Youth support to Owaisi
A recipe for communal polarization
By Faraz Ahmad
Earlier this week, I was in Aligarh for a family get together and had the opportunity to interact with some young Muslim students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Their spirited support forSultan Asaduddin Owaisi and his All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) saddened me considerably.
I debated at length the issue and though eventually I won the argument, I wasn’t sure I had succeeded in putting some sense in them about the consequences of supporting communal and sectarian elements like Owaisi only attempting to further isolate Muslims in the current politically scenario charged communally by BJP president Amit Shah, naturally to politically benefit his master Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The patent argument of these boys often echoed by other young men of the Muslim community is that “We want more and more Muslims in the state Assembly (in this case Bihar) to be able to articulate our aspirations and angst. Our representation is inadequate in the state assemblies and therefore our issues are not raised properly. The secular parties only pay lip service and don’t really do anything for Muslims…” was the general tenor of the argument put forward by these young Muslim boys.
Haven’t we heard this before? “Secular parties only pay lip service but don’t do anything for Muslims…” How many times L K Advani, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have shouted this from the rooftop? Implying don’t bother about secular parties, don’t vote them, for they cannot do anything for you. Come to us with tails between your legs and we may once in a while throw some crumbs at you, provided you prove to be good Muslims like Zafar Sareshwala, A P J Abdul Kalam or M J Akbar.
Often times Muslims in their despondency have been taken in by this and abandoned the secular parties, if not outright switching to the BJP/Shiv Sena and such other virulent, vituperative lot. But what happened in the end? Muslim dominated Juhapura in Ahmedabad is now officially written in Police files as “Mini Pakistan.” Same treatment is meted out to Muslims of Mumbai. The BJP government all over the country is targeting the economic backbone of the richest Muslim community, the Quresh.
Sure enough for almost two decades Congress, the only non-BJP force in Gujarat, has failed to defeat the BJP and therefore in their despair a good section of Muslims seem to be reconciling to their fate in Gujarat of living perpetually under a BJP government. Nevertheless the only two Muslims who reached Gujarat assembly in the 2012 Gujarat elections, are both from the Congress and both from hugely Muslim dominated constituencies.
If AIMIM had chosen to raise the Green flag there, the gap between the Congress and BJP candidates shows that both those Muslim candidates would have lost to the BJP nominees. In fact there were two spoilers in that election who benefitted the BJP because by all political calculations, the 2012 polls were expected to be a close call for Modi. So the NCP and the JD-U till then a NDA partner, set up their candidates wherein NCP won two and JD-U won one but they helped the BJP tally go up by a dozen seats and corresponding loss of a dozen seats to the Congress. But the two Muslims managed to retain their seats thanks to the absence of Asaduddin Owaisi.
Owaisi first ventured out of Andhra Pradesh, rather Hyderabad in the last Maharashtra assembly polls and even won two seats. But did the number of Muslim MLAs go up any amount in 2014? As a matter of fact it came down compared to 2009. Owaisi only succeeded in ensuring the defeat of Congress/NCP/Samajwadi Party candidates in about two dozen seats. Imagine without the aid of AIMIM Devendra Phadnavis would not have been the chief minister of Maharashtra. There would have been no cruel and unfair restrictions on the non-vegetarian populace of Maharashtra. This has had a back breaking effect on the Quresh class of Indian Muslims. Among the Muslims, the Quresh though OBC, are the richest community and provide financial support to many a Muslim aid programme. This is what Owaisi has achieved for the Muslims by entering Maharashtra political arena.
Incidentally in the recently split Andhra Pradesh, there is not a single Muslim MLA or MP. Owaisi’s citadel is Hyderabad which is now in Telangana, he is the MP and there are seven Muslim legislators, all from his AIMIM. Thus in Telangana, he is the sole selling agent of Muslims. This is what Sultan Asaduddin Owaisi aspires for the rest of India. In the last Assam assembly elections, Badruddin Ajmal, floated his AIUDF. Sudhanshu Mittal, the national executive member of the BJP, who held the charge of assembly elections in that north eastern state, argued with me forcefully on the need for developing a Muslim leadership and clearly hinted how he had propped up a Bombay perfume trader Badruddin Ajmal to cut into the Congress vote.
Returning to Bihar the Muslims did get a good share in power in the state post Mandal naturally in Lalu Prasad’s dispensation which lasted for 15 years. In the current assembly elected in 2010, 19 Muslims got elected to the assembly of which six were from the JDU, which won 115 seats, six from RJD which won only 22 seats, two from the LJP, whose strength was just three and two from Congress with only four in the assembly and one from even the BJP. Even in the last Lok Sabha polls of 2014 Muslims and Yadavs stuck, by and large, with the RJD. This is because most Muslims were satisfied with Lalu’s performance on the minority front. Nitish too did not ignore the Muslim interests.
15th Lok Sabha had 23 Muslim MPs, including Shahnawaz Husain of the BJP. That was because that election was bereft of communal poison. It is common sense that always the majoritarian party would benefit from communal polarization and the entry of controversial figures like Owaisi and Ajmal only tends to heighten communal suspicion of a large number of people who do not always think on communal lines, particularly on matters of deciding who should lead the country.
Before the advent of that Mullah in Khaki General Mohammad Ziaul Haq Pakistan may have had very few elections, but there was no segregation on communal lines and the Hindu, Christian and other minorities were living like any other citizen, once the fire of Partition violence subsided. Zia first introduced separate electorate and in effect disenfranchised the minorities from the mainstream election participation. We have the results before us. Muslims alone representing Muslims is a sure recipe for communal polarization which will weaken the secular foundations of the country and only lead to further misery to the Muslim community. Already we have meat ban days being extended to most BJP ruled states. If Owaisi succeeds this will slowly engulf the rest of India and that will be bad for all of us but in particular the poorer sections and there are proportionately more Muslims there.