Four months before the UP elections of 2017 I had propagated the idea of Muslims boycotting electoral politics in India. It could not gain much momentum because, sadly, we lack the kind of selfless leadership in our community that will keep the larger picture in mind and step back.
The way “minorities” have become a taboo for the big parties and the way they are trying their level best to dissociate with any step that can be used as “minority appeasement” shows us what is in store in the future.
Muslims have already lost political relevance and if we don’t take care then India will lose its “secular credence” as well. We, as Indian Muslims, owe this to our secular Hindu counterparts to step down from the political arena altogether and let the battle be on issues that affect all Indians as individuals because we must understand that our very presence in the electoral fray leads to communal polarisation.
After all, its true that Muslims vote keeping the sole agenda of backing any party that can keep the BJP out of power. All this leads to is counter-polarization and it ends up benefitting them instead. Moreover, it dents our credibility as a community as well. Questions arise as to how forgiving one can be to non-BJP governments for their acts only because of fear of the “big giant”.
Secularism has been reduced to majority vs. minority when its actual meaning is that the State should abstain from religion as a basis of politics altogether.
In 2014, Modi had fought the elections with a narrative that was visibly devoid of anything to do with minorities (read Muslims). So enthused was his vote bank that finally there is someone who will punish the “Mullas” – Mullas who had so far been appeased by other parties in power, that despite his past record and despite Gujarat, he was accepted with aplomb. But we must not forget that despite the Modi tsunami, only 31 percent voters pushed Modi to power in 2014 and a part of the 31percent were actually bluffed by the development agenda and were repulsed by the perception of a tainted UPA.
But post-2014 the country is seeing very dark days indeed. It has been suffering on all fronts, economic or otherwise. But what the BJP is still able to survive on is its hate for minorities, which they market way too well. There is a section which, despite disillusionment, will continue its allegiance to BJP because they feel innate hatred for the minorities. I feel even the RSS hadn’t been able to achieve in the many years of its existence what has been managed by Modi and his team through media channels/social networking sites. On a daily basis, “govt PR” channels, under the garb of “news channels”, are spewing venom and bitterness ably supported by the trolls online, that they’ve managed to corrupt at least 20 percent of Hindus with disgust, prejudice and immense hatred for the minorities. Dislike/opposition as acceptable enmity is avoidable.
This is all the spadework going in for the building of a “Hindu-Rashtra” – from corrupting the minds of the polity to ousting the minorities from mainstream politics. The animosity is successfully bringing the negative forces together and, sadly, we, the minorities, are acting as a catalyst in this game.
After all, if not the 2014 general elections, then what should frighten and unnerve us is the UP-election results! The development plank having been kept aside, such vulgar display of communalism, uninhibited spewing of venom and no attempt whatsoever at concealing the intent of the saffron party got them such remarkable results. Also, by making a tainted person like Mr Yogi, charged in many criminal cases, and who’s sole claim to fame (till that time), was being a vociferous Muslim-baiter, the BJP made their agenda crystal clear.
Post-UP elections debacle, the opposition has now realized that they need to come together. But what they’ve also realized is that minorities are fast becoming a burden and slipping into political oblivion. Kindly notice that in the recent elections a great deal of care has been taken at staying miles away from the very word “Muslim/Minority” lest it’s seen as minority appeasement and leads to any kind of counter-allegiances.
The opposition knows that Muslims have no option but to toe their line to stop the saffron bandwagon. Despite their agenda of shunning the minorities, they will still be seen an alternative for the minorities and till the time that happens the BJP will pit each election as Hindu vs. Muslim. At the recently concluded India Today conclave, Smt Sonia Gandhi accepted, with what appeared as a great deal of disdain, that the Congress was being dubbed as a “Muslim party” and was being forced to indulge in a somewhat public display of “soft Hindutva”.
Let the Hindus decide now whether they want in India a Hindu Rashtra or wish to remain secular?
The disillusioning fact is that the main opposition parties might not be communal but are too regional and caste-centred to join hands and aim at the formation of a fortified block to counter the BJP. When they did this in Bihar they were able to oust the BJP from power. Now it’s time for such an arrangement at a much larger level.
In the upcoming UP by-elections Mayawati is ready to back Akhilesh. It is a welcome move. But if reports are to be believed, the Congress is fielding a Muslim candidate from a certain seat. When it’s visibly clear that SP has a winning chance there, then why play spoil sport and increase the BJP’s chances. In any case, it’s not going to be possible for the Congress to win. It appears as a candy being handed down to a sulking child (read Muslim community). Should this be acceptable to us?
For us as a community, it’s time to sit back and let the opposition parties unite for 2019. Let them first come together as a unified force then our intervention will be fruitful. They should know that if they are going to be “secular” only on the surface to garner our votes then they’re not acceptable. They must prove that in the larger interest of the country they all are ready to rise above party/caste/creed/religion lines and then we should extend our backing to them.
In the upcoming 2019 elections, especially in the context of bipolar/large states like UP/Bihar, this would entail a scenario where the seats are divided between the leading parties, on the basis of their strongholds.
We owe this to the majority of the Indians, who continue to be secular, and also owe it to ourselves as a community to stop being mere puppets at play, that continue being exploited for political gains.
(The Author is former Rajya Sabha MP, Ex-President, Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union and Vice-President, All India Majlis-e-Mushawrat)