India: By Threatening Muslim Voters, BJP Leader Threatens Election Legitimacy
The outgoing Chairperson of the nagar palika (local municipality) in Nawabganj, Uttar Pradaesh declared that Muslim constituents would “face difficulties” if they don’t vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing political party closely aligned with Hindu nationalist groups.
During a political rally, BJP leader Ranjeet Kumar Srivastava told the audience that “this is the BJP’s reign,” and Muslim voters must provide unconditional support or “face the difficulties which you did not have to undergo earlier.” While BJP sympathizers might interpret Srivastava’s words to be a realistic, if harsh, reminder that as long as the BJP is in power, constituents will get more from working with, rather than against them, statements such as “If you don’t vote (for us), the difficulties will become obvious to you),” sound more like voter intimidation than realpolitik. Mr. Srivastava soon clarified his intentions, explaining that, “If someone thinks that I am threatening, I am ready to threaten a thousand times more.”
The State Election Commission told reporters that no action has been taken as no complaint has been filed, but this ignores another harsh reality: If BJP leaders are willing to threaten Muslim constituents for voting against them, voters will surely fear worse repercussions for filing official complaints against BJP leaders.
The State Election Commission should take a proactive approach and launch an independent investigation into these news reports without requiring vulnerable constituents to file an official complaint. Moreover, the BJP should take action to censure Mr. Srivastava and reassure Muslim constituents that they respect their free participation in democratic process. Otherwise, the legitimacy of a future BJP victory will be tainted with the stain of voter intimidation.