Speaking out, finally
By Aijaz Ilmi
Friday, May 22, 2009
What a turnaround in five years! Though the Indian Muslim may have seemed adrift and divided, he instead comprehensively sent out a clear message: a resounding negation of divisive, communal forces, pretentious benefactors and self-anointed leaders of the community.
Thankfully, in these elections various myths were finally exposed as hollow. Over the years allegations of targeted, homogenous, en bloc voting by Muslims have been drilled into the psyche of all Indians. But, pushed into a corner, and treated either as a vote-bank or a punching bag, the Indian Muslim voted uniformly along similar lines as the rest of the country in the 2009 elections. A state-wise analysis shows the following: in Kerala, speculations that controversial cleric Madani would help the LDF were wrong; the community comprehensively stuck with the Congress-led alliance, not wishing to be identified with a cleric of shady background.
In Tamil Nadu, despite putting up Muslim candidates, the NCP, BSP and LJP could not prevent the DMK from winning in Vellore, which has a sizable percentage of minority votes. Andhra Pradesh experienced terror attacks and riots during the Congress regime; thus communal forces were hopeful, as were numerous small parties fielding Muslim candidates, of cashing in on emotions running high over the incarceration of young Muslims. Lo and behold, the BJP was decimated and so were those candidates, rejected for governance, development and stability. Meanwhile, various Muslim organisations in Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan expressed anguish at how few Muslims had been nominated by the Congress. Yet the results clearly show that numerous Muslim candidates put up by the SP and BSP were firmly rejected in favour of candidates put up by the UPA.
Indeed, even in his Raigad bastion, Minister for Minority Affairs A.R. Antulay lost; his penchant for polarisation failed to cut any ice.
In Bihar, Muslims joined with all sections of society in voting for the “back-on-tracks” vision of Nitish Kumar. (Ironically, Maulana Asrarul Haq, a Deobandi cleric and a vociferous proponent of the nuclear deal, was the only Muslim to win out of five minority candidates put up by the Congress. All the dons, irrespective of religion, were routed comprehensively.)
Indeed, attempts by the BSP and the Left Front to tag the nuclear deal as anti-Muslim resulted in complete disaster for them. The Sachar committee report had already exposed the Left Front in West Bengal; the “mahajot” channelled this anger, in combination with Nandigram, for victory.
The BSP and other parties put up Muslim nominees in Delhi, asking voters to punish the Congress for not putting up any minority candidates in the capital, trying to whip up sentiment around the Batla House encounter. That didn’t work either. So, for the first time, the young urban voter competed with poor Muslims in polling booths to vote together for a stable, secure, reliable government. Thankfully, the Ulemas, led by the Shahi Imam, maintained a studied silence and did not risk their reputations again.
And then there’s UP. In that all-important state the script of minority bloc-voting unravelled. Despite provocative speeches from Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi’s histrionics, the Mayawati-certified Ansari brothers, the political turncoats of the SP and BSP, were uniformly rejected by both Muslims and Hindus. Even Azam Khan’s script went awry; revulsion to the sleaze posters resulted in sympathy for Jaya Prada. If Noor Bano had properly condemned the objectification of another lady in politics, the result might have been different.
The leader of the anti-nuclear hype, the BSP’s Shahid Sidiqui, lost in Bijnore — which has a 67 per cent Muslim-Dalit population. The SP may have lost about 15-20 per cent of its Muslim support; instead, it appears here that a desire for clean politics ensured the victory of credible leaders like Salman Khurshid — after 14 years in the wilderness! Mayawati may have misread her mandate in 2007; the arrogance of her lieutenants, her personal aloofness from mundane routine matters of governance is such that even many Dalits were left disillusioned. In comparison, it appears that after 20 years the ghost of Babri Masjid and the culpability of the Congress finally lie buried.
But here’s the clincher. The old story of “communal voting” by Muslims seems to have been comprehensively negated: the Congress, the SP and the BSP got votes from all sections in places where they won. Noor Bano and Salim Sherwani lost in areas with high Muslim densities; Zafar Naqvi and Salman Khurshid won from constituencies which were only thinly dominated by Muslims. This highlights secular voting by all communities.
This inclusive moment isn’t a moment to lose. The new government must chart out a course that will address the hopes and needs of all communities in an inclusive, phased manner.
The writer is chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper ‘Daily Siyasat Jadid’
Courtesy: Indian Express, New Delhi