The Writing on the Wall by DR. MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (DECEMBER 17, 2007)

Contrary to media hype, the facts on the ground don’t foretell a third term for Narendra Modi, writes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM

We all know that media (the plural from of medium)is (or, are, if you please) there for carrying message in different print, audio and audiovisual format. In the natural scheme of things it is the message that has primacy over the medium. But as a perceptive observer has remarked, more often than not the “media becomes the message”. That is, the medium overtakes and overwhelms the message. I strongly suspect that this is what is happening in Gujarat today.

We have a recent example from Bihar. In two assembly elections the media said Laloo’s party was losing badly, but it won grandly. In the last election they thought his party was winning, but it lost.

Granted that a large member of Muslims who had their voter ID cards were deprived of the right to vote because their names were deleted from the voter rolls. Conceded that BJP activists (many of them known goons) were found forcing prospective Congress voters to “sell” their ID cards for a few days, so that they could effectively be prevented from going rear the booths. Many did oblige out of fear. Thus the vote was not wholly fair or fearless.

Still, we have reason to believe that the writing on the wall says BJP is on its way out. We are saying this on the basis of our intensive field work for a fortnight in Gujarat. Some of the reasons for our stance are based on the radical difference between the political environment of 2002 polls and that of 2007. Here is a sample:

2002 Polls

  • The Sangh stood like a wall in support of Mr. Modi. The Rashtriya Sawayam Sevak Sangh and its offshoots like VHP, Bajrang Dal, ABVP and others as well as its allies and fellow travellers like Shiv Sena were solidly behind Mr. Modi.
  • Tribals, who were used extensively as canon fodder in the anti-Muslim pogrom were given promise of lands and other assets snatched from Muslims, were backing Mr. Modi in expectations of great reward.
  • Patels, who form a formidably influential segment of Gujarat society, were with Mr. Modi. Even Mr. Keshubhai Patel had sunk his differences with him for a while and helped him.
  • The “Mian Musharraf” canard of Mr. Modi was working fine as everyone of his voters knew that Mian Musharraf did not mean Gen. Musharraf of Pakistan, but Gujarati Muslims, who had to be taught a lesson even after the pogrom.
  • Terrorised by the pogrom Muslim voters did not turn out in sufficient numbers.
  • Secular vote was divided as shown by a thin margin of victory for BJP in 49 constituencies.

2007 Polls

  • None of the above factors was in full operation this time.
  • The Sangh was a house divided against itself, and Shiv Sena was fighting alone.
  • Even some of Uma Bharti’s candidates remained in battle despite her official withdrawal from the contest in favour of BJP. Some of her candidates fought rather well.
  • Muslims turned out to vote in subsrantial numbers.
  • Tribals, who had been cheated by BJP’s false promises, went against it.
  • Modi’s arrogance had alienated even his former supporters except the upper middle class.

All this shows that BJP cannot form government in Gujarat except through more underhand tactics like deleting possible Congress supporters’ names from voters’ lists and “buying” of election ID cards as discussed above.

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