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India election results: Did ‘secular’ parties let Muslims down too?

Scared of the BJP describing them as pro-Muslim, these parties distanced themselves from the community, analysts say.

As Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi addressed journalists after election results demonstrated a dramatic setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he held up a pocket-sized version of India’s Constitution.

“It was a fight to save the constitution. I would like to thank everybody who has participated in this election. I am proud of the people who resisted the onslaught on this constitution,” Gandhi said on Tuesday evening.

“It’s the poor and marginalised people who came out to save the constitution. Workers, farmers, Dalits, adivasis [Indigenous] and backwards have helped saved this constitution.

“This constitution is the voice of the people. We stand with you and fulfil the promises.”

Missing from the list of people Gandhi thanked were India’s 200 million Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority. Muslims are believed to have overwhelmingly voted for Gandhi’s INDIA alliance, which won 232 seats in the elections for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament — below the halfway mark of 272 but significantly more than exit polls had predicted. Modi’s BJP won 240 seats, falling short of a majority on its own and leaving it dependent on allies to form a government for the first time since Modi came to power in 2014.

Gandhi’s omission was no one-off. It was part of a pattern, say analysts, observers and many Indian Muslims – one that has seen opposition parties demonstrate seeming reluctance to even mention Muslims.

“They know that a large part of India’s [predominantly Hindu] middle class is radicalised to the extent that taking the name of Muslims might