Turning the Tide: Landmark Victories in India’s 2024 Lok Sabha Elections

By Amit Sengupta

The crucial 18th Lok Sabha polls of 2024 in India, in which the essence and soul of India’s secular democracy itself was at stake, marked many stunning surprises. One of them was the massive margin of victory of a man who trounced a strong and formidable candidate who has never lost a single election in this deeply sensitive area in a border state.

So who is Rakibul Hussain? How many Indians really know about him? And why was is his name being floated as a possible candidate for the Speaker in Lok Sabha, thereby yet again shaking the tottering apple-cart of a shaky BJP?

Rakibul Hussain, in his late ’50s, did his post-graduate studies from Aligarh Muslim University. As a representative of the Congress, he was the deputy leader of the opposition in the assembly in Assam. He has been a legislator from Smaguri in Nagaon district in Assam for four terms. And he did the impossible in these polls — against a candidate whose defeat seemed unimaginable!

Rakibul Hussain defeated perfume king Badruddin Ajmal of AIUDF by a record margin of 10, 12, 476 votes from the Dhubri parliamentary constituency. Significantly, this is a Muslim dominated area and voter turn-out was also unprecedented — 92.08 per cent. The NDA candidate, also a Muslim, came third.

Indeed, even Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has pitched himself  as a hyperbolic, aggressive and extreme Right-wing Hindutva protagonist (though, formerly with the Congress), had to acknowledge the victory of Rakibul Hussain.

Among other significant victories, is that of Ikra Hasan, 27, from the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency in Western UP. She was a young Samajwadi Party candidate, educated, measured, committed, rooted, a visionary, connected to the people across all communities, and loved and respected by the locals. Indeed, locals had declared her victory during the campaign itself. She defeated BJP’s Pradeep Kumar by more than 69,000 votes.

One part of her campaign, which was deeply appreciated, was the manner in which she created a positive and optimistic discourse rooted with the problems of the people, especially women. She was always polite and decent in her speech, never uttered a foul word, and always spoke with respect about her opponents. In an election where the prime minister was routinely using foul speech and hate politics as a possible trump card, this civilised discourse also turned the tide in  her favour. Both Hindus and Muslims, therefore, unitedly voted for this educated daughter of their land.

Coming from an eminent political family, Hasan did her Masters’ in international politics and law from the prestigious SOAS University in London. Her father, late Munawwar Hasan, was twice elected MP and MLA; her mother, Tabassum Hasan, was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kairana in 2009.

One of the key campaign issues which she took up was that of the Indian Constitution, and how the BJP was out to destroy the spirit and essence of this sacred document drafted by Dr BR Ambedkar. She took up Rahul Gandhi’s cue, and in rally after rally, declared that the ‘400 paar’ BJP slogan was nothing but an attempt to change the Indian Constitution, and, thereby, take away the fundamental, constitutional rights of the Dalits, minorities and other backward communities in India. Clearly, the BJP had to go on a back-foot in Western UP, as in rest of the country.

Undoubtedly, the BJP was already on back-foot due to the peaceful farmers’ struggle. The issues of MSP and sugar cane price, the fulfillment of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee, demands unfilled since years despite the promises by Narendra Modi,  has been a simmering wound stalking the farmers in Western UP. This was their time to prove their point.

Western UP, a fertile green revolution agricultural belt, has always been a region where peace and harmony between the Muslims and Hindus have reigned supreme. Never before had riots taken place here. The BJP had practically no presence here, except among the trading communities in the towns of Saharanpur, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar.

Before the 2014 parliamentary polls, violent polarization was ‘socially engineered’ by the BJP’s top leadership here, with the help of their local rabble-rousers, using fake and inflamatory slogans like ‘love jehad’. Thousands of Muslim families were displaced, scores of people were killed, and some women from the minority community were allegedly raped.

The farmers’ struggle changed all that. The poisonous smoke of hate politics vanished. ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ were sung in chorus by Hindus and Muslims in a massive rally in Muzaffarnagar. The people decided to vote out the politicians of hate. No wonder, BJP’s Sanjeev Baliyan, a key figure in the 2014 polarization, has lost from Muzaffarnagar (now he is blaming another BJP leader, and former partner — Sangeet Som).

