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Why Modi’s outreach to the Dawoodi Bohra community isn’t a surprise

Arti Ghargi

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Bohra

PM Modi has been a popular leader among the Dawoodi Bohra community. Perhaps, the only BJP leader who has been accepted by the community.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attended Ashara Mubaraka, an event organized by the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community of Madhya Pradesh. As was expected, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Especially, at a time when the Modi government is tainted with the rising incident of violence against the minorities, PM Modi attending the event definitely raised the bar of political curiosity.

Addressing the participants, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the community’s patriotism towards the country as a prime example. He said that the community has always been committed to peace, goodwill, and insistence on truth. PM Modi even recalled his relationship with the Bohra community of Gujarat during his term as a Chief Minister of the state.  “My relationship with the Bohra community is an old one. It is my good fortune that I have received the affection of the Bohra community. There is hardly any village in Gujarat where a Bohra trader cannot be found. The community assisted me during my tenure as Gujarat’s chief minister. It is a sheer affection of you people that have brought me here today,” said PM Modi.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and crucial Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, the move is also being seen as a political move to carefully erase the anti-Muslim image of PM Modi or that of his government. However, contrary to the popular perception that Modi is hated by the Muslim minority, he has in fact been a popular leader among the Dawoodi Bohra community. Perhaps, the only leader from the hard-line Hindutva BJP, who has been widely accepted by the community. But why is it so?

Dawoodi Bohra Community:

The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect within the Shia Islam. The largest populations of Dawoodi Bohras reside in IndiaPakistanYemen, and East Africa. There are also significant numbers living in western countries. According to the estimates, the worldwide population of the community is close to one million. They trace their origin to the Arab community Qaum-e-Bawahas who settled in Surat and Kheda districts.

Bohra

Dawoodi Bohra Population in India

In India, the most of the Bohra community is concentrated in Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Gujarati is their main language and most of them work as traders. Traditionally they are weavers and cloth-painters. Now they are engaged in the cloth trade. The community prides itself on being elite and progressive. However, it has also come under severe criticism for a practice of Female Genital Mutilation.

Bohra Community and Modi:

According to the Joshua Project, the estimated amount of the Bohra community in India is 11,02,000. Over the past few years, the Bohra community has been seen with PM Modi on several occasions. The community also holds significance for PM Modi. In 2014, 100 Bohras were specially invited by the Indian High Commission in Australia at PM Modi’s event at Olympic Park Arena in Sydney. The community which is considered very close-knit was seen praising Modi for promoting development and inclusive growth. Same was the case when Narendra Modi addressed a Madison Square Park event during his visit to New York.

One of the main reason why the community shows a strong support for Modi taking a detour from popular perception is Modi’s promise to focus on the development of the economy. However, it does not mean the 2002 riot stain on Modi did not affect the Bohras. But it was overshadowed by the slew of infrastructure and business development in the state.

Bohra

Dawoodi Bohra community supporting PM Modi at the New York event

The Bohra community, as mentioned earlier, has been integrating with different communities despite strictly following conservative ideals. The community follows a spiritual guru called Dai’s. For the community, Dai’s words are considered as the paramount. The late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin-the former spiritual guru had cordial relations with a number of national and world leaders. His successor son Mufaddal Saifuddin, the current Syedna, also has close ties with Modi.  Even in the run-up to 2014, he ensured that the Bohra community members support Modi.

According to Aziz Poonawalla, a US-based Bohra blogger in his blog after Modi’s event in New York wrote, “Bohras, in particular, are apolitical and have a strong sense of civic identity; Modi was elected PM by the Indian electorate, so Bohras’ support for him is an expression of the community’s belief in India’s democracy and a genuine desire to move the country as a whole forward. The PM is also keenly aware of the optics of having widespread Muslim support, as an immunization against his human rights record – so in an odd way, supporting him also ensures that he keeps issues affecting Muslims in India on his agenda.”

He also mentions that the major driver for widespread Bohra support for Modi is the economic growth under Modi. “With policies of economic inclusion for Muslim groups and a real sense, Modi has made an effort to hear Muslim voices,” he says.

Bohra

PM Modi at Ashara Mubaraka event in Indore

Modi’s outreach to the Muslim community began with the launch of “Sadbhavana Mission” during his tenure as Gujarat CM. A large group of Shia Muslims also joined BJP during this period. Modi used to have regular meetings with these people in order to hear and solve their grievances. He had fruitful discussions with their religious heads like Syedna or prince Karim Agha Khan. After assuming the PM post, Modi has developed cordial relations with the Shia government of Iran.

Considering the infamous “skullcap” incident of that had caused a massive uproar, PM Modi appearing for Muslim community events was bound to raise many eyebrows. With the rising discontent among minorities against the Modi government, it needs to project a positive picture to the minorities who constitute a significant chunk of voters in India. PM Modi’s cozying up with the Shia community serves the same purpose.

