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Published On:30 May 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

OPINION: Are Muslims ready to throw away the Political Begging Bowl?

By Kaleem Kawaja

MUSLIM MLAs   2011/2006

WEST BENGAL (294)    59/2011   46/2006   Increase:  28%, Muslims/'Total 2011:  20%
KERALA (140) 36/2011   25/2006    Increase:  44%, Muslims/Total 2011:  26%
ASSAM (126)   32/2011   25/2006   Increase: 28%, Muslims/Total 2011:  23%
TAMILNADU (234) 5/2011   7/2006    Decrease: 7%, Muslims/Total 2011: 2%

The above table compares the number of Muslim MLAs in the Assemblies in four states where elections were held recently, and compares it with their numbers five years ago.  The increases in the number of Muslim MLAs in 3 of the 4 states are remarkable indeed.  The population of Muslims in Assam, Bengal, Kerala has not increased much in the last five years, yet the number of their MLAs has increased very substantially.  This change in the political strength of Muslims in Eastern and Southern India is very significant for the entire Muslim qaum in India.

Sizeable Muslim populations exist in the following states in India:

East:  Assam (30%), Bengal (25%)
North: UP (18%), Bihar (15%)
South: Kerala (30%), Karnatak (15%)
West: Numbers are small. Gujarat (9%), Maharashtra (12%)

Thus if Muslim activists develop clever strategies, organize themselves cleverly and negotiate skillfully with other parties they can have good number of MLAs in several states.  The caucuses of Muslim MLAs (from different parties) can bring pressure on the major parties to substantially improve development of infrastructure, education, social services, housing, employment for the very depressed Muslim community in these states.

Not only BJP has deprived Muslims of socioeconomic development, the secular parties (Congress, Communists, SP, BSP, RJD etc)  have played the same game and have only given lip service and promises to Muslims.  For 50 years all of them won elections with the vote support of the Muslims; but all they gave us were empty promises.  The Sachar Committee report layed it bare and showed us how we have been fooled and tricked as a community for half a century.

Another problem was that the leaders of Muslims in these parties were beseeching (begging) the top leaders of the parties (Sonia, Mayawati, Mulayam, Laloo, Communists) thinking that there was no other option.  Over the last 35 years these parties never allowed any Muslim leaders to become among the top leaders in these parties and thus they could not hyelp the development of Muslim localities, employment, education etc.  Look at how Azam Khan, Abu Asim Azmi, Shahid Siddiqi, Arif Mohd Khan were treated by the bosses in their parties.

Starting a few of years ago Muslims in Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Kerala  strengthened their groups, negotiating with secular parties and warning them that not living up to promises will be fatal for them.  And they demonstrated that first in Bihar last year in bringing Nitish kumar to the front.  That strategy got much boost in the state Assembly elections this year.  And the result is there for all to see.

Obviously for Muslims to play this strategy they have to make sure that their formations (parties) that they control are secular and do not become religion-based, because that will give big boost to anti-Muslim parties like BJP.  And they should give some space in their parties to Hindus also.  The examples of AIUDF (Assam) and IUML (Kerala) are good examples of successful strategies.

Let us hope that MIM in AP and nascent Muslim political groups in UP are watching the Assam and Kerala model. 

One thing is for sure.  the begging to bosses in secular parties did not help.  What seems to finally work is a strategic negotiation and forming our own political groups.  So are the Muslims finally ready to throw away the political begging bowl and start developing innovative strategies to stand on their own feet?  Let us hope so.

Let us remember that if Sikhs can do it, if Dalits can do it, why can the Muslims not do it?

[Kaleem Kawaja is President of Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC. He can be reached on kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on May 30, 2011. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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