By Sushil Kutty
Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu need not have cautioned Muslim voters to unite against the BJP and vote Congress, thereby inviting possible action from the Election Commission. BSP supremo Mayawati also should not have asked Muslims to vote en bloc SP and RLD candidates. Not because the calls were cries in the wilderness, but because if any section of the electorate is en bloc against Narendra Modi, it is the Muslim electorate; it’s the Muslim community. Ask any Ayesha or Azam; Farida or Farooq…
For all we know, even Muslim women who thrilled to the Modi Government’s stand on Triple Talaq, may not vote BJP. For it’s not Triple Talaq alone which troubles Muslim women,and Muslim men. There is cow vigilantism and there is the Uniform Civil Code, and there’s the general feeling among Muslims that the Bharatiya Janata Party is a Hindu party sworn to turn India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the long, if not the medium-term.
Architect of the Constitution of India BR Ambedkar, no friend of caste-divided Hinduism, pointed this undeniable trait in Muslims. Ambedkar wrote: “The Muslims (of India) have no interest in politics as such. Their predominant interest is religion. This can be easily seen by the terms and conditions that a Muslim constituency makes for its support to a candidate fighting for a seat. The Muslim constituency does not care to examine the programme of the candidate… Muslim politics takes no note of purely secular categories of life, namely, the differences between rich and poor, capital and labour, landlord and tenant, priest and layman, reason and superstition. Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference, namely, that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place—and they must because they are irrepressible—they are subordinated to one and the only governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namely, religion.”
Of course, it is because of this “subordination” to “religion” that politicians like Sidhu and Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, ask Muslims to unite and vote en bloc against the “Hindu nationalist” BJP. It is also for the same reason that the BJP, actually, really, revels in such calls to polarize as it helps the BJP to consolidate Hindus also into an “en bloc.” Every time a Mayawati or a Sidhu asks Muslims to consolidate and vote BJP out of power, it spurs the Hindutva-spewing BJP. It gives BJP reason to exist, the same as it gives the Muslims to exist.
Navjot Sidhu and Mayawati understand that Muslims will not vote BJP candidates but they will still give out calls asking Muslims to unite because both want Muslim votes en bloc to come to power; because opposition parties could not themselves unite against Narendra Modi, which was what Trinamool leader and Prime Minister-aspirant Mamata Banerjee wanted and, for a time, also Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati, both of whom are also angling to become Prime Minister. The Left parties, certainly, wanted opposition unity. But, today, in the thick of polling, with one phase of General Elections already done and dusted with, the decision has been left to the Muslims, the Muslims alone, to defeat Modi.
And with a disunited opposition, each party seeking to place its own leader in the Prime Minister’s chair, it has become difficult for Muslims. Even in Muslim-dominated constituencies like Katihar in Bihar, where Sidhu made his Muslims-unite pitch. Muslims of Wayanad, where Rahul Gandhi stepped in to upset the CPM-dominated LDF apple-cart, will not have a difficult choice. But in scores and scores of constituencies throughout India, where Muslims are not in a majority but are in substantial numbers to decide outcome, it might be a toss because of opposition disunity.
There is this sneaking feeling that politicians like Mayawati and Navjyot Sidhu are doing themselves and their parties more harm with their calls to Muslims to unite and vote only their parties, the SP-BSP-RLD combine or the Congress. If Narendra Modi returns to power with a decent number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, you’ll know who to blame. At least, it will not be the Muslims, who are for the most part not divided in their resolve to see the back of Narendra Modi. One more stint of Modi and they know what’s in store.
In fact, if we dig deep into why Maneka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath are taking the risk to antagonize the Election Commission and provoke the Supreme Court, it’s because the BJP wants to execute a “reverse sweep”, corner the majority of the majority community votes, sweep caste-divides under the carpet. For, there are in today’s political environment, with Pakistan’s role and national security election issues, lots and lots of Hindus who can turn on a coin and vote the “Hindu nationalist BJP” if enough fear of “Muslims ganging up against BJP” is spread. Maneka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath – maybe encouraged by the BJP top leadership – are working to a strategy and know to what extent they can go and, if thwarted, which directional shifts to make. Like Yogi Adityanath, when banned from campaigning, went to read the Hanuman Chalisa! And Maneka Gandhi, when similarly curtailed, divided her constituency into Group A, B, C and D villages with a subtle warning to the Muslims inherent in the division. She took the precaution of not mentioning ‘Muslims’ but sometimes the “missing” is what stands out, is noticed.
The fact of the matter is, India’s Muslims do not need calls to unite against the BJP, vote to see Narendra Modi out of power. Narendra Modi is like a festering sore to the majority of Indian Muslims. Social media is full of this Muslim feeling; this Muslim resolve. The hunt for a Muslim ‘Chowkidar’ handle on Twitter will not unearth many heads. And in a Muslim-majority constituency like Katihar, where there are three Muslim candidates from three different parties in the fray, it doesn’t help if Navjot Sidhu asks the “64% Muslims” to unite when what he will be achieving will be a division of Muslim votes! And it gives Giriraj Singh to consolidate Hindu votes by calling Sidhu’s call the ‘Jinnah Project’ and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur reason to brag ‘We’ll win this Dharam Yudh’. (IPA Service)