Self-help is the only help

What Gujarat's Muslims can take away from Modi's win

Narendra Modi has secured another huge victory in Gujarat, an outcome that is bound to have been seen as demoralising by Muslims in the state and across India. In the context of Modi's prime-ministerial ambitions, it is important that we analyse this development.

First, despite what the pundits say about Modi's 'development', Gujarat's growth has been heavily tilted towards the middle and upper classes. And yet, Modi has received huge support from tribal, Dalit and backward class voters. The reason is the sense among Gujarat's Hindu population: "In 2002, Muslims were taught a lesson they will never forget". This is the basis of Modi's political success.

Gujarat may be the most communalised state in the country. This predates the horrors of 2002. While non-Gujaratis are troubled by the fact that Mahatma Gandhi's birthplace should be so anti-Muslim, Gandhi, in his lifetime, was never a popular figure in the state. Gujaratis have been far more influenced by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, K.M. Munshi and the sack of Somnath by Mahmud of Ghazni. Modi has successfully exploited this latent anti-Muslim feeling, turning it into a powerful political weapon. With a Muslim population of just under 10 per cent, it is easy to inflame the remaining 90 per cent on communal grounds. He was not willing to give even one BJP seat to a Muslim candidate, for that would have diluted his appeal to non-Muslims. His references to "Ahmed miyan", his saffron clothes at election meetings, his raising the Sir Creek issue, were all subtle messages to his core supporters.

However, the national arena is a different matter. What are Modi's prospects in 2014? Bihar, UP , West Bengal and Assam have Muslim populations of between 20 to 30 per cent of the whole. The BJP is weak in these states. Communal polarisation will not be as easy as it is in Gujarat, especially because there are powerful third parties that seek Muslim votes. These four states send about 200 Lok Sabha members, compared to 26 MPs from Gujarat.

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