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Verdict in By-Elections: Secular Eclipse Begins to End

Samajwadi Party workers were seen celebrating near the party’s headquarters in Lucknow. Image credit Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Why the stunning reverses in the by-polls should come as a wake-up call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi

DR JAVED JAMIL

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]clipses are always short-lived. The last Lok Sabha elections saw a near total Secular Eclipse; and for the time being it appeared that the gloom of communalism had engulfed the nation. But the sun of secularism has started shining again. Like the previous bye-elections, the latest bye-elections have also announced the beginning of the end of communalism in India.

The latest results are important on many counts. The elections were held in the midst of a venomous communal propaganda. “Love Jihad”, “Forced conversions”, “animal slaughter”, “funding of Sai supporters by Muslims”, ban on Muslim boys joining Garbha – almost everyday one issue or the other has been hitting the media in last 120 days. The intensity and the venom reached their peaks just before the elections. Uttar Pradesh was the most affected state.

And to the pleasant surprise of all the believers in secular India, the BJP has suffered a big defeat there. In a state where all but 6 of 80 seats were won by BJP, this signals that its victory was nothing more than a temporary eclipse for Samajwadi Party. Akhilesh Yadav has bounced back. It is a big lesson for the secular parties as well.

The Akhilesh Yadav Government failed to protect Muslims in Muzaffarnagar. They had other plans in mind. But they learned the lesson fast that without giving security to Muslims, they cannot regain their dominance in the state. They have done remarkably well in the past two months in the face of virulent communal propaganda by the forces of Hindutva. They handled the situations in Saharanpur, Moradabad and Meerut remarkably well, and they have now reaped a good harvest. Even the few seats that BJP won, it did so with a very small margin.

Another big shock to BJP came in Rajasthan where it has lost 3 of the 4 seats to Congress. But the biggest shock for the Modi government as well as Modi himself has come from Gujarat where after a long time Congress has been able to regain its momentum. Congress is poised to win 3 of the 11 seats, which is a big blow to BJP which hoped to make a clean sweep there.

The by-election results assume significance because they give a clear verdict that the communal agenda can only be an occasional winner. Secular parties must feel reassured that the overwhelming majority of the countrymen continue to be secular and if the secular parties can learn to remain united and are committed to improve the lot of the people, they need not fear the menace of communalism. Hopefully, Prime Minister Modi too has learned his lessons.

Mere slogan of “Sabka saath, sab ka Vikaas” cannot give you victory. Prime Minister Modi will not only have to abandon communalism but will also have to appear doing that. His supporters claim he is a strong man. But if he has to present himself as a true “man of task”, he will have to show doors to all the aspects of communal politics, and all those who indulge in them.

Can he dismiss his minister Maneka Gandhi urgently in the wake of the highly provocative statement she made yesterday linking the meat industry to terrorism? If he makes a beginning here, he can stop the tide that is turning against him. If he fails, the tide will drown him sooner than he can imagine.

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