Opinion

Rafale embarrassment: How Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie spoiled the Congress plan?

Arti Ghargi

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 Why the party insisted on JPC probe?  The answer is simple, to keep the Rafale issue alive till 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

Kill not the goose that lays golden eggs.

Nothing can better explain the situation of Congress after the Supreme Court’s Rafale verdict today than this. The only difference is it wasn’t the Congress which killed the Rafale goose but the over-enthusiastic trio of Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. For over a year, Congress built the narrative of a scam around Rafale Deal and (sincerely) pursued it in the face of the assembly elections. But the Supreme Court verdict saying there’s no need for probe has burst the hot air balloon Congress so painstakingly created around Rafale.

It was just two months ago, when Congress president Rahul Gandhi, sitting in party headquarter in Jaipur had said, “Chowkidaar hi Chor hai.” He was addressing the media over Rafale deal. “A gift worth Rs. 30,000 crores were personally given by Narendra Modi to Anil Ambani,” he said mincing no words. In another rally in Chhattisgarh, he said that PM Modi should explain the Rafale deal to the entire country. However, it was not until the Monsoon session of the parliament that Rafale became Congress’ main point of attack on the BJP and specifically, PM Modi. Remember the Rahul hug to PM Modi? Well, it was preceded by a stinging attack on PM Modi over Rafale. Later, in many rallies, Rahul did not forget to recall the day saying, “Modi couldn’t look into my eyes because he was lying about Rafale.”

rahul gandhi

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For the Congress, the Rafale deal was a golden goose that was expected to give Modi its Bofors-like nightmare. Why not? It was just the kind of issue it needed while stepping in the election year. Given the ghost of Bofors Scam that haunts Congress till date, it expected similar ramifications of Rafale for the Modi government. And, Congress did work hard to create that narrative. Protest marches, meeting the CAG auditor and what not. The Congress president reportedly had even issued a diktat to the party members close to Anil Ambani to make a choice between party and the personal relations with Ambani.

The rather placid Gandhi, seemed unusually aggressive in his approach when it came to Rafale deal. His attacks on the government sharpened more as it finally started gathering steam in the mainstream media channel. Wasn’t that the aim of all this? To get media talking about Rafale deal? The goose that party had nurtured was finally laying eggs.

rafale

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It even gave fodder to the dissidents of BJP to fire at the current leadership. At a National Forum event in Mumbai both Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie asked the people of Mumbai, being from financial capital, to question the Rafale “scam” which was followed after the press conference in Delhi to announce that they will be filing a petition for a court-monitored probe in the deal with Prashant Bhushan as their lawyer. After almost a month later the Supreme Court said that there was no occasion to believe that there were wrongdoings in the deal. The verdict served a perfect face-palm moment for Congress leaving it red-faced.

However, the Congress leaders are now intensifying the demand for a JPC probe. Well, the demand isn’t a new one. Since the inception of the Rafale controversy, the party had asked for a joint parliamentary committee to be formed to probe the deal. Now, why the party insisted on JPC probe?  The answer is simple, to keep the issue alive till 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A look at the history of JPC probes in India will clear all the doubts about Congress’ intent on Rafale. From the first JPC probe after Bofors scandal to the one that knocked UPA government down- 2G scam. The JPC probe didn’t really help the investigation. It only served as a political tool for the opposition.

rafale

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The JPC constituted by the Congress regime on Bofors produced a report but it was boycotted by the opposition leaders. The recommendations of the JPC in Harshad Mehta stock market case were neither accepted in full nor implemented. Same goes for the Ketan Parekh share market scam and the JPC formed to probe the soft drink-pesticide issue in 2003. The JPC probe report in 2G remains by far the controversial one for absolving the then PM Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram of any responsibility.

Rafale

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There is still doubt about the degree of effectiveness of JPC but there are no two opinions about the fact that JPC provides fuel to keep the fire aflame. BJP pulled this on Congress with 2G. Congress expected the same with Rafale. Well, by moving to the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie spoiled the game of Congress.
Though, the SC verdict says it does not have jurisdiction over the case and Congress still can pursue it; the ruling definitely weakened Congress’ position.

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Opinion

Vote Share, NOTA and Margins: How Madhya Pradesh slipped through BJP’s clutches

Arti Ghargi

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 BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41% in Madhya Pradesh. It received 0.1% more votes than Congress but still lost.

