Are We Really a Vote Bank?

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Muslims

While Muslims must play their role in the coming elections, they must vow that their real struggle starts after the elections

DR JAVED JAMIL

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen some political leader or party uses the word “Vote Bank Politics”, it amuses me. Politics after all is all about votes and every political party looks for vote banks. A party cannot simply be called a political party if it does not have its share in vote bank. What amuses me even more is that BJP calls Muslims a vote bank and blames all other parties to try to win them.

The truth is Muslims have actually failed to become an organized vote bank. On the contrary, they are being used, rather misused for keeping intact or snatching the other vote banks of the country.

The BJP uses the so-called Muslim card to increase its hold on majority Hindu vote bank, and Congress uses it to conserve its majority vote bank. Other political parties are only marginally different.

The BJP thinks that if it can garner Hindu majority behind it, the unification of Hindu Vote Bank can be achieved only through an anti-Muslim campaign, which can vary from subtle underground current that always keeps flowing to recurrent high voltage dramas like Ram Mandir movement, anti-terrorism plank and riots.

Congress on the other hand tries to keep Muslims amused through its “secular” credentials and occasional booties, which are just enough to keep Muslims glued to it but are not large enough to distance its Hindu vote bank. Left with no option, Muslims have to vote for a lesser evil.

They have not yet been able to organize themselves in a way that they can bargain on equal footing with other political parties. They have not yet realized that once they get organized they can successfully bargain not only with the lesser evils but also with the bigger one. The problem is that even if they have the desire to organize, they have no leaders who can show them the right way to do this.

The right way should of course be one which organizes them not merely on emotional issues but for their ideological, social, economic and political empowerment so that they can play a meaningful role in national affairs. And this should be achieved not through alienation of but through alignment with other communities and sections.

The major challenges for Muslims are twofold. First they have to learn to raise their voices on issues that concern the whole nation. These issues related to economy, health and society will do much bigger good to the impoverished Muslim community than the emotional Muslim specific issues.

Second, while they must never give up their specific demands, they must learn to present themselves in a more effective way without giving their enemies an opportunity to misuse them for their own political aggrandizement. Muslims are not being given rights like reservation on the plea that the Secular Constitution of the country does not recognize religion as the ground of awarding these rights.

The truth on the other hand is that Muslims are being denied genuine rights on the ground of religion. While almost all Hindus have the reservation in education and jobs in one way or the other, Muslims have almost no reservation.

The Dalit and OBC Hindus have almost 50 percent reservation on the basis of their belonging to castes which are within the Hindu fold. The upper castes, being mostly rich, have got reservation for themselves through large-scale privatization of education which only they can afford to establish and join. They have not just monopolized the education industry this way; they have also secured the future of their children.

Muslims have neither the right on the basis of castes (because they are also Muslims) nor is the overwhelming majority of them in any position to join the private institutions. And of course they have hardly any share at all in the Private Education Sector.

While Muslims must play their role in the coming elections, they must vow that their real struggle starts after the elections. That will be the time when they must launch a nationwide campaign on the issues of their choice (both of general and specific importance) with long term planning.

They must know that it is easier for any government to take decisions on their demands after the elections rather than closer to the elections when they are much more fearful of Hindu backlash. Unfortunately till now, Muslims become active only on the eve of elections.

 

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