Why Muslims returned to Congress?
By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
Indian National Congress-led UPA government has come back to power at the centre in the recent general elections. One of the most important contributing factors from all accounts has been the return of the Muslim vote to the India’s grand old Congress party.
The most heartening news is the decimation of all exclusivist trends among Muslims. Muslims have sealed the fate of almost dozen-odd Muslim outfits in this election. Not one of them has been able to even make a mark. Muslims have given thumbs down to the politics of exclusion, negativism and denial of our own shortcomings. Many of them were created just before the elections and tried to incite Muslim sentiments over what they claimed was "targeted harassment of the minority in the name of terrorism", thus seeking to deny the fact that some of our youth are indeed turning to terrorism under the influence of so-called Islamist terrorist outfits and their ideology of radical Jihadism in the name of Islam. The growing influence of Wahhabis in the community is helping the process. But instead of addressing these issues and making amends, some Muslims, notably some so-called ulema, sought to simply blame the government and try their hand at exclusivist politics. It is gratifying that the community has not heeded them and has instead returned to inclusive politics and has largely voted along with other communities for the greater good of the country, keeping the nation’s best interest in mind.
Indian Muslims have clearly returned to the Congress fold. But how have Sonia/Rahul/Manmohan wrought this magic?
Muslims have voted for the Congress party since independence. They have been considered a Congress vote-bank. But they had virtually stopped voting for the party gradually since 1971, except in pockets where their only adversary was the communal-fascist BP or its ally the Shiv Sena. This had given rise to and sustained in power in several states left front parties as well as lower caste parties like RJD, SP, BSP, LJP, JD (U), JD (S), etc. Wherever there was a secular alternative to the Congress, they would go for it. This process started with Indira Gandhi/Sanjay Gandhi rule and continued to strengthen through the Rajiv Gandhi and Narsimha Rao’s stewardships of the party.
Things, however, started to change under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership. Rahul Gandhi’s strenuous efforts to bring the community back to the fold, supported by Manmohan Singh government’s over-all endeavour to provide an atmosphere of communal harmony in the country after the horrific Gujarat massacres of the Vajpayee-Advani era, as well some Muslim-specific measures, have finally brought the community firmly into the Congress fold.
Several factors have contributed to this phenomenal change in the Muslim attitude? Some can be listed here:
As Union Minister Sharad Pawar pointed out during the election campaign, since the exposure of Hindutva terrorist outfits, the string of systematic bombing of our cities and towns has come to a complete stop, thus letting Muslims off the pressure they used to be under after every terrorist attack. They no longer live in dread of being picked up by the police and interrogated, many a time leading to innocents losing their livelihood, even marriage, and of course, their social standing. Even fellow Muslim neighbours and relatives used to boycott them once they were picked up by the police as a suspected terrorist. Even if they were let off as innocent after some time, this would not change their altered circumstance.
In any case all is well that ends well. India can now look forward to a stable, secular, progressive government at the centre for the next five years. This is a major source of satisfaction for all Indians and our well-wishers around the world. Indian voter in general appears to have realised that in the sea of uncertainly that surrounds India, we just had to have a tried and tested and stable government. Let us hope the Congress party makes good use of this opportunity, builds upon its strengths and removes its weaknesses to emerge as a party with a majority of its own in the next general elections.