Indian Election 2014: Possible Impact on Bangladesh if BJP wins

Indian Election 2014: Possible Impact on Bangladesh if BJP wins

On 5th March, the Election Commission has decided to hold the 16th parliamentary election of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) from 7th April in 9 phases until 12th May. The results will be announced on 16th May and a new government can be formed on 31st May.

The Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath said school examination schedules, weather and crop harvesting seasons had been taken into account in deciding the polling dates.

Some 814 million voters – 100 million more than the last elections in 2009 – are eligible to vote at 930,000 polling stations, up from 830,000 polling stations in 2009. Electronic voting machines will be used and will contain a mechanism- an option for voters who do not want to cast their ballot for any of the candidates.

India is a vast country with 1.2 billion people and its GDP is $ 1.5 trillion. It claims to be the largest democracy in the world and is constitutionally a secular country. It has 22 official languages and 29 states and number of Union territories. Its election is as fascinating as it is complex and intriguing. It could be one of the most exciting elections India has seen for years

Currently the members of Lok Sabha are 545, out of which 543, are elected for 5-year term and 2 members representing the Anglo-Indian community are appointed by the President.

Some of the current important features in elections are as follows:

  • Appearance of Hindu nationalist Modi as a national political star
  • Lacklustre performance of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party star

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>North and south India divide- Ordinarily the parties in northern India (Hindi belt) lead in polls and form the coalition government

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Mainstream and regional parties compete to get majority of seats

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Currently secularism is on the retreat in India and extreme communalist parties are in the forefront

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Voters of religious minorities and the party getting the majority of seats in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh may determine the outcome of the election

The magic number is to get the 272 seats to form the national government in New Delhi, However since 1989 no single party has secured such number in recent years and therefore a large coalition of regional parties with a mainstream party forms the government.

The current Congress-led government is a coalition of more than 22 parties, known as United Progressive Alliance, while when the BJP coalition ruled the country until 2003 was described as National Democratic Front (NDA).

Importance of regional parties:

Since 1989, the main stream political parties in India failed to expand its appeal because the population of each state has tremendous religious and ethnic diversity. Keeping in mind India’s first-past-the post electoral system, a winning party has to secure the support of diverse voting blocs and it could be hard indeed for a mainstream party to do so in all the states.

Many regional parties woo voters with the “aspirational card” while not pandering exclusively to certain castes and religious minorities. It is worth noting that while the regional parties realised the need to adopt a more inclusive strategy, the larger national parties, the BJP and the Congress both play in general the divisive caste and religion card.

According to the latest opinion polls, regional parties are set to win a significant number of seats, with some analysts expecting them to secure victory in more than 200 constituencies.

BJP versus Congress:

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long advocated Hindu supremacy in hopes of achieving its dominance in politics and some of its leaders often demonise Muslims in hopes of uniting Hindus.

BJP has nominated Gujarat’s chief minister BJP leader, Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister, He has turned Gujarat, representing 60 million people into a hub of economic activities and created a favourable climate for private companies by his government’s liberal policy.

However, Modi has also been a divisive politician because questions about his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots— in which nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims (9% of the electorate) were killed—have made him one of the controversial politicians in India. But recently the court exonerated him from the accusation.

Indian Mainstream weekly writes in February 22 that “The Sangh Parivar-led Rightwing Hinduvta forces in the Hindi heartland have vitiated the situation much more since the late eighties. The saffron project, which has been in vogue since L.K. Advani’s rath yatra and the Babri mosque demolition and the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat under Modi, is aimed at essentialising the Indian profile with the Hindu-Hindi identity.”

Modi has been a great supporter of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, (also from Gujarat) India’s first Deputy Prime Minister who was known to be anti-Muslim during the days of Indian independence movement and wants to erect a commemorative statue of Patel with the cost of $340 million.

The Indian National Congress party as well as by regional political parties that are secular-minded oppose BJP and present it as a communal party. Indian National Congress has performed poorly in all populous state-elections and Rahul Gandhi is presumed to be Congress’ de facto candidate for PM seems not to connect people and polls are not promising for the Congress at the next election.

Congress’ strongest regional support (30 per cent) is in the eastern states of Odisha (Orissa), Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, among India’s poorest areas and home to 270 million people.

