Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is BJP’s USP In Ongoing Indian Elections – Analysis


Release of statistics on population change is an indication       

Vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric is likely to be the main plank of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the last four phases of the elections to the Lower House of the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha). 

Voting ends on June 1 and the results will be announced on June 4.  

Faced with below par response from voters to his appeal for 400 plus seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha in the first phases of the election, the BJP supremo and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been resorting to wile anti-Muslim propaganda to win the votes of India’s Hindu majority. 

Modi began by saying that if the Congress came to power, it will take away the gold chain worn by married Hindu women and the cattle of Hindu farmers and give them to Muslims. The Congress would also lock the newly-built temple of the Hindu God Rama in Ayodhya that had been built on a site where a 500-year old mosque stood before it was demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992. 

On Thursday, Modi’s government released an analysis done by the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PM-EAC) which said that in the 65-year period between 1950 and 2015, the share of the Hindu population in India had dipped by 7.82%, while that of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs had risen.

The idea in putting out this report was to enhance fears in the minds of Hindus about being eventually outnumbered by Muslims.  

Indian Express reported that the data for the report was taken from the “Religious Characteristics of States Dataset 2017” which tracked religious composition in populations across countries. The study focussed only on countries that had a majority religion accounting for more than 50% of the total population in 1950.

The data showed that the population of Hindus in India declined by 7.82%, and the share of Muslim population rose from 9.84% to 14.09%. The share of the Christian population rose from 2.24% to 2.36%, that of the Sikh population increased from 1.24% to 1.85%, and the share of the Buddhist population rose from 0.05% to 0.81%. 

Jain and Parsi populations witnessed a dip: from 0.45% to 0.36% in the case of Jains, and from 0.03% to 0.0004% in the case of Parsis.

According to the PM-EAC, the rise in the share of minorities suggested “the net result of policy actions, political decisions and societal processes had provided a conducive environment for increasing diversity in society.” 

The report hinted that a policy of “minority appeasement” followed by previous Congress governments had resulted in a rise in the population of minorities, especially Muslims.  

The analysis pointed out that while the minorities throve in India, in  Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, they shrank.

Indian Express went on to quote the Population Foundation of India, a non-profit that works on addressing population issues through research and advocacy, as saying that the PM-EAC report should not be interpreted to incite fear or discrimination against any community. 

Quoting Poonam Muttreja, the non-profit executive director, the paper said that the “media should not portray the data selectively to only highlight an increase in the Muslim population.” 

It was pointed out that “the total fertility rate (TFR) among all religious groups was declining and the highest decrease in TFR from 2005-06 to 2019-21 was observed among Muslims, a 1 percentage point drop in their TFR. Hindus saw a 0.7 percentage point drop.”

The Wire used a report of the National Family Health Survey (2019-21) to say that the difference between Hindu and Muslim fertility rate is only 0.42 children per woman. The Hindu rate was 1.94 children per woman and the Muslim rate was 2.36 children per woman.

This is a drastic difference compared to the situation in 1992 when Muslim women were estimated to have an average of 1.1 more children than Hindu women.

The Wire further said that in the last two decades, the Hindu fertility had dropped by 30% against 35% among Muslims.  

A 2021 report by the Pew Research Centre substantiates these findings. The fertility rate among Muslims is now almost equal to that of Hindus. Between 1992 and 2015, the Muslim fertility rate declined from 4.4 to 2.6 while Hindus’ rate dipped from 3.3 to 2.1.

Shah’s Fulmination  

On Thursday, the Central Home Minister Amit Shah declared at a campaign meeting in Telangana, that the current electoral battle is between “Vikas” (the Development agenda of the BJP) and “Jihad” (Fight for Islam by the Congress).  

Shah described the rival Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)  as forming a “triangle of Muslim appeasement”. 

He said: “These people don’t allow the celebration of the Hyderabad Liberation Day (September 17). These people oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act.  These people want to run Telangana on the basis of Sharia and Quran.”  

Shah’s remarks are not just a ploy to consolidate Hindu votes in Telangana, which has a significant Muslim population but are messages meant to have an all-India impact because the BJP’s overall aim is to garner the votes of the Hindus who are 85% of the Indian population, by alienating them from the Muslims who are 15% of the population. 

Shah blamed the Congress party for giving 4% reservation for Muslims in Telangana and promised that if BJP won, it would abolish reservation for Muslims in jobs and increase reservation for Hindu Dalits, Tribals and other Backward Classes. 

Prime Minister Modi had earlier vowed that he would never extend reservation to Muslims across the country so long as he is in power. He had dubbed the Congress party’s election manifesto as that of the Muslim League, which had fought for the creation of Pakistan a country for the Muslims.

P. K. Balachandran

P. K. Balachandran is a senior Indian journalist working in Sri Lanka for local and international media and has been writing on South Asian issues for the past 21 years.

One thought on “Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is BJP’s USP In Ongoing Indian Elections – Analysis

  • May 13, 2024 at 12:16 pm

    This narrative by a journalist claiming to be” writing on South Asian issues for the past 21 years” lacks objectivity. When the Congress and Muslim parties, e.g AIMIM and others openly canvass for Muslim votes, how could it be so wrong for Barathia Janata Party to appeal to the Hindus to vote for the Party. Congress and the Muslim Parties appealed to the Muslim votes in the name of secularism and by so doing they are undermining the Secular Constitution of the State. Any claim that Muslims and Christians are at a disadvantage flies in the face of facts: their populations have grown more than the Hindu population in relative percentage terms.
    India under Modi’s leadership is making great strides across a broad spectrum- economic, defense, science, technology and more. It is the largest democracy and the most populous country on the planet and is poised to regain its rightful place in the international order. The West and other countries which are uncomfortable with this development spend considerable resources to thwart the process, using their media and journalists in other countries who are prepared to support their agenda for whatever reasons, including personal benefit.


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