 

The result of five assembly elections brought cheers to the Congress and tears (figuratively) to the BJP. Congress took an early lead in the number game and by noon the result of the four state- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana were no longer obscure. But the real nail-biting contest was going on in Madhya Pradesh that gave sleepless nights to both the parties, pollsters and journalists alike. Even 24 hours post the first round of counting, neck to neck fight kept both BJP and Congress clinging on to the hope of victory. Finally, when the numbers on the Election Commission website settled, the Congress had gained an edge over the incumbent BJP with 114 seats while the latter managed to rush ahead on 109 seats.

Kamal Nath

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For BJP, which was fighting the anti-incumbency of more than a decade and a half in the Hindi heartland state, the rout comes as the first big jolt ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But despite the anti-incumbency, it put up a spectacular fight and made it a difficult playing field for the Congress. Though Congress eventually inched ahead of BJP, a closer look at the vote share tells a different story. The statistics spell out some interesting facts about BJP’s loss.

BJP received more votes than Congress and still lost:

Congress won the 114 seats with a vote share of 40.9%. Whereas, BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41%. Which means the BJP received 0.1% more votes than that of Congress. The case of vote shares not equivalently translating into seat shares is not new. A similar scenario also was seen in Karnataka where Congress’ vote share was more than that of BJP but the party was left behind in terms of seat share. Majorly consolidation of popular votes in one constituency is said to be the reason behind it. The broad principle is that parties whose popular votes are more evenly spread across regions tend to have better votes to seat conversion ratio.

Madhya Pradesh

Vote share and Seat share in MP

 

“4337”- the number which could have changed BJP’s fortunes:

The analysis of final election results shows that there were at least 10 constituencies where BJP could have easily outplayed Congress in Madhya Pradesh. These are the seats where the victory margin is less than 1000 votes. The lowest victory margin is in Gwalior South where BJP lost by 121 votes. Whereas, on Rajpur (ST) seat the BJP lost by 932 votes. Out of these 10 seats, BJP lost on 7 seats while Congress lost on 3 seats. As this India Today analysis puts it, the sum total of the victory margins in these seven constituencies (4337 votes) would have put these seats in BJP’s kitty. This number- 4337 votes could have changed BJP’s fortunes and paved the way for Shivraj Singh Chauhan to form the government in the state for the record fourth time.

Madhya Pradesh

Constituencies with less than 2000 margin in MP

Margins Matter:

The vote shares and overall votes polled in favor of Congress and BJP shows that there was a slender difference between both the parties and it was definitely a close call.  Taking this analysis on a micro-level, one can observe that victory margins in many of the assembly constituencies were a decisive factor.  On 18 seats in Madhya Pradesh, the victory margin was less than 2,000 votes whereas on 30 seats the victory margin was less than 3,000. There were 45 seats with victory margin less than 5,000. The extremely strained fights on these 20% seats played a pivotal role.

Congress

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The takeaway from this data is, it is sheer luck that Congress received more votes in these constituencies and the anti-incumbency factor wasn’t at play up to the extent it was expected. Simply put, sheer luck put Congress ahead of the BJP.

 

Note the NOTA factor:

NOTA, i.e. None of The Above options received 6th largest vote in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Election Commission data, with 5,42,395 votes NOTA measured up to 1.4% of the total vote share. On the seats where BJP lost by less than 1000 votes, NOTA polled more votes. If BJP would have received these votes, it could have won some seats. For example, in Suwasra, BJP lost by a margin of 350 votes. Nota votes polled at Suwarsa were 2,976. In Rajpur (ST) seat BJP lost by only 932 votes while Nota votes were counted to be 3,358.

Madhya Pradesh

NOTA votes in Madhya Pradesh

 

NOTA trounced BJP NETAs:

While, NOTA votes, if were polled in BJP’s favor in the ten constituencies mentioned above would have changed the scenario, in some constituencies, it actually trounced the BJP. There were four BJP ministers who polled votes less than NOTA. Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya lost by only 799 votes in Damoh, while NOTA received 1,299 votes. MoS health, Sharad Jain who was contesting from Jabalpur North, lost by just 578 votes while NOTA bagged 1,209 votes. In Burhanpur, NOTA scored around 5,700 votes while Archana Chitnis-minister for women and child development lost by 5,120 votes.

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Opinion

How Ajit Jogi ensured Congress’ surprise victory in Chhattisgarh

Arti Ghargi

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While Ajit Jogi party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

“Congress seems to be losing Chhattisgarh once again,” said the anchor on one of the prominent news channel waving his hands across the screen behind him. The exit poll numbers glowing on the screen stated what every pollster believed- Congress stands no chance in Chhattisgarh. There wasn’t even remote possibility. That was December 7. Little did they know, the same Chhattisgarh they struck off Congress’ game would be the first state to giving Congress reasons of celebrations four days later.

