The Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017 has been “done and dusted” with the completion of the second phase on Thursday 14th December. Apparently, the total voter turn out in the first as well as second phase of this election recorded was 68 and 68.7% respectively. Now, according to about 10 exit polls the BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to win about 116 seats out of 182 (i.e. a majority) while rivals Congress are predicted to win 65 seats (a slight improvement from the 61 seats they won in the 2012 election). It has been over 20 years since this party has completely dominated state elections and formed government. And so, with yet another landslide victory for this right wing party being predicted by the exit polls, the question to be asked is, How has this party in the space of about 28 years risen to become a major political party in India?. To answer this question here is presenting an in depth “political” analysis of how BJP gradually has achieved national and state prominence.
1. The “Ram Janamabhoomi”, “Babri Masjid”, and the BJP:
According to Hindu mythology, the city of Ayodhya located in Uttar Pradesh is supposed to be the birth place of Lord Ram, and hence considered to be a sacred site by the Hindu community. However, it was in the year 1568 when the Mughals invaded India that a mosque was built in the holy city at a site where apparently a Lord Ram temple existed. This Islamic shrine was constructed by a general named Mir Baqi and was named “Babri” after the great Mughal Emperor Babur. Furthermore, for years both the Hindu and Muslim communities peacefully used the mosque for religious reasons. It was in 1859 that an outbreak of violence between the two communities forced the then British Government to create a railing outside the mosque so as to avoid further such issues. Trouble erupted suddenly in 1949 when without any provocation idols of Ram were placed in the mosque apparently by a fanatical right wing group known as the “Hindu Mahasabha” to lay claim to the site. This act angered the Muslims a lot, who challenged the Hindus on their claims to the land on which the mosque was built. With no solution being found to this dispute between the two communities the gates of the mosque was locked. It was not until the 1980’s that a right wing outfit known as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and its political affiliate the BJP raked up this issue with great intensity.
2. The curious case of Rajiv Gandhi, Shah Bano Case, and the BJP:
It was in 1985, that a lawsuit known as the “Shah Bano case” raised its ugly head within the political circles in India. This case basically involved a Muslim woman named Shah Bano Begum who filed a criminal case in the Supreme Court against her husband demanding her “right to alimony” after he divorced her to marry another woman. Initially, the Supreme Court (SC) supported Bano’s claim and passed a judgement saying so. However, several Muslim politicians exerted pressure on the then government of India to overturn this judgement. And so, to appease the Muslim community (a case of vote bank politics) the then prime minister using the “The Muslim Women (Protections of Rights on Divorce) Act” reversed the judgment passed by the SC .
3. The “appeasement” of Hindu community, and an opportunity created for BJP:
It was about a few months after the reversal of the Supreme Court judgement on the Shah Bano case was undertaken, that Rajiv Gandhi then decided to appease the Hindu community. And so, he decided to open upon the gates of the Babri Masjid which has been locked since 1949. He also then gave Hindus full access to the disputed site. It is this move made by the then Prime Minister that provided the VHP and its associate BJP with an opportunity to plan for reconstructing a Ram Temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya. In other words, the Gandhi scion simply provided BJP with the fuel they required to make a dramatic entry into national and eventually state politics.
4. BJP’s key role in government formation in 1989:
It was in 1989 that the 9th Indian General Election was held, in which BJP for the first time played a key role in forming a government with a coalition known as “National Front” led by VP Singh, and in the process overthrowing the incumbent Congress Government. In fact, it was in this election that the BJP made significant progress by winning 85 Lok Sabha seats as compared to the 2 seats that they had won in the 1984 election. This great improvement in seats won by the BJP in five years, was the first indication that they were ready to make their mark in national politics.
5. The “Babri Masjid” demolition, “Rath Yatra” and the role of BJP:
The BJP by the 1990 had grown in stature as a political outfit, and the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi had provided fuel to this right wing party to “stoke the fire” by encouraging the opening up the disputed site in Ayodhya to the Hindu community. And so, the BJP found that the time was ripe to make a big splash into national politics. It was therefore in September 1990 that LK Advani a senior leader of the party undertook a “Rath Yatra” to drum up the issue of building a Ram temple on the disputed site on which the masjid was built. Eventually, it was on 6th December 1992 that a large number of Kar Sevaks belonging to the “Sangh Parivar” (another right wing Hindu outfit) demolished the Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya. It was this demolition that helped the BJP to make its presence felt in national politics in a grand way. Furthermore, in 1995 it was in Gujarat that the party won the state election for the first time, and has ever since not lost any elections.
So, it is quite evident that the BJP has risen to power in national and state politics using “religion” as an instrument that too with indirect assistance from the Congress. And with the 2017 Gujarat state elections also likely to be won by this party, it certainly seems that they are going to dominate politics in India for years to come unless the Congress stops relying on “dynasty politics”, and “rise like a phoenix from the ashes”.
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