Muslims in Bulandshahr town, mostly labourers, vegetable and fruit sellers and small traders, said this was a polarised election

By Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in Bulandshahr

Uday Pratap, an RSS functionary in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr, feels the BJP government under Narendra Modi has been able to restore Hinduism to its rightful place.

“This became only possible by showing Muslims and their political parties, be it Congress, SP or BSP, their place. Our job is not finished yet. We have to take the country to greater heights and to its past glory,” he said, flashing the victory sign with his fingers. “The BJP will get absolute majority in the election. We have sent the message among people that if Modi loses then Muslims will dominate again. Hindus are united now and the days of politics of appeasement are over.”

He added: “Please tell me don’t you feel proud of Modi and his government’s achievement. Pakistan is now shaking in fear.”

In between the conversation on Tuesday morning at the two-storey swanky RSS office in the heart of Bulandshahr town, he was busy calling swayamsevaks from his iPhone 5, taking updates on the ground situation and passing on instructions on how to mobilise each and every voter in Bulandshahr Lok Sabha constituency, which voted on Thursday. Seated next to him in a large room adorned with a portrait of former Sangh chief M.S. Golwalkar, three volunteers were preparing voters’ lists of some villages to be handed over to the foot soldiers already camping in those villages.

“It needs to be done at any cost by this evening,” Uday said, pointing towards one of the volunteers.

The office was abuzz with activity. Several BJP leaders were seen holding meetings with the top RSS functionaries in the district. The office has several small rooms with beds, air-coolers and toilets. In the big hall, saffron flags and other campaigning merchandise lay in a corner.

Uday blamed Muslims for the Muzaffarnagar riots and other cow-related violence in the country.

“Don’t they know Hindus treat cows as mother? Why do they kill cows? If they want to live in peace then they should respect our sentiments. Won’t they react violently if they find pork inside their houses or mosques?” he said.

India’s culture, he said, is Hindutva which is interlinked to Hindu rashtra.

Bulandshahr parliamentary constituency is considered a BJP bastion. The party has won the seat, reserved for Scheduled Castes, since 1991 and lost only once, in 2009 — to the Samajwadi Party. The BJP has repeated its sitting MP, Bhola Singh; the SP-BSP-RLD Mahagathbandhan has nominated Yogesh Verma; and the Congress has fielded Bansi Lal Pahadia.

In December last year, the situation had become volatile here after the murder of a police inspector, Subodh Kumar Singh, allegedly by some right-wing organisations led by Bajrang Dal leader Yogesh Raj. The preliminary probe revealed that it was a pre-planned conspiracy with the motive of stoking communal tension on the pretext of cow slaughter. Yogesh is still absconding.

Muslims in Bulandshahr town, who are mostly labourers, vegetable and fruit sellers and small traders, said this was a polarised election.

“Every other day we see huge rallies by the RSS and Bajrang Dal here. They have been regularly holding shakhas in the town and villages and have even started organising cultural programmes in schools after coming to power in 2014,” said Md Mustaqim, a madarsa teacher.

Anwar Khan, who works for a cable TV firm, accused the RSS-Bajrang Dal of dividing the populace along religious lines just to remain in power.

“They are calling us traitors. If they really love this country they should not resort to Hindu-Muslim politics and divide and rule. But they have sown the seed of hatred among people and are enjoying the fruits of power,” he said.

Everyone says the region had never seen communal violence. But things have changed.

“The situation is very fragile now,” Khan said. “I have several Hindu friends and they don’t speak anything against Muslims in front of me. But when I see their Facebook pages I realise the hatred towards the minority community is so deep. So much has changed in the past five years.”

Amit Pandit, of Jainpur village, 8km from Bulandshahr town, said Muslims and Hindus have always lived in amity. “It is only in the run-up to polls it is polarised as Hindu-Muslim. We do not have problems with Muslims nor do they have with us.

“The upper castes will vote for Modi,” Pandit said, adding that the sitting BJP MP Bhola Singh is “good for nothing” and villagers are very angry with him as he “disappeared” after the 2014 elections. “But we do not have any option as to ensure Modi’s victory we have to vote for him.”

The result of the election is likely to be decided by Jat votes, which had gone to Modi in 2014. This time, the BJP fears that those votes may be divided because Jat leader Ajit Singh’s party RLD has joined hands with the SP and the BSP.

Kanhaiya Sharma, an RSS swayamsevak from Jainpur, said he and other cadres have been visiting door to door, asking people to ensure victory for the BJP. “Unlike 2014, there is no Modi wave this time but Hindus are united. Earlier, because of division in Hindus, Muslim votes proved to be decisive but things have changed after 2014,” he said, holding the voters’ list of his village.

Sharma is among the hundreds of footsoldiers of the RSS who are working as a massive election machine — doing everything from conducting ground-level surveys to preparing strategies to mobilise voters, conducting meetings in localities and providing feedback from the ground to the party.

“We are sure that non-Yadavs and some section of Dalits will vote for the BJP and this will help us sail through despite division in Jat votes,” he said.