Less than twelve months remain until the upcoming general elections in 2024, and those of us pondering what will motivate voters to participate in the electoral process are being overly clever. One political camp’s strategy has failed miserably, while the opposing camp has emerged victorious with a significant lead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to garner the support of Pasmanda Muslims for the BJP, in exchange for various promises, was effectively neutralized by the Congress party’s counter-strategy focused on the Muslim community in Karnataka. The success of the Congress-Muslim partnership relied on maintaining secrecy, which is an integral part of the narrative. Moreover, the ability to safeguard this secrecy from exposure played another crucial role. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his supposedly skilled team of strategists and tacticians were completely unaware of what was to transpire on election day. It is remarkable to consider that Modi and Shah boasted incessantly about the advantages of having a “double-engine ki sarkar” (a government with power at the centre and the state).
How was it possible that the “double-engine ki sarkar” failed to gather intelligence that hinted at a non-negotiable pact between the Congress and the Muslim community, with the promise of ministerial positions in return for votes? Essentially, once the Congress emerged victorious, the Muslim voters who played a crucial role in securing their win would demand their fair share of power and influence. Now, this non-negotiable pact has been openly revealed, and the demands have been articulated. These demands are listed in a manner reminiscent of a restaurant menu, with the waiter ready to take notes: one Deputy Chief Minister, five Cabinet ministers, and key portfolios such as Home, Finance, and Education. It should not come as a surprise if these demands are being made even before a Chief Minister has been named and sworn in. The Chairman of Karnataka’s Ulema Wakf Board, Maulana Shaafi Saadi, is simply requesting what he believes is rightfully owed to the Muslim community. Additionally, the BJP pales in comparison to the Congress when it comes to making efforts to win over Muslim voters. Muslim votes effortlessly shifted towards the Congress, encompassing various sects such as Ashrafi, Pasmanda, Sunni, Shia, and possibly even the Bohra community.
The triangular contest in Karnataka also played a crucial role. The choice was between sacrificing one of the two secular parties for the sake of expediency. The Congress party’s status as a “national party” outweighed the regional party Janata Dal (S), and this template seems to have set the tone for other states going to polls in 2023. The Muslims in Karnataka have shown the way by consolidating their support behind the Congress, considering regional parties to be ineffective in utilizing Muslim votes. It is noteworthy that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s vote share remained unaffected despite their defeat. Certainly, every defender of Modi’s actions, who seems to be shielding him from criticism, highlights how the BJP’s vote share in Karnataka remained consistent between 2018 and 2023. However, this calls for deeper introspection and thorough analysis. It is not acceptable to absolve Modi of any responsibility without proper scrutiny. He cannot be allowed to escape accountability. As the Malayalam saying goes, “Give away an elephant but never give hope to those looking up to you.” Modi requires the support of his voter base, but it seems to be wavering.