India with over 1.3 billion people is the most populous democracy in the world. It is a federal constitutional Republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 29 states and 7 union territories. Pakistanis get excited during national elections in India but seldom has there been passionate interest in a state election. Ordinarily, Indian state elections create a minor ripple in Pakistan unless these are in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The common Pakistani citizen is concerned with NA-122 or the Local Bodies elections. They do not give two hoots whether there are elections in Bihar or Tamil Nadu.
The election process in Bihar would have been of academic interest to a small segment of analysts who come up with their hypotheses or expert opinions, but then, more often than not, the viewer would soon surf other channels. Lalu Prasad Yadav is a known commodity in Pakistan, and widely preferred over Narendra Modi or even Sonia Gandhi. Was it because of LPY that interest in Bihar elections became a hot topic in Pakistan? No, the credit goes to someone who was catapulted to the prestigious position of President of Bharatiya Janata Party.
Amit Shah is a politician from Gujarat and a close associate of Modi. His claim to fame was his political acumen and organizational capabilities that enabled BJP to win 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 elections. His relationship with Modi and his success in UP made him a hot favorite to become BJP President. Come the Bihar elections and he proceeded to wield his magic wand to get Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and LPY out of the Bihar political landscape. His presence and his track record was so overarching that many political pundits and some in media predicted a landslide victory for BJP.
This is where Pakistan phobia got the better of Amit Shah. Playing heavily on the high stressed tension between India and Pakistan, capitalizing on the growing influence of Hindu fundamentalists, and relying on the self-publicity seeking global yatras of the Prime Minister, he went to Bihar in full swing. It was during one of his addresses to the voters that this politician, who has a murky past being involved in corruption, obstructing justice, ordering fake extra-judicial killings, and abuse of power in Gujarat, went overboard. Indirectly accusing the Bihar ruling party leadership of being unpatriotic, Shah hollered, “If by mistake BJP loses the polls, crackers will go off in Pakistan”.
One sentence, regurgitated by an arrogant politician, put paid to the dream of his mentor while at the same time rekindled the patriotic fervor of the voters. This was not a cricket match where jubilant spectators set off firecrackers when Team India is winning. This was a tough election campaign with high stakes. This was a plebiscite against the Modi Sarkar policies, philosophy, and actions. The die was cast. The Grand Alliance winning 178 seats out of 243 while BJP hobbling with just 58 seats.
Of course, Pakistan was never the issue in the elections and the credit for the BJP rout definitely goes to LPY, Nitish Kumar and the other leaders. The fact is that hysteria against Pakistan is dominant on the mindset of the BJP leadership. This self-centered thinking has gravely boosted the activities and influence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, its militant wing, Bajrang Dal, the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena, with its avowed advocacy for Hindutva, and other religious fundamentalists. Modi seems to be on the same wavelength with these extremist organizations despite the fact that they are a black blotch on the secular fabric of India.
The electorate outright rejected the extremist philosophy of these organizations and the anti-BJP vote reflected the voters' disgust for fanaticism and militancy. The Bihar result may or may not be replicated in the elections in other states nor there would be such a huge anti-BJP vote. This is beside the point. The Bihar debacle required some serious soul-searching in the ranks of BJP hierarchy. Global investors and foreign governments, eyeing the profitable prospects of the burgeoning middle-class market, realizing the skilled potential of Indian human capital, and recognizing the importance of India in the regional context, are bending backwards to accommodate New Delhi.
Hence, lip service or ignoring the forced conversions of minorities, high incidences of rapes and sexual assaults, torturing of Muslims, Christians and Dalits, indulging in hostilities against neighboring countries, and interfering in the internal affairs of other SAARC countries by encouraging separatist movements and financing of terrorists, are vivid examples of hypocrisy and lust for profits.
The Indian government needs to revisit its penchant for making a mockery of international diplomacy, for assuming a self-appointed role of a bulldozer in her neighborhood, for harboring notions of hegemony in the region, and for not realizing the futility of obsolete fundamentalist rhetoric and the gravity of its consequences. In the India-Pakistan context, it is incumbent upon India to come to the negotiating table and sort out the contentious core issues so that trade and investment can be normalized, people-to-people contacts and movements are facilitated, and the clouds of armed conflicts are dispersed. The Bihar result would not be the catalyst to impel Modi Sarkar to jump-start the normalization process but it is surely a message that negativity about Pakistan will not earn brownie points from the mainstream electorate. Meanwhile, for Amit Shah and his ilk, they should pay heed to what Chanakya advised: "Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions: why I am doing it, what the results might be, and will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead."