectrum registered their responses against the incident, ranging among demands for capital punishment, castration and life sentence.
However the incorporation of ‘gender’ as an agenda for electoral politics by mainstream political parties did not find an expression and still remains absent. The subsumption of gender as a platform of political ideology under other debates and the absence of taking into account the intersectionality of various identities within the category of gender has prevented the full expression of political consolidation of feminist ideologies at the state level. For the world’s largest democracy, ‘gender’ as a realm of political contestation and agenda remains subsumed under other ‘larger debates’. Elections in India are not fought, loss or feared by political parties over the need to address the impact of gendered discrimination. Gender as a principle of organized agenda for political action, especially at the larger national level has not garnered the same level of interest as other matters of political power, contestation, and negotiation.

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Getting this Straight: Decriminalising Gay Sex is an Idea Whose Time has Come

Karan Singh looks at the medievalism of the criminalisation of gay sex, and grounds his argument for the reversal of the Supreme Court judgment in India’s long history of social reforms. On 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court of India overturned the 2 July 2009 Delhi High Court judgment decriminalising gay sex between consenting adults, bringing with it an avalanche of emotions, ranging from disappointment and betrayal to satisfaction and relief, from people who waited for the verdict but for diametrically opposite reasons. The subsequent political and media discourse was as much rooted in the religious beliefs, political climate and social conservatism as … Continue reading Getting this Straight: Decriminalising Gay Sex is an Idea Whose Time has Come

Rape – The Terrible Child Of Patriarchy

Shreeppriya GK On a gloomy morning in the last week of the departing year, a few tube-lights shone down on a solitary teak desk. In the harsh light lay what had been, for the past several days, the daily harbinger of death and depravity – an array of newspapers. The brutal gang rape and torture of a young physiotherapy student in New Delhi on the 16thof December had sparked national and international outrage over the state of women’s security in Delhi and the rest of the country. Her sad demise on the 29th of December after a heroic battle against … Continue reading Rape – The Terrible Child Of Patriarchy

Healthcare for Women: Should be big agenda for Elections 2014

Sucheta Tiwari The three waves of feminism seem to have overlooked the Indian shores. We are a country where any conversation about gender issues tends to get lost within layers of complexities ranging from predominantly patriarchal societal norms to misrepresentation of women in government offices. The issue of women’s health weaves through all of these layers and emerges as one of the most complex, yet one of the most poignant issues of the day. Mr. K.D. Singh brought up the issue of sanitation and drinking water facilities in his post. I will try to delve deeper into the healthcare issues … Continue reading Healthcare for Women: Should be big agenda for Elections 2014