Narendra Modi’s LS address: Post consolidation of Hindu votes
Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha address on Tuesday was sarcastic, punchy as well as inclusive and conciliatory, but it may be remembered more as an inflection point when the prime minister sought to bust the Congress’ “secular” credentials on the floor of the House and expose the party before its purported vote-bank — the Muslims. Modi’s reference to a comment by a senior Congress leader during the Shah Bano case — when Muslims were portrayed by the Congress leader in unflattering terms during the Rajiv Gandhi regime — drew a sharp response from the Opposition benches. It would have cut deep.
The argument isn’t new, but Modi’s method was interesting. He took recourse to no symbolism in narrating the Congress mindset to show how the grand old party had repeatedly betrayed Muslims and, in the process, ended up betraying India as well. Before we come to Modi’s actual comments during the debate on the Motion of Thanks for President Ram Nath Kovind’s address, it is worth recollecting the electoral strategy of the BJP based on the results of the last two Lok Sabha polls.
It is evident, at least from the 2019 results and post-poll surveys, that the BJP has been able to achieve a larger consolidation of Hindu votes based on a caste reconciliation. The fault lines that earlier allowed parties dependent on social coalitions (such as the SP, BSP or the RJD) to thrive still remain, but these cracks cannot by themselves sustain caste and identity-based coalitions.
With Modi as the prime minister, the BJP has been able to fashion itself as an umbrella party of the Hindu sections of the society. This has made it possible for the party to bag over 50 percent vote share in several states. As an analysis of the 2019 results in The Hindu suggests, “The BJP is on the road to becoming a party of upper and backward Hindu communities propped up by critical support from Dalits and Adivasis. But despite these fine points, the big story is in the Hindu consolidation that has been achieved through the outcomes of 2014 and 2019.” The analysis sees a polarisation and consolidation of votes along religious lines. The BJP, say the authors, has been able to build a “broad Hindu coalition” while the Muslim votes have consolidated behind the Congress. This context is important as we try to understand the significance of Modi’s address.