In the final leg of the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi dramatically announced in a rally, “Yeh dil maange more”. It was a quintessential Modi soundbite: the BJP’s internal polls had captured a surge but the party leadership of Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah, were determined to push beyond “mission 272” towards a triple hundred. The rest, as they say, is history.
The complicated and controversial notion of a Muslim vote bank stretches back to the first general elections in 1952. The post-Partition face of the Indian Muslims, Maulana Azad, was keen to contest an election from a constituency with a sizeable Hindu population to prove his ‘secular’ credentials when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru insisted he contest from Muslim-majority Rampur district instead. Nehru didn’t want to take a risk with the electoral fortunes of one of his key lieutenants.