By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
12 February 2020
The Delhi election results should come as no surprise
at all. Right from the very start, it became apparent that Arvind Kejriwal and
his party (AAP) will be comfortably returning to power. Their campaigns were
about basic civic issues like education and health and it is true that their
work was beginning to show real effects on the lives of people, especially the
poor. It is extremely heartening to see that some of their best minds have won the
elections which shows that given a genuine option, the electorate is wise
enough to choose the smartest people.
Kejriwal after AAP victory in Delhi Assembly polls
However, in many ways, this election was fought over
an imaginary Muslim fear. It was stated that Muslims were conspiring to cut
Delhi off from the rest of the country; the protests that they were doing was
about de-stabilizing India rather than being an outcome of a genuine grievance;
and Muslims were conspiring to rape Hindu women if the BJP got defeated in
these elections. Words will not be enough to condemn this kind of vitriol
against the Muslim community, but then, it appears that even such hate and
vitriol did not rouse all the ‘Hindus’ to vote in favour of a particular party.
Should this victory of AAP give comfort to Muslims?
This question is complicated and has no clear-cut answers. Certainly, the BJP
did not win in Delhi, but does it mean that their ideology has been defeated? Let
us look more closely at the response of AAP to the Muslim protests in the city.
Kejriwal’s party maintained a stony silence on the issue of Shaheen Bagh and
many other similar protests within Delhi. Forget about going to these sites and
showing solidarity with Muslim protestors, he in fact said that left to him, he
would clear the protest site within two hours. Throughout his campaign, he
refused to utter even a single word on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act
or the proposed National Register of Citizens, both issues which have created
considerable anxiety and fear within Muslims. Worse still, he hardly campaigned
in Muslim areas.
By not confronting the BJP upfront over their communal
politics, the AAP certainly played soft communalism. Many have argued that this
soft communalism is good as it helped to keep the hard communalism of BJP out. Certainly,
it did. But at what cost? In choosing to remain silent over Muslim demonization,
AAP may have won the battle but perhaps it is in the process of losing the war.
Only time will tell whether for Kejriwal and his party, this was a strategic
silence or he also thinks about Muslims the way many parties think of them.
It should also be pointed out that it is definitely
not a problem when Mr. Kejriwal goes to pay his obeisance to a temple right
after this victory or whether or not he should have recited the Hanuman Chalisa
during the elections. He has never claimed that he is not a believing Hindu and
therefor has every right to exhibit this religiosity as when he feels like.
Especially in a situation wherein, the BJP was trying to portray him as a closet
Muslim, it made much sense to assert his Hindu self. Those Muslims and
secularists who have a problem with his ‘new found’ religiosity must make a difference
between cultural Hinduism and political Hinduism. We should never have a
problem with cultural Hinduism especially when we are arguing that Muslim
religious identity is under considerable stress today. Cultural Hinduism is as
much of a positive identity as is Islam or Christianity. It is Hindutva
(political Hinduism) which we need to worry about because of its innate desire
to create an enemy other without which it cannot survive as an ideology. No
wonder, Hindutva is not just a threat to other religious identities, but also
to the pluralistic tenets of Hinduism.
So, no one should have an issue when political
personalities partake in the rituals of their own religious traditions. After
all, Gandhi was much immersed in his own brand of Hinduism but it did not ever
stop him from relentlessly criticizing the failings of his own religious
tradition. However, with regards to Kejriwal and his party, things do not stop
at just cultural Hinduism rather it goes way beyond. His silence over the
hounding of Muslims is a cynical attempt to signal those Hindu voters whose
hatred towards Muslims has created this crisis in the first place. The question
is whether this kind of a politics will ultimately be successful in stemming
the tide of Hindu radicalism? Perhaps not. Despite his silence on core issues
affecting the Muslim community, how should we explain that the other side
managed to increase its vote share to over 40 percent? The choice between
avoiding the evil and confronting it may be a tricky one, but history has
always shown that it is the latter which eventually defeats it.
Yet Muslims have voted overwhelmingly for his party. Kejriwal
certainly knew and tapped the insecurity gripping the Muslims. It was as if he
did not need their votes, but Muslims needed to vote for him. Like other
parties, he also took them for granted because Muslims have not been able to
create an alternative political imagination for themselves in this country. Muslims
did not have any other option. Even die-hard Congress loyalist voted for the
AAP this time because they correctly thought that only AAP could defeat the BJP.
This certainly is not new for Muslims; they have voted for the Congress and
other regional parties by the same logic. But this is also a reminder that
Muslim political representation needs to chart out a new course. A course in
which they are able to decide whom to vote for based on some concrete agenda
which helps the community. Although many Muslims are opposed to this idea, but
many also think that this is an idea whose time has come.
is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist
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