In his recent article Shekhar Gupta says that the middle-class votes for the BJP because it is fearful of Muslims. The BJP, he says, plays the “we will save you from the Muslims” card to get votes from the middle-class which, according to his assumption, is mostly Hindu.
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At least, while painting the entire middle-class as Islamophobic, he also accepts that the same template was followed by the Congress that played the “we will save you from Hindus” card to get Muslim votes for decades while doing zilch for the community. The Sachchar committe is the proof.
Just as Muslims were fine with being ghettoized and being denied facilities of the contemporary civilizational world, as long as the government kept Hindus in check, he says, in the wake of the recent Budget presentation, the BJP is squeezing the middle-class dry by imposing taxes and removing subsidies that impact the middle-class, assuming that the middle class is anyway going to vote for the party because it thinks that the party is going to protect it from the growing Muslim population.
The middle class has abandoned the BJP in the past although, back then, the party wasn’t as formidable as it is today.
Is the middle class worried about the Muslim aggression? I won’t say it is not. But is it enough to go through economic hardships and keep putting the BJP back to power? Doubtful.
Someone on Facebook said, “When people talk of Haj, they ask, how are the arrangements, and when people talk about the Amarnath Yatra, they ask, how is the security?”
Do people feel safer under the BJP? Definitely.
In 2014 there may had been some feeling, aside from the fact that the UPA government led by the Congress party had crossed all limits of corruption and scams and it would have been suicidal to have the same government back, that the BJP may give a level playing field to all the communities and not just Muslims and other minorities as it was happening under the UPA rule.
Corruption too was a very big issue. People had been totally disappointed by AAP that had come to power on the plank of fighting corruption and then joined the corrupt to gain power.
This feeling is long gone.
The lynchings and attacks on Muslims that Shekhar Gupta talks about wouldn’t get support to any party in India. Besides, there was more communal violence under the Congress than under the BJP, and the public in general knows that. While such incidents are highlighted and in fact, magnified many times when the BJP is in power, they were hush-hushed during the Congress/UPA rule.
Violence against a particular community rarely gives political mileage unless there are dire circumstances, especially among peace loving Hindus. The left-liberal media simply runs propaganda saying that communal violence against minorities flares up when the BJP is in power, but the public at-large knows that this doesn’t happen.
When it comes to optics Narendra Modi may not seem as Muslim friendly as the so-called secular politicians. He constantly carries the cross of the Gujarat 2002 riots but everyone knows that he was not to blame and it was mostly a political witch-hunt carried out by the Congress party and its stooges in the media. He doesn’t organise Iftaar parties. He famously refused to wear Muslim headgear. He doesn’t visit Muslim places of religious significance.
On the other hand, he unapologetically performs Hindu rites. He visits temples and even takes foreign dignitaries to temples. During the Kumbh Mela he took the famous dip that was broadcast all over the world. He has no problem chanting “Har Har Mahadev” and “Jai Shree Ram” — slogans for which people are being arrested and incarcerated in West Bengal.
The middle-class votes for the BJP not because the party favours Hindus and disfavours Muslims, the middle-class votes for the BJP because this section of people is more nationalistic and believes that the country should get its rightful place in the world instead of constantly being looked down upon and people being made to feel ashamed of being Indians. The BJP seems to deliver this.
The middle class has the highest stakes in the affairs of the country. Whether the country remains backward, underdeveloped or becomes developed, most of the impact is borne by the middle class.
Regarding Muslims, although the BJP seems to be taking some stands that are antithetical to the Muslim community (Article 370, for example), by and large, the party doesn’t rub the community in the wrong way. Whatever money previous governments have been spending on Muslims in the form of appeasement, is still being spent on Muslims though, how the money is spent has changed. For example, the Haj money has been diverted to providing free education to Muslim girls. No sane Muslim would have a problem with that and in fact, various Muslim intellectuals and politicians have been saying this for years that instead of spending money on Haj, the government should spend money on the upliftment of the Muslim community.
