Gujarat assembly polls: Scarce Muslim representation in polls, but they must vote

Monday, 10 December 2012 - 4:17pm IST | Place: VadodaraAhmedabad | Agency: DNA
An absence of political power in one state is not so vital, so long as the country as a whole operates in a democratic secular manner.

Gujarat elections are proving to be heartbreak for many Muslim political activists. There was hope that Sadbhavna-inclined Narendra Modi may lead to BJP tickets for Muslims, but it appears not one will make it to the saffron electoral team.

It’s strange that even senior IPS officers, who have been singing the saffron tune, such as Shabbir Khandwawala or Abdullah Ibrahim Syed, did not meet Modi’s bar. Crossovers from Congress, Sufi saint Mehboob Ali Bawa and Asifa Khan, have equally failed. Why?

The issue is worth understanding in depth. BJP and its RSS patrons feel very allergic to Muslims. It goes back to its roots in the ideology of Veer Savarkar and Guru Golwelkar wherein the only place Muslims could occupy in society was as a second-class citizen, totally subservient to Hindu thoughts and beliefs.

The only serious attempt to win over Muslims was made by Narendra Modi with his Sadbhavna programmes all over Gujarat, but this was after eight years of running the state on an anti-community platform. From 2002 to 2010, Modi contested two assembly elections and two general elections on themes of Hum Paanch Hamare Pachees, and relief camps as baby-producing factories. His politics appealed to Gujarati Hindus and he won landslide victories.

But his eyes were on the prime minister’s chair. Being a completely political persona, he quickly realised that Gujarat could never make him prime minister. After all, the state has only twenty-six seats in Lok Sabha. Further, communal politics can work in Gujarat where Muslims are barely 10% and it pays to inflame the 90% against the 10%.

Such a tactic can never work in states like Assam with Muslim population of 31% or West Bengal (25%), Bihar (18%) or UP (19%). These are the states that send about 200 members to the lower house of the parliament.

The only way out was to follow Atal Behari Vajpayee and present himself as acceptable to Hindus and Muslims. It was too tall an order for someone who Muslims hold responsible for the horrors of 2002. Convincing his saffron base to accept Muslims was also a question. There was a strong possibility that if he pushed his Sadbhavna too far, his base would tilt towards Keshubhai Patel and wipe him out completely.

The only way out was to abandon his minority supporters and save his state citadel. That is exactly what Modi has done, by not giving tickets to Muslims.

The same logic applies to Keshubhai, who too cannot give tickets to Muslims, as that would turn his saffron supporters towards Modi. This just leaves Congress, which will play as safe as possible by giving tickets to about seven Muslims. Note that as per their population, there should be at least 18 Muslim MLAs in Gujarat.

Forget the assembly, there aren’t even minority corporators in Vadodara. Gujarat hasn’t sent a single Muslim to Lok Sabha for over 20 years, for a Gujarati Hindu will not accept a Muslim as his representative. The only exception maybe Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, whose credibility among Hindus is very high. But sadly, he hardly has any of it among Muslims. This only reflects the deep communalisation of our society.

Yet as a Muslim, I’m not worried. An absence of political power in one state is not so vital, so long as the country as a whole operates in a democratic secular manner. I rather see this phase as one of social, educational and economic reforms among Muslims. There has been a sharp rise in Muslim schools or entry of Muslims in professional courses like engineering and medicine.

Muslim businesses and industry are flourishing as never before. Wealth can be seen by the posh houses and mosques in Muslim localities, and the huge  rise in Muslims going for pilgrimage to Mecca. The same is true of money lavished at weddings.

Muslims must vote for the best candidate, but otherwise stay away from politics. Let it be said that in the darkness of the 2002 killings, Muslims finally found  the answer to live with dignity and respect, in the best tradition of Indian secularism and Islamic heritage.

The writer is retired professor of MS University, Vadodara

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