When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power early this year, many asserted that the former Gujarat CM’s emphasis to built a ‘Hindu Rashtriya’ paved a smooth way for his success in elections. India with its 814 million strong electorate has a predominant Hindu vote share and when a political party planked its election manifesto on the grounds of religion, the result was not a surprise.
Many saw success of Modi as a consolidation of Hindu vote, who sought a pure ‘Hindu nationalist’ for the prime minister post. During Modi’s election campaign, he left no stone unturn in luring this Hindu voter – making them believe the ‘impossibles’ like the construction of contentious Ram temple on the land of demolished Babri Masjid.
In the Muslim dominated Kashmir, religion equally plays a substantial role in region’s politics. Along with many local political parties, national parties also choose their candidates from the state for different assembly and parliament elections. All these parties are represent various colored flags — the Green flags, red flags, orange flags — which could been seen these days lining over head in markets, buildings and else where.
The colors not just represent the party but have a lot more to do with the religious sentiments of the people. As green is considered auspicious in Islam, it is also a sign of victory as per the Islamic history.
Recently during my interaction with a five-year-old boy, while covering polls in valley, landed me in a surprise when he told me that he loves a particular political party since their party flags was green and disliked the others. And when i inquired of him why was that so, he noted:”There flag is green and that means they are Muslims.”
Some people also provide a religious context for their participation in the electoral process. In the third phase of assembly elections in Kashmir, when I asked a 70-year-old man why he voted; he responded, “I vote not because these political parties do any good to me but because its a sin to waste my vote.”
A 65-years-old man added, “We vote because it is a good deed not to waste our vote and its a better deed if we vote for a Muslim party.”
It might well be that their statement indicated their “urge or obligation” to stop the ‘rising’ BJP in valley that has fielded its candidates almost in most constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir. People in valley seem eager to stop the saffron party that has a clear communal stance, which the party flaunts ‘boldly,’ if not in the Himalayan region.
The only communist party in Kashmir CPM’s leader Mr Yousuf Tarigami recently swore upon ‘God’ in an election rally as per a report in daily mail UK. According to report, Tarigami said, “Inshallah (God willing), when you come out to vote on Tuesday you will vote me again, Inshallah”.
When I asked Mr Tarigami as to why he did that, he noted that InshaAllah, Bismillah, Khudahafiz and other such words are in the Kashmiri culture and it had nothing to do with religion. May be it has nothing to do with religion, but for sure it has to do with the political sentiments of people.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a green flag and many people vote for this party not because they find it worth their political choice but just because green relates them somewhere to their religion.