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Islam and Politics ( 19 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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AIMIM Politics: Dilemma Of The Indian Muslim Is That Of American Blacks - Republicans Don’t Care As They Don’t Get Black Votes, Democrats Don’t Care As They Are Sure Of Black Votes



By Yogendra Yadav

18 November 2020

The rise of the AIMIM, or All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen worries me. When I said this in a TV debate after Bihar elections, I received the usual barbs, this time from the Muslim side. I was accused of being a closet Sanghi, and of course, an Islamophobe. These reactions convinced me, even more, why the rise of the AIMIM must worry all of us.


Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM fielded 20 candidates in the Bihar assembly elections | Photo: ANI


Misplaced Worries

My reasons are different from that of the ‘secular brigade’. I do not blame the AIMIM for splitting the ‘secular vote’ and ensuring the defeat of Bihar Mahagathbandhan (MGB). First of all, this charge is not true. The AIMIM did win five seats in the Muslim-dominated pocket in the north-east corner of Bihar, but in the remaining seats that it contested, largely in the same region, it did not split votes in a way as to cause the defeat of the MGB candidates. The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) estimates that about 76 per cent of the Muslim votes in Bihar went to the MGB. Hence, the Muslims did vote strategically to defeat the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

More importantly, even if there was vote splitting, what’s wrong with that? You cannot hold a political party responsible for not allowing its rival to win the election. The vote-splitter tag is wielded against all new parties. This is precisely what the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was accused of in the Delhi assembly election in 2013. It’s almost funny that parties that carry the principal responsibility of taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but fail to do so, should expect everyone else to come to their rescue. At any rate, the idea that all Muslims must vote as a single bloc is as deeply abhorrent as the attempt to unite all Hindus in a vote bank. In a healthy democracy, the voters should choose parties based on their opinions and assessment, not on the accident of their birth. If the Muslim vote is split, it only shows they have more than one option. It should be welcomed.


Also Read:   Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM Plays Spoilsport By Making A Dent Into Muslim Votes In Bihar Elections


My worry is not that the AIMIM is a particularly pernicious political outfit. Much of the special hatred for the Hyderabad-based party today is just because Asaduddin Owaisi makes for good TV. He is articulate, witty and does not pull his punches. So, his party is an easy target for those who distribute certificates of patriotism.

To be sure, the AIMIM has had a dubious past. Formed in 1927 with blessings of the Nizam, then ruler of Hyderabad, the party supported the Muslim League in its demand for Muslim dominion. Worse, it was associated with Razakars, an armed militia that fought against the Army to prevent the merger of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. But once the MIM accepted the reality of India, and turned into AIMIM, and the leadership passed on to the Owaisi family, the party has operated within the four walls of constitutional democracy. Allegations of using strong arm tactics in its backyard of Hyderabad have followed the party, especially the Owaisis. But in this respect, the AIMIM is no different from the Shiv Sena in Mumbai.

The AIMIM is a communal outfit. Its brand of politics is of the Muslims, for the Muslims and by the Muslims. But surely they are not the only party to do so. Think of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that practices politics of, for and by the Sikhs. Or the Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala or the Milli Council in Uttar Pradesh. Or parties that do not carry it in their name but are, for all practical purposes the political expression of one religious community: the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in Assam, the various factions of the Kerala Congress. And let us not forget the elephant in the room: the Bharatiya Janata Party. And then, there is a plethora of caste specific parties. All these parties would fall foul of the law against casteist or communal appeal for votes. But such laws exist only on paper. Outlawing these parties is not the solution. They need to be taken on politically. In any case, it would be hypocritical to single out the AIMIM for its communal politics.

The Real Problem

The problem is not so much with the AIMIM but with what it represents. It represents the rise of exclusive Muslim politics at the national stage. The Narendra Modi regime has done everything to fuel the worst apprehensions that the Muslims may have had. They feel that they have been reduced to second-class citizens in their own country.  They fear that much worse is to come. This climate of fear and anxiety is a perfect setting for someone like Asaduddin Owaisi to expand his constituency. Unlike traditional Muslim leadership, he knows the language of constitutional democracy. And unlike the conventional secular politics, he is outspoken about Muslim interests. When the Supreme Court gave the rather strange verdict on Ram Mandir, Owaisi articulated the voice of the Muslim community. He knows how to say what he wishes to say without falling foul of the law. He understands the power of television. It is pointless to blame him. A smart political entrepreneur like him will make full use of the available opportunity in the market of votes.

The MIM is so far the most successful experiment in creating a Muslim exclusive politics outside one pocket. Its success in Bihar is not a flash in the pan. The party has for long been invested in the project of exporting its politics beyond Hyderabad. As in Bihar, Owaisi has been successfully experimenting with the third alliances to gain a foothold. He joined Prakash Ambedkar’s Bahujan Vanchit Aghadi (BVA) alliance in the Maharashtra assembly election in 2019. His party had notable success in the Aurangabad municipality election in Maharashtra. We should expect to see more of the AIMIM in the coming assembly elections in UP and West Bengal.


 Also Read  Bihar Elections: ‘Radical’ Owaisi Is Not The Problem; The Shallowness Of This Secularism Definitely Is


This would be a radical departure from the politics that Muslims have espoused in post-Partition India. Barring tiny pockets such as Malabar and Hyderabad, the Muslims have not reposed their political trust in Muslim parties and Muslim leaders. Instead, they looked up to leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, V. P. Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. They voted for ‘secular’ parties that enjoyed the confidence of the majority community as well. The rise of AIMIM shows that the Muslims are sick and tired of the Congress’ brand of ‘secular’ politics, also practiced by the likes of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

They resent being used as a vote bank, as hostages. This kind of ‘secular’ politics did not give the Muslims a meaningful access to basic necessities of life. Nor did it allow them to vent their grievance as Muslims. The dilemma of the Indian Muslim is similar to that of American Blacks: Republicans don’t care as they don’t get Black votes, Democrats don’t care as they are sure of Black votes.  The AIMIM provides them an avenue: if they cannot be equal citizens, they can at least be Muslims. This is no solution, but looks like one.

This rise of Muslim exclusive politics at the national stage could well be the perfect partner that Hindu majoritarian politics has been waiting for. This would mean absence of any political incentives to bridge the Hindu-Muslim divide on either side. By voting the BJP to power again, the Hindu majority has already rejected secular politics. If the minorities, too, find it useless, that is the end of the idea of secular India inscribed into our Constitution. Secular politics must respond to this danger by transforming itself. It does not have much time.


Yogendra Yadav is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

Original Headline: Asaduddin Owaisi’s rise is just the opportunity Hindutva politics is waiting for

Source: The Print


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