Jaws dropped, the numbers flipped and pollsters were left baffled when the numbers started rolling in on December 11. The early trends showed Congress taking a quick lead over the incumbent BJP. Many believed that by noon, the numbers would stagnate giving a clear picture. One of the pollsters sitting on the panel in another news channel’s discussion around election results, casually but rather confidently said, “These are initial numbers and it can change as the more rounds of counting get over.” He then went on to list the reasons why BJP would retain the state. Much to his surprise, the numbers in Congress’ favour only surged while the leads on BJP’s numbers tally plunged as the day proceeded. By 3 PM it was pretty clear that BJP which was ruling the state of Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years, had lost. Not only did the BJP lose the election but also performed poorly in terms of seat share.

The “expect the unexpected” scenario in Chhattisgarh brought some positive news to Congress camp. The Congress state unit which seemed to be staring at the defeat for the fourth consecutive term a few months ago, enthused by the astounding numbers went into celebratory mode.

As much as this victory throws a surprise, it also begs us many questions. How did BJP lose despite the state performing well on economic indicators under the Raman Singh government? How did Congress win proving the exit polls wrong? And lastly, didn’t the Ajit Jogi factor work? Well, let us explain what went wrong for BJP and what went right for Congress in Chhattisgarh one by one.

Anti-Incumbency against BJP:

When Chhattisgarh entered the phase of Election Campaigning, the BJP knew that it will have to battle the anti-incumbency of several years. Despite this realization, the Raman Singh government was quite sure of its victory in the state. The BJP wove its entire campaign around the goodwill of Dr Raman Singh, 66- a leader cut in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era who enjoys a corruption-free and untainted image across party lines. So much so that even some of the Congress leaders behind the door accept that the party doesn’t have any leader of the stature of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Apart from Raman Singh’s personal goodwill, BJP also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s special connection with the state to woo the voters.

Raman Singh

However, even these narratives were not able to overshadow the discontent among masses against the lowest-rung officers or the ‘Sarkari Babus’. The BJP suffered a major backlash from the tribal and Dalit voters. The amendment to the SC/ST acts provoked country-wide protests. According to a report by the government of India, at least 34% are Scheduled Tribes and 12% are Scheduled Castes. The tribal who constitute nearly 34% of the state’s population was clearly angry with the BJP because of land grab by the government for industrial purpose and the government’s failure to implement the PESA Act. The general feeling on the ground was, the benefits of the schemes introduced by the government never reached the masses.

The people wanted ‘Parivartan’ and it is the major reason why despite having Chhattisgarh’s stalwart leader on its side, BJP received a drubbing.

 

How did Congress win?

More people seemed shocked at Congress managing a crystal-clear majority rather than BJP failing and rightly so. Congress did not have any leader who matched up to Raman Singh’s stature, its entire leadership was wiped in a Naxal attack and Ajit Jogi who was considered master strategist had left the Congress fold to form his own party. These factors were expected to affect the elections results as anticipated in the exit polls results.

Bhupesh Baghel

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However, all the factors that were expected to go against Congress might have brought the party fortunes. Congress’ campaign wasn’t built around a single personality, rather was a combination of abilities of multi-rung leaders from across various communities. Putting foot on the ground and extensive door-to-door campaigning helped in networking with the masses. The farm loan waiver and MSP and employment generation seem to be the biggest drawer of masses to the Congress.

 

The Ajit Jogi Factor:

Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and popular among the Satnami community left the Congress fold and established his own own party. In the run-up to Assembly election, his party even tied up with Mayawati’s BSP. This alliance was expected to hurt the Congress’ prospect in the state. However, his new party, Janata Congress ended up getting only five seats with 7.6% vote share.

This happened majorly because, instead of cutting Congress’ votes, Jogi’s party ensured that BJP’s voter base shifts to Congress. Apart from SC and ST, OBC’s are the dominant electoral community in Chhattisgarh comprising 50% of the population. OBC community includes Kurmis and Sahus which have had a traditional rivalry with the Satnami community. Over the years, the BJP garnered this OBC base while Ajit Jogi ensured Satnami community votes for Congress. But, the Jogi factor was also the reason why OBCs turned their back towards Congress. With Ajit Jogi now out of the Congress, Satnami votes went with Janata Congress, however, it led to significant OBC votes from BJP camp shifting to Congress.

Ajit Jogi

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If we look at the numbers, in the 2013 Assembly elections, Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats claiming the CM post while Indian National Congress won 39 seats. The difference of vote share between Congress and BJP was even less than 1%. This gap was easy to bridge for the Congress with Jogi out of the picture.

The vote shares clearly spell out the phenomenon. While Congress managed to increase its vote share by just 3% the seats it drew were more. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share dropped 33%. Which means, while Ajit Jogi’s party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

Well, now the real challenge in front of the Congress party is to choose a Chief Minister candidate.

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