The Muslims in India were known to be a vote bank that votes en masse. It was because of this reason that the 'secular' parties of the country, pioneered by the Congress, found them a safe bet during elections and accordingly, went on appeasing them in the name of shielding them from majoritarian forces. Over the years, the 'secular' became the formal identity of the politics of minority communalism.
The parties that took birth on the ruins of the Congress system also imitated the grand-old party's politics skilled over the decades. For these parties, the BJP became a convenient enemy to showcase how loyal they are to protect the endangered minorities. The message to the minorities was also clear: Vote for us en or you will be in trouble.
Also read: Triple Talaq: To the Left liberals who hate Narendra Modi, why didn't you take up the issue all these years?
The bipolarity is no more a simple equation now
This simple bipolar equation has started to undergo a change in the days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On one hand, the 'secular' forces have been decimated like never before. While a lot of them have lost their seats and clout, others have lost credibility. The minorities now understand very well that these forces have only appeased them over the years to get their votes but gave nothing in return. They have two options now: either go for their own political identity out of the shadow of their pseudo protectors or align their existence with that of the BJP's style of ruling.
The first option is more logical and the rise of leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi to prominence is an example. But the clever leadership spearheaded by PM Modi and some suicidal moves from within the Muslim community have made the second option look more realistic and that really has been the game-changer in India's predictable communal politics.
Questioning triple talaq a master stroke by Modi
Two issues can be highlighted to substantiate this point. First is the Modi government's move to question the practice of triple talaq among the Muslims. The BJP played it smartly by knocking the Supreme Court's door to decide on the matter which many feel is undemocratic. Had the government tried to engineer things, Modi's 'anti-minority' image would only have been reignited, putting his government under stress.
The judiciary's say on this will make the impact more powerful. Apart from the humanitarian cause, Modi has cleverly driven a wedge between the community by particularly siding with the womenfolk and has impressed the liberal minds – both Hindu and Muslim. Gender is a very sensitive issue, more than religion or caste in today's new India, and Modi could read the pulse very well to make the move.
Remarks by Tipu Sultan mosque's Shahi Imam will divide Muslim community more, helping BJP
The divide in the Muslim community has also been made wider by people like Maulana Nurur Rehman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Kolkata's Tipu Sultan mosque. Speaking to a gathering recently, the Shahi Imam asked why India couldn't be a 'Muslim Rashtra' and only a 'Hindu Rashtra'. He also asked why 25-30 crore Muslim population of the country couldn't be given to Pakistan and they would fight for that country. He also threatened that if India became a 'Hindu Rashtra' and azaan, beef and Quran are prohibited, then nobody, including PM Modi, would be spared.
To the Imam's plight, such remarks were not received well by many Muslims. Even the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid opposed such words, saying he who speaks about dividing the country is not a 'true Muslim'. Some Muslim organisations have also sought steps against Barkati, who was also in the news recently for refusing to use red beacon in his car, while others felt the Muslims of India were humiliated by such comments.
The ultimate beneficiary of these controversies will be none other than the BJP. The Imam should have known that the Muslims in India are still largely immune from what is happening across the world and linking them with 'jihad' straightaway will only hurt themlseves.The saffron party has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and sent video clippings of Barkati's remarks to the Home Ministry and office of its national president Amit Shah.
The Bengal unit of the party will be immensely happy that it would give them a boost, especially in the wake of the embarrassment they faced in North Bengal where a tribal family joined the ruling Trinamool Congress even after hosting Shah at its house.
The social and political divisions in the minority community are not only deconstructing the idea of 'Muslims vote en masse' but also giving Modi a chance to emerge as the messiah of the community which was afraid of his image even a few years ago. The conservative minds in the Muslim community are still trying hard to keep the flames of 'Gujarat 2002' alive but Modi has played it smarter so far to douse them.