The Hindu community resents this because there are no special schemes and special funds for the Hindu community.
Having said that, there have been some significant changes the way Hindu affairs are handled by the government. The recent Kumbh mela is a big example: the previous UP governments used to handle one of the biggest Hindu confluences in the world with great disdain. There used to be mishaps and accidents. The situation was so bad that the previous Kumbh mela management was assigned to the notorious Azam Khan.
A big litany of mismanagements culminated into a stampede in which more than 36 people died. Nothing existed in the name of arrangements. The entire mela was handled like a nuisance that needed to be somehow tolerated while it lasted.
In contrast, the Kumbh mela of 2018, under the BJP government, was the epitome of large-scale management. Not a single incident happened. People were awestruck by the arrangements of international standards. The portion of Ganga where the main event happens was so clean that people claimed they could drink the water. Whoever attended the Kumbh mela said that he or she had never before seen such arrangements.
By the end of the Kumbh, Narendra Modi along with Amit Shah attended the mela and performed religious rites, something most of the non-BJP politicians stay away from.
So, yes, such things matter, and certainly tilt the middle class towards the BJP, but these aren’t the only things that matter.
The middle class wants to prosper. It wants safety for its children. It wants good hospitals, good schools and good colleges. It wants an improved law and order situation. It wants better roads and highways. It wants uninterrupted power supply. It wants poverty alleviation because poverty has been a cause of shame for too many years. It is happy that defecation in the open is decreasing — one of the first sights foreigners used to behold upon landing on this ancient and glorious land. They want politicians who don’t promise the bare minimums to country’s citizens but exhort them to give their best in the world, produce the best in the world, and aspire for the biggest in the world.
Superlatives have been missing in the country and this is something the BJP in general and Narendra Modi in particular seem to provide. The middle class is fed up of looking towards other countries for greater quality of life, for megacities and for pride. The middle-class, with uninterrupted access to Western media and its ways of life, no longer wants to remain a third-world country. It wants to become a first world country. Not in some distant future, but in the coming 10–15 years.
Frankly, nobody is sure whether Modi will deliver on all those promises he made. The monsoons situation in Mumbai that hasn’t changed in decades and prolonged powercuts in many NCR areas create constant doubts, but even if he delivers 10% of what he says, he still remains the best bet India has.
The left-liberal media may not realise this or may choose to think otherwise due to its political and ideological biases, but the middle class knows this. There is no other party.
It is the middle-class that always takes politically sauve decisions. Other classes are either reckless or uninformed as far as larger national issues are concerned. The middle class knows politically what is good for the country. It knows that if you take the BJP out of the picture, what remains is a gaggle of highly corrupt, incompetent and greedy politicians who will rip the country apart, if not in near future, then eventually, in a few decades.
The middle-class also knows that the BJP is not impeccable. Narendra Modi is after all a politician. The BJP is after all a political party. It’s politicians come from the same fabric from which politicians for other parties come. In fact, the party has been accepting highly questionable characters into the party right left and centre, whatever excuse the party has. In 2018, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj changed the passport law of the country just for 10 days to favour a Muslim girl. This act was carried out with so much haste that if you are not on social media, there is a chance that you don’t even know about it.
Hindu institutions are still being targeted. Temples are still under anti-Hindu government rules. Minority institutions and schools still get unfair advantage over Hindu institutions and schools.
There has been a spate of attacks on Hindu temples and the desecration of the idols and not a word has come out of the government, not a single mention.
But, the middle-class is happy that the country is finally changing for better. There are better roads. There is better connectivity. Railway stations are clean. Travel has become easier. There is hope and aspiration in the country. The Prime Minister is respected by world leaders. People are seeing India in a new light. This is what makes the middle-class support the BJP, not its anti-Muslim stand, which doesn’t even exist as a concept. In fact, according to recent observations, the BJP seems to be more anti-Hindu than anti-Muslim.