Published On:12 March 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

GUEST EDITORIAL: "Indian Muslims are not private properties of political parties"

By Kaleem Kawaja

The basis of an equitable democracy is that the various communities -- ethnic and relegious -- get representation in the political decision making process. In a non-equitable democracy like India where intimidation and influence peddling on the basis of religious and ethnic origin often happens and is compounded by the fact that there are over a dozen major linguistic and ethnic communities, a multiplicity of castes and over half a dozen relegious communities, it is difficult to build an equitable, enlightened and secular democracy.

More than any other community the Muslims who are at least 15% of the population and who have significant concentration in about half a dozen states have suffered much lack of representation in the political process. Even as the lower caste HIndu OBC and Hindu Dalit communities formed successfull parties and ruled in north India, Muslims with sizeable population in several states remained as the vote bank of other parties who promised them only protection from gory large scale violence. But these parties did nothing more for Muslims and as in the last twenty years the globalization of India's economy brought jobs and better standards of living to other erstwhile backward communities, Muslims remained in the lowest socio-economic basket of the nation. The Scahar Committee's well documented 2007 report laid it bare for all to see.

Year after year the Muslim voters remained the vote banks of otherwise secular parties and remained afraid of demanding equitable development for their community. But starting in 2010 the Muslim voters in the four north Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh where about 47% of the Muslims of India live, adopted a pattern of strategic voting. In each state depending on the situation, they decided which party was likely to give them equitable treatment and voted for it. Other than BJP that is a self- pronounced anti-Muslim party they are willing to look at all parties.

Thus, secular parties like Congress, Communists, Samajwadi party, Bahujan Samaj Party that had made a habit of loudly proclaining their Muslim-friendly credentials have been put to tests by Muslim voters. Muslim voters have decided that neither any of them is their messiah nor enemy; they each had to prove what they are for Muslims.

The election results in these four states in the last 18 months of 2010-2012 are an eye opener. Let's see the election results:

Assam - 31% Muslim population - 32 MLAs in the state Assembly of 126 or 25% representation
Bihar - 15% Muslim population - 19 MLAs in the state Assembly of 203 or 10% representation
West Bengal - 25% Muslim population - 59 MLAs in the state Assembly of 294 or 20%
Uttar Pradesh - 18% of Muslim population - 69 MLAs in the Assembly of 402 or 17% representation

This proportion of Muslim MLAs in various states is in proportion to their population in those states. And that is fair. Muslims of India are not trying to demand excessive representation either in politics or in socioeconomic arena. Just their fair share which has been denied to them in the last 65 years. Let us hope that in the 2014 parliament elections the number of Muslim MPs in Lok Sabha will rise to about 70 to 75, about 15% - their proportion in the population.

In Assam Muslims were not reluctant to vote for Congress, but in UP they favoured a better choice in SP. In West Bengal after decades of promises only from the Communists Muslims were willing to give a chance to Trinamool Congress. In Bihar after long years of no development from Laloo's RJD they took a risk with Nitish Kumar's JD. Muslims' voting pattern in four major states over the last 18 months shows that they are not averse to any party (except BJP) but in each case they make strategic decisions as to which party to vote for.

In each of these states the various secular parties that earlier gave tickets to only very few Muslim candidates despite their significant numbers have now started giving their tickets to many more Muslims and many more of them are now winning. Muslims want their community represented by their own people; they are not willing to accept the dictum that a secular Hindu is a good enough representative of Muslims. Because, they learned the hard way that even for secular Hindus their own community came first and Muslims were only second priority.

The problem of just a few years ago when many Muslim candidates and one Hindu candidate contested for the same seat reulting in the Hindu candidate winning, largely did not happen in the above cited election. The reason being that Muslim voters are now not willing to vote for a non-viable candidate just because he/she is a Muslim.

In all of these states the previously well entrecnhed parties lost out since Muslim voters chose to assert themselves strategically. A party claiming decades of secular credentials but very little help in the socio-economic development of the Muslims was relegated to a lower preference.
However in all of these states it remains to be seen if this larger number of Muslim MLAs will actually result in these MLAs emphasizing with the bosses of their parties that they give equitable attention to socioeconomic development in Muslim communities at par with development in other communities.

Major parties like Congress that claim to be secular and equitable need to rethink their basic operating methods. They need to turn much more honest and sensitive to the critical needs of Muslims, not just propaganda or playing communal promises. It will be their actual record on ground not grandiose promises from scions of big political families.

If Muslims continue to play such strategic electoral politics as they have demonstrated in the last 18 months, they have nothing to fear from BJP. They can force BJP to change its basic thinking and policies or get reduced to a fringe party that they used to be.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be reached on: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on March 12, 2012. Filed under , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on March 12, 2012. Filed under , , , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

3 comments for "GUEST EDITORIAL: "Indian Muslims are not private properties of political parties""

  1. Good article and you have solid view.

    MuslimIndia Hindustani musalmano ka sab se bada khabro ka SMS group he, jo 4 saal se chal raha he. Musalmano se mutalliq khabrein Urdu (English rasmul khat) me aap ke mobile phone par rozana muft hasil karne ke liye mobile me likhiy,
    or 9870807070 par SMS bhijiye. Note. ON ke baad 1 jagaa(space) rakhiye
    Molvi Iqbalhusen

  3. Assam has Bangladeshi muslim population which we will not accept. Only Indian muslim can stay there..no the Banglas. We will wipe them out. in 1950s Muslim population was just 8 % and now its 40 %..WTF? All Bangaldeshis..huh.

    NE Indian.

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