BJP Electoral Victory: Perceptions In Pakistan
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been crowned to rule over the multi-religious, multi-cultural and constitutionally secular India for further five years. It increased its own seat count to 301 and with allies, it has won a decisive 350 seats decimating the once proud Congress to a mere 54 seats. This massive victory has ramifications not only for India but for the region as well.
If we peep into the near past, we find India becoming a victim of religious extremism since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. During the last tenure of the BJP under Narendra Damodar Das Modi, the government unleashed anti-minority drives which took lives and property of the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.
The last political spell witnessed ground and air strikes on the Pakistan’s borders and claims of so-called ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan. India having enjoyed soft and secular image throughout the world previous to this had to face severe criticism inside and outside the country which caused embarrassment for Indians living in different corners of the world. Indians have been expressing their anger from time to time against the jingoism and extremism popularized by the ruling BJP but this could not suffocate the ongoing aggressive diplomacy and anti-minority activities.
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The BJP leadership openly talked against secularism and the minorities living in India which alarmed them. They started campaign against this anti-constitutional and inhuman policies and actions of the government and government sponsored agencies. The BJP hatred convinced different factions in India and Pakistan that the BJP was doing pursuing a policy of hatred just to win the April-May elections. Activists and concerned people exposed it on social media and mass gatherings but the BJP continued their electioneering campaign with the same strategy, zeal and rhetoric.
The BJP and anti-BJP contentions suggested that BJP would lose the elections as the BJP leadership faced embarrassment at the hands of Pakistan’s army. The government was alleged to be involved in corruption cases. Modi’s claim to launch surgical strikes was not accepted by many including media and people. It appeared that the BJP position seemed weak in the election contest.
Pakistan like other societies looked at the results from three angles including:
- Results at national level
- Success of the Muslim or specific candidates
- Political trends in the Indian states.
The Pakistani government seemed to be expecting a Congress victory. Yet Prime Minister Imran Khan gave statement in favour of the BJP which to many was a diplomatic sagacity. Whereas the pro-Congress or anti-BJP statements by some Pakistani politicians created a sense among Indians that the Congress had a soft corner and friendly sentiments for Pakistan. This seems to have gone against the Congress.
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Sardar Navjot Singh Sidhu had already created such an environment which was susceptible to be easily twisted by the BJP. The BJP machinery presented Sidhu and Congress as friends of Pakistan while they promoted themselves as champion in the enmity stakes against Pakistan.
Sensing this political exploitation, the astute Imran Khan issued statement in favour of the BJP to counterbalance them. This could be useful in the case of Modi’s win. So Pakistan’s government adopted sagacious strategy and now the BJP cannot quote any support by Pakistan for the Congress in the elections.
Pakistan did not want to be accused of interference in the elections. Therefore, Pakistan’s establishment remained neutral and impartial in the elections. To its credit no allegation came from India that Pakistan had tried to interfere in the elections.
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Second is the mass interest in Pakistan which was concerned with the Muslim candidates, Navjot Singh Sidhu and film stars. The Pakistani government has nothing to do with any candidate in the Indian elections but the people of Pakistan always seem keen to follow the win and defeat of some specific candidates. After the election, people wanted to hear of the success of Navjot Singh Sidhu who has become very popular in Pakistan. His magnificent reputation lies in his friendly character and being a charismatic, witty personality, cricket fame, Sikh and Punjabi Jatt son, and TV show magnet.
People in Pakistan remained interested in the election results of the constituencies having Muslim candidates and in the Punjab. The Pakistani Muslims have deep religious affection for the Indian Muslims as they do for Muslims living throughout the world. Their second deep affection is based on culture therefore they are always keen to know about the Punjab across the border.
It is not surprising since despite the geographical split in 1947 the Muslims living in Pakistani Punjab and Sikhs living in the east Punjab love and respect each other because of cultural affinity. This harmony and adherence will continue forever because of Guru Nanak Dev and Nankana Sahib. This is perhaps a blessing of God that Nankana Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib remained in Pakistan so that these sacred places could extinguish the feelings of hatred between the Muslims and Sikhs propounded by the political interests in India. Sikh sacred places provide opportunity to remind the warm past and the message of Guru Nanak Dev for peace and harmony.
There is also a big faction in Pakistan who thinks that the BJP’s win will be a problematic for regional peace and the minorities living in India especially Sikhs and Muslims either in India or Kashmir. The message that has come across the border is that Modi has pledged to revamp and restore Hindu grandeur and root out the minorities. This is seen as an extremely dreadful policy.
Modi promised to end Articles 35 A and 370 which debar the non-Kashmiri to buy land in Indian-held Kashmir. If the BJP government tries to amend the constitution, there could be a decisive escalation in the internal conflict in Kashmir and cross-border fight as passions will be raised.
Many Pakistanis think that Sikhs can play a strategic and decisive role. I personally opine that BJP will never fulfill this promise because it is fraught with grave risks which India cannot afford. India has gone far away from secularism but it is difficult for the BJP government to bypass the Constitution. Therefore, the BJP as party will continue with its anti-minority mentality and Hindu nationalism of Hindutva while the constitution will ensure in its own way to secure its sanctity. That remains the hope in Pakistan.