Who benefits from the fiery speeches of the Owaisis?
The rise of Muslim parties
By Faraz Ahmad
A little before the 2012 UP Assembly elections, BJP leader Kalraj Mishra invited home journalists for a chat over tea and snacks. Those present included Sudhanshu Mittal the Delhi businessman pejoratively described by Arun Jaitley and his fan club among the hacks as “Tentwalah” for the fact that he presumably runs some catering business in the capital. It must be a very thriving business for he drives around a chauffeur driven Merc and lives in a palatial private bungalow at Ferozeshah Road, almost next door to House of Russian Culture.
Sudhanshu Mittal had recently returned from Assam and it was widely believed that he had bankrolled the election campaign and other expenses of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) founded by a Mumbai based Perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. The man ostensibly made his billions selling Ittar to the Arabs, known for their weakness for sweet perfumes.
Sudhanshu Mittal though once hand-picked by Jaitley had been the protégé of Pramod Mahajan and therefore post 2005 aligned with the then BJP president Rajnath Singh. Ajmal too was reported to have had business and other meaningful relations with Mahajan and it is said that it was Mahajan who had egged on Ajmal to return to his roots and try his hand at politics, which he did and successfully at that thanks to the ready support from the BJP.
I mentioned all this because that evening Sudhanshu Mittal discussed with me at length the developments in Assam about his and his party’s role in propping up the AIUDF. Mittal tried to convince me about the necessity of propping up a Muslim leadership, which would articulate exclusively Muslim point of view and reflect Muslim aspirations alone.
Then in the 2012 UP Assembly elections several “Muslim” parties sprang up including the Peace Party of Dr Ayub Ansari founded also in 2009 when it contested 21 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. In 2012 UP Assembly polls the Peace Party contested over 200 seats and won four, thus becoming a force to reckon with. My friend Yusuf Ansari a successful journalist with Zee News, whose political proximity to the RSS/BJP is self- confessed by its proprieter Subhash Chandra, also jumped into the electoral fray on a Peace Party ticket. The connection between the Sangh and Peace Party is self-evident. So this was yet another Sanghi effort to prop up “Muslim leadership.”
Then there is this rabidly communal, violently intolerant Hyderabadai outfit the All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen represented in the Lok Sabha by the lone MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi. Owaisi’s grandfather, a participant in the separatist Razakar movement of Hyderabad which opposed, at the instance of the ruling Nizam, accession of Hyderabad to India, was its founder member. The MIM flowered under Asaduddin’s father Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi under whose leadership it became a formidable political force in Hyderabad. But it is worth recalling that thanks to the communal polarization which ensured Owaisi senior’s ascendance to the Lok Sabha 1984 onwards the adjoining seat of Secunderabad (the new Hyderabad) which has a preponderance of non-Muslim population sent BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya to the Lok Sabha, even when the BJP had no presence worth mentioning in Andhra Pradesh.
In the late 1980s when Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi dispute came to a boil, the Muslims formed a body called the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC), which later bifurcated into AIBMAC and Babri Masjid Coordination Committee (BMCC). This AIBMAC had Muslim leaders from all over the country. Salahuddin Owaisi was one of them. It is known history that the AIBMAC capitulated and most leaders of the Action Committee were “looked after” by the then Government of India led by another Hyderabadi P V Narasimha Rao.
In 1996 Owaisi started a medical college on prime property of Hyderabad/Secunderabad on a vast piece of land, which it is widely believed was allotted to Owaisi by Narasimha Rao. When the Telugu Desam fortunes rose the MIM aligned with the TDP and remained an ally till 1998 when the then chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu aligned with the BJP and became a member of the NDA.
In 2004 and 2009 MIM aligned with the Congress but by 2012 it assessed the diminishing clout of the Congress and broke with the UPA. In the latest Maharashtra assembly elections it embarked on an electoral odyssey outside Andhra Pradesh/Telangana and ventured into neighbouring Maharashtra. It won two assembly seats too. In the process it succeeded in persuading the young Muslims to move away from the Congress. MIM won only two seats in Maharashtra but it affected the fortunes of other secular parties in more than a score seats. Imagine if the MIM was not there the BJP would have found forming a government on its own that much more formidable.
MIM’s next target is Delhi. It has already set its eyes on the “Free cell” Shoaib Iqbal, who keeps switching parties all the time. One more player, apart from the Aam AAdmi Party and the Congress, will ensure further vivisection of the anti-BJP vote and facilitate the return of the BJP with a clear majority in Delhi. That is the relevance of MIM and such other Muslim parties. That is what my friend Sudhanshu Mittal was attempting and his leaders Narendra Modi have successfully achieved.
Of course there was reason for the Muslim youth in particular to be disillusioned with the performance of the UPA government, considering the fact that so many Muslim young men were sent to jail or even killed in fake encounters while nothing concrete happened to the Sangh parivar terrorists involved in Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blasts. The UPA government was far too scared of Hindutva reaction to institute a judicial probe into the Batla House fake encounter and the circumstances of the death of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. Kavita Karkare died a broken heart, Vinita Kamte’s voice of protest has been drowned in the cacophony but no decent probe ever took place into the role of Rakesh Maria in the killing of Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and others on that fateful November 26 of 2008 in Mumbai. On the other hand Mumbai Police Commissioner Abdul Ghafoor was made the fall guy.
But look at the other side. Now with Narendra Modi as the PM and Amit Shah as his commander in chief what hope does anyone have? Surely the UPA regime proved inept, except for a brief period when P Chidambaram became the country’s Home Minister. But they had no motivation to suppress cases against Modi or Amit Shah. We will soon have both Modi and Shah honourably acquitted like LK Advani was in the Hawala case and some Owaisi will scream his throat out only to communally polarize the voter further and help the BJP more. Do we really need them?