By Tarique Anwar and Chandrakant Naidu
Nov 15, 2014
The Muslim electorate is going through a big churn in India. They are disenchanted with the attitude of their religious and political leadership, and they are also tired of being treated as a vote bank. It shows in the way they have been voting in recent times but a clear pattern indicating a decisive shift in the mindset of the community is yet to be visible.
The activities of ISIS and similar forces elsewhere in the world have found the disapproval of the community in India and there is a bigger acceptability of the Right wing BJP, yet they vote for the hard-line outfit Majlis-e-Ittehad ul Muslimeen (MIM) in Maharashtra. There are signs of greater radicalisation within the community, but indication of softening of worldview too.
The MIM’s success has not gone down well with moderate Muslims. Afsar Usmani of the Movement for Peace and Justice accuses MIM of exploiting the sufferings of Muslims. He says the party must come up with a development agenda for the community. Ghulam Mohiyuddin of the Moderates Forum says forming Muslim political parties provides only stronger justification for the existence of Hindu political parties.
“We should work against the very concept of religion-based political parties. We can have Muslim associations or organizations which develop policies, educate the electorate and make representations to major political parties,” he says. Senior journalist Rashid Kidwai attributes the rise of MIM to the decline of the Congress as much as to the rise of political Islam as opposed to the religious Islam world over.
Hilal Ahmed, assistant professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), told Firstpost, "One needs to get rid of the communal/secular debate to understand the electoral performance of the MIM. We have to recognize the fact that the MIM got a significant support from non-Muslim voters in the recently concluded Maharashtra assembly elections.
"The party got around one percent of votes in the state. In fact, they are much better than the BJP, nationally as well as state-wise, in terms of giving tickets to all sections of society. There were three non-Muslims candidates who fought elections on MIM's ticket in Maharashtra this time. This is not a new trend. MIM has also given tickets to non-Muslims leaders in Telangana and Andhra in the recent Lok Sabha and assembly elections.”
"In addition, the MIM has been raising the question of development in Aurangabad region for a long time. Therefore, I don’t think that its rise will help strengthen fanatic groups in the state."
Navaid Hamid, former member, National Integration Council, says, “The rise of the MIM is because of the failure of so-called secular parties in responding to Muslim issues, their indifferent and callous response to the problems of the community at large and their perception of taken for granted the support of Muslims in elections.”
“How we can ignore that 65 percent of the Muslim population is young and diverse and has dreams as of any community. Ironically, the rise of MIM has been because of lame duck Muslim representation in political parties has always shied to convey the sentiments and aspirations of the Muslim community to their top leadership. In fact, the ‘Muslim representatives’ had never been pro-active in even dissemination of welfare schemes of their own government. There have been a strong perception developing in the community and its youth that these so-called Muslim representatives have been constantly on the mission to serve their own interest at the cost of the community and this illusion paved way for a breeding ground of MIM, whose chief and lone parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi has been vocally raising issues concerning the community in Parliament.”
To a query whether MIM’s increasing influence will result in consolidation of Hindu votes and rise of fringe groups, he said, “I completely disagree with the idea. There have a consolidation of Hindutva votes for so many years. Even though there has been no reactionary politics in states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, the BJP and its allies have defeated other combinations to which Muslims have voted.”
Professor Shamim Ahmad, president of Intellectuals Forum for Secular Democracy and Social Justice (IFSDSJ), a forum that took shape in Aligarh, says the rise of MIM is because of the “failure of so-called secular parties”.
"There are two kinds of political parties — one follows soft Hindutva ideology while the other, a hard Hindutva. Not even one Muslim candidate has been sent to the Parliament. In Uttar Pradesh, the population of Muslims is more than 20 percent and in five UP Parliamentary constituencies, Muslim voters are more than 30 percent. The Samajwadi Party could manage five seats for its family members and Congress managed two, then why couldn't a Muslim face from UP be sent by any of them?" questioned Shamim, who used to teach at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
"I fail to understand how the rise of MIM will help Muslims because leaders like Owaisi brothers are responsible for bringing bad name for the community. In fact, if such a proposition or endorsement comes from the educated class, the community is sure to suffer,” he said.