This alone will ensure Muslim political empowerment
By N Jamal Ansari
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Elections are round the corner. It’s natural that all political parties are trying to capture the votes of Muslims as much as they can. Once again Muslims will be lured into casting votes in favour of this or that party; and later they will be dumped. In India Muslims matter only at the time of elections — otherwise they have been excluded from “We, the People” of the Constitution. They have become ‘second class citizens’. Hence, it is time they should prepare a political plan to assert themselves. Muslims should take into account the performance of different parties and the latest developments within Muslim society before deciding their strategy.
By and large, Muslims have voted for the Congress till now. But the record of the Congress clearly indicates that it is not willing to redress Muslim grievances. Muslim youth, particularly educated young men, are being kidnapped by anti-terrorism squads in the name of ‘war against terrorism’. The Batla House encounter was staged during the UPA’s rule. A large number of memoranda, demonstrations, rallies, etc, has not been effective in convincing the UPA Government to initiate an inquiry into the Batla House encounter. Hence, supporting the Congress means giving it licence to kill our children.
Muslims have supported Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. No doubt, he is a secular leader. But he too has changed with the passage of time. Ms Mayawati’s BSP is nothing but a version of the BJP. She can join hands with the BJP at any time. During her rule atrocities against Muslims have continued. The BJP is totally unacceptable to Muslims. Mr Varun Gandhi’s two speeches are indicative of the political landscape of the country if the BJP were to come to power.
The Iftehad-e-Millat Council has declared support to the Congress. Headed by Maulana Tauqeer Raza, it is not a paper organisation. It has a large following and can turn the tide in Rohailkhand area. Sheikh Badruddin Ajmal has expanded his UDF to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Ulema Council has also fielded eight candidates. There are some small Muslim parties, like the National Loktantrik Party, which will dent Muslim votes. The Parcham Party of India, led by Saleem Peerzada, can shake the political ground, but unfortunately it is not financially sound. Overall, the situation of the Muslim political parties is that they will be able to snatch away some secular votes, ensuring, the victory of BJP candidates in most constituencies.
So, what should the Muslims do? How should they regain the lost ground in the political arena? How should they make their presence felt? Before jumping to any conclusion, we must analyse some ground-level realities.
Muslims have 11 Muslim-majority constituencies in the country, including three in Jammu & Kashmir. There are 34 constituencies where Muslims comprise over 25 per cent of the electorate. In 53 the Muslim population is 15 per cent. An analysis of the general elections in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004 shows that most Muslims get elected from the first two categories of constituencies. Detailed analysis of the 2004 general election shows that the secular parties, which claim to be Muslim-friendly, field very few Muslim candidates. Usually they field Muslim candidate in those constituencies which have a low percentage of Muslim voters. Naturally they do not win.
Muslims must realise that their economic and educational backwardness, social vilification, anti-Muslim bias in the administration and civil rights deprivations are due to their under-representation in policy making bodies, including Parliament. Therefore, what they need is political power. But reverting to the pre-independence ‘proportional representation system’ is no longer possible. Unfortunately, in 1949 Muslims lost the battle for political empowerment because some Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly ditched them on the issue of reservation. Now they have only one choice — to assert themselves politically. While embarking upon such a mission, they should not be carried away by sentiments. They must go by political compulsions and logic.
Towards this end, here is what Muslims should do in this election. Wherever an Ulema Council candidate is contesting, he should be supported. Such support will send a message: Muslims are not wiling to keep quiet on state terrorism. Mr Badruddin Ajmal’s UDF must be backed to provide real Muslims with bargaining capacity. At the national level, only the Congress is capable of challenging the BJP. Hence, wherever a Congress candidate is in a sound position, Muslims should vote for him. In Uttar Pradesh they must prefer Samajwadi Party candidates over those of the BSP because the track record of Ms Mayawati is not very encouraging for Muslims. She publicly supported Mr Narendra Modi. Though she has fielded more Muslims than any other party, they are worthless. Some people may argue that Mr Kalyan Singh’s entry into the Samajwadi Party indicates Mr Yadav’s drift towards Hindutva, but that’s illogical; Mr Kalyan Singh is not a factor at all.
The Twin aim of Muslims should be to shake up the established secular parties and create a political disbalance that gives them bargaining power. The pressing need of the hour is for Muslims to break free of political bondage.
(The writer is a Muslim intellectual who is on the staff at Aligarh Muslim University.)
Source: The Daily Pioneer, New Delhi