More than three-fifths of Indian voters favour the opposition BJP in the upcoming general elections as against less than one-fifth for the ruling Congress, a major American survey released on 27th February according to PTI..

Other parties or alliance of parties are on the field such as Third Front, an anti-corruption Aam Admi Party and Trinomool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee.

Views of Muslims in respect of Modi:

Muslims make up about 14% of India’s population. The elderly Muslims cannot forget the Gujarat riot in 2002 in Modi’s state in which more than 1,000 Muslims died. Some of Modi’s close associates were convicted of inciting violence. Although Modi was acquitted of the charges, they believe that he was linked with a police assassination squad.that mostly targeted Muslims. Modi spent of his career rising through the ranks of a right wing Hindu organisation tied to deadly attacks on Muslims. Shakeel Ahmad of Islamic Relief Committee in Gujarat reportedly said that “Modi survives on hatred” and few elderly Muslim would vote for him.

However the case reportedly is different in the case of younger Musilms. Two-thirds of Indian population is under 35 and half is younger that 25 years of age. Since Modi’s election campaign is devoid of anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his campaign concentrates on employment boosting economic growth, many young Muslims may vote for him.

Possible Impact on Bangladesh:

If BJP coalition comes to power, it will have a considerable impact on Bangladesh. The BJP has strongly opposed any move to settle border disputes with Bangladesh “hurriedly.”

“The BJP is firmly opposed to any hurried border dispute settlement with Bangladesh and it must be a part of comprehensive solution of all issues, including the most important issue of infiltration,” of people from Bangladesh, said a political resolution passed in a BJP national council meeting in New Delhi last month. The border agreement signed with the Congress-led government also involves exchange of enclaves.

Allegation of illegal immigration from Bangladesh is one the mantras of the election campaign of BJP. The allegation is cooked up by BJP to get votes from Hindu extremists from eastern India.

Narendra Modi in 2011 alleged that illegal infiltration by Bangladeshis had created ‘havoc’ in Assam The party is committed to resolving the issue of Bangladeshi migrants and the problem can be solved only if the party comes to power,” Modi reportedly said addressing two BJP campaign rallies in eastern India. In 2012, a BJP leader reportedly said that ‘four lakh’ Bangladeshi illegal migrants in New Delhi should be deported immediately.

On 22nd February, Modi reportedly said Hindu migrants from Bangladesh must be accommodated in the country and detention camps would be done away with once his party comes to power. .

Other deals with regard to the Teesta water sharing agreement, and proposed regional connectivity with Nepal and Bhutan from and to Bangladesh by the Congress-led government will not see the light of the day..

Border hats and other facilities to trade by the Congress-led government may be reviewed. A new dynamics of commercial relations may begin with Bangladesh in which no one is sure how they would develop with India.

BJP leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitly in a statement just after the January 5 election said: “India, which has thousands of kilometres of borders with Bangladesh, would like to see a peaceful poll accompanied by continuation or transfer of power. It has not happened. We hope that the political process in Bangladesh stabilises and important political parties are in a position to settle their domestic political issues.” The statement means that BJP did not approve non-inclusive January 5th Election in Bangladesh.

BJP cannot tolerate Beijing giving arms aid to India’s immediate neighbours with hostile intent to target India. BJP leadership think that Bangladesh is gradually coming under Chinese influence as all naval assets including frigates and submarines are acquired by Bangladesh from China. Furthermore Bangladesh recently requested soft loans from China amounting to about $8 billion for proposed 14 infrastructure projects and Chinese government is reportedly considering which projects China wishes to fund.

There is another view. If Modi becomes the Prime Minister, analysts say that some of his campaign populist rhetoric’s were used for votes and when one is in power, geographical and economic realities force a leader to change and adopt policies which are beneficial to his country In that light Modi could be friendly to strategically located Bangladesh because of its own enlightened interests. However many of the Indian bureaucrats are hard nuts to crack.

In the book “The Jamdani Revolution” by Krishnan Srinivasan, India’s former Foreign Secretary, and former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh writes: “ The political will and attention span have been lacking in New Delhi… In other words, the Indian government has tended to allow the hardliners and Hindu chauvinists to set the agenda for its policy towards Bangladesh.”

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

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