Significantly, Kairana is steeped in the refinement of the classical music. Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the original doyen of the Kairana Gharana in Hindustani classical music, was born here. It was he, and this golden tradition, which inspired the legendary Khayal renditions of great Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, in the Hubli-Dharwar area of Karnataka.

Another landmark victory was that of Dalit icon and young Ambedkarite leader, Chandrashekhar Azad Rawan, from Nagina, once again in Western UP. He is the president of the Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram), and is a product of the struggle against upper caste communities with powerful political patronage. He was featured as one of the ‘emerging leaders’ in the annual list released by ‘Time’ magazine in February, 2021.

He has done a long stint in jail. He was also in the struggle during the anti-CAA struggle. His fame spread, especially when he stood at the ramparts of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, reading the Indian Constitution, surrounded by thousands of protesters.

Clearly, he was backed by the INDIA alliance, though, apparently, he did not take their support. Azad won by 1.51 lakh votes, defeating his nearest rival from the BJP. Considering the decline of Mayawati, and her dubious role in cutting the vote-share of INDIA bloc leaders in 16 constituencies, the entry of Azad in the lower house will mark a new landmark in Indian democracy.

A bigger message for the Modi regime, was the grand victory of Independent candidate, Abdul Rashid Sheikh, popularly called ‘Engineer Rashid’. He defeated the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, in Baramulla, by over two lakh votes.

He has been imprisoned in Tihar Jail, Delhi, since the last five years, charged with ‘terror-funding’ by the National Investigation Agency. He was arrested after the abrogation of Article 370 and the clampdown on August 5, 2019. He quit as an engineer in 2008, and first contested, gaining entry in the assembly. His credibility has been hailed across the region, as he won from inside the jail.

His victory, and the good turn-out in the polls, points to the fact that Kashmir wanted to send a strong message to Modi and Amit Shah — proving that their repressive project has failed. Ironically, despite the muscle-flexing and rhetoric, the BJP did not contest in the Valley, and, instead, backed proxy candidates.

Perhaps one of the most significant victories was that of Dalit leader Awdesh Prasad in the BJP bastion of Ayodhya-Faizabad. An INDIA bloc leader, he was chosen by the people of Ayodhya, who rejected the hyperbole surrounding the ‘pran pratishtha’ of the multi-million Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Modi’s religious posturings, the paraphernalia built on its inauguration with an assembly of  stooge media and stooge celebrities, was apparently detested by the locals. The BJP, therefore, had to rub its nose next to river Saryu.

Thus has come to the end the temple construction movement, which, in its wake, led to Babri Masjid’s demolition, after much blood-letting and scores of dead across the country. Besides, with the loss of Ayodhya, the ground under the BJP/RSS’ feet has also slipped. No wonder, Modi started shouting ‘Jai Jagannath’ — instead of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ — after the BJP lost its mandate.

Among other landmark verdicts, the BJP lost in Banswara, where Modi started his first ‘hate speech poll campaign’. Ajay Kumar Mishra Teni lost in Lakhimpur Kheri to the INDIA alliance candidate. His son had crushed four farmers and a journalist under his SUV during the farmers’ struggle.

Sanjna Jatav of Congress, 25, a law graduate, was victorious from Bharatpur in Rajasthan. This was a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Ironically, Bharatpur is the home district of Bhajanlal Sharma, the new, unknown, chief minister of Rajasthan.

In what is being perceived as a personal loss for Amit Shah, the Congress broke the BJP citadel in Gujarat. First time in a decade, it was victorious in one constituency. Its candidate, Geniben Nagaji Thakor, won from Banaskantha defeating the BJP candidate by 30,406 votes.

All in all, the 2024 polls marks a turning point in the history of Indian democracy. The tide has already turned. Now, the clock is only ticking for that moment. Clearly, Modi’s time is up.

(Lead graphic by Aayushi Rana)

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