(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Indian Muslims, most of whom are political, have a difficult choice today.
They number most in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and switch between SP and BSP; JD(U) and RJD; and CPI(M) and TMC. None of them stood by them on Triple Talaq Bill, not at least as a complete bloc.
They have been steadfast to Congress for all the independent years of India, ignoring few seats the party afforded to the community in Lok Sabha and promises which were never kept. This boat is close to capsizing now in the political churn whipped up by India’s dominant right-wing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Worse, in five desertions in Rajya Sabha, its Gandhis and Vadras have betrayed their poor hold on the flock.
Your newspapers are unlikely to tell you that between 1952 and 1977, when Congress and Congress alone mattered, the Muslim representation was never more than seven per cent in the Lok Sabha.
Political parties, specific to Muslim identity, such as AIMIM, the Indian Union Muslim League and All-India United Democratic Front—in all there are seven Muslim parties– have looked to fish in the troubled waters. They have caught little except that Asaduddin Owaisi makes an appearance in your drawing rooms, finger-wagging and presenting his report card in newly explored regions of Maharashtra, UP and Bihar. Truth to tell, AIMIM is confined to Hyderabad alone though West Bengal has lately figured in Owaisi’s radar. Imams and Bukharis are good only for religious and moral discourse; as a political influencer, they stay in the basement.
Ironically, your Muslim and my Muslim could be two entirely different human beings.
The community is geographically dispersed across the country and is not a monolithic group. They have never voted with a singular national Muslim aspiration. Language, caste and social hierarchy fragment them; the supposed composite glass never existed. Shards on the floor are visible to even naked eyes.
India’s Liberal-Leftist media, Lutyens Media per se, have worked overtime in conjuring up Hinduphobia with an exaggerated focus on stray lynchings and the narrative of “saffron terror”in forced rendition of “Jai Shri Ram” etc but on ground, it has had had no traction whatsoever. In 80 of Lok Sabha’s 543 seats, Muslim number more than 20 per cent Yet, BJP won 58 of these 80 seats in 2019 Polls. One-fifth of UP is Muslim; yet BJP claimed 325 of 403 seats in 2017 assembly polls without fielding a single Muslim candidate!
The propagandists are elephants gone wild who are crushing the very narrative they are looking to fabricate. The signs of Muslim consolidation is nowhere but one of Hindus is visible everywhere. In constituencies where Muslims pack a punch, Hindus are coming as one in polling counters. BJP worked it out long before the first vote was cast in 2019 polls.
An average Indian Muslim today knows that beyond rhetoric, SP or BSP, JD(U) or RJD have no interest of their community at heart. Their agenda is to keep Indian Muslims poor, uneducated and thus malleable. It’s true of their last plank of hope too, i.e. Congress. They would do better to pay heed to the words of Arif Mohammad Khan who exhorts the community to uplift from within instead of blaming others for their mess. The community needs to trust India and its cultural heritage which is too big to be put on a leash even by a million Modis. It must stop looking for reservations or suffer from a persecution complex. It’s time to give up on false prophets. Educate and reform are two mantras it can’t do without.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
What do I tell which all of you already don’t know?
Maybe to my Muslim brethren who fault the Triple Talaq Bill—still not an Act till President Ram Nath Kovind puts his pen to paper– on its (a) criminal; (b) maintenance; (c) interference; and (d) whataboutery aspects that (i) cruelty against wife is a criminal offence; (ii) maintenance provided for by erring husbands is statutory; (iii) interference citing Islam is neither borne out by Quran nor by practice since most Muslim states, including Pakistan, have outlawed it; nor (iv) Hindus or other minorities could escape punishment for cruelty against wife.
Maybe to those who are still smarting at the betrayal of Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), along with those avowed champions of “minorities” and “secular values” such as JD(U), TRS, RJD, TDP and NCP that when push came to shove, these parties didn’t want to be seen in the Muslim corner and stand against the overwhelming tide. Parties such as SP and BSP still have nightmares about BJP leading in 385 out of 403 assembly seats and why Muslims are no longer the vote-bank they espoused! Their personal brief honeymoon is over too.
Maybe to those who see Mehbooba Mufti as champion of Islam, a baffling fact that her two PDP members in the Rajya Sabha stayed away from the vote-count even as she kept scare-mongering that BJP was “entering into our (Muslim) homes” using the legislation. Her rival for favours in the Kashmir Valley, Omar Abdullah didn’t miss out in pointing out her double standards even as he himself kept his counsel to himself.
And then you have Arvind Kejriwal who bemoaned the loss of Muslim votes after the 2019 Polls but is now frozen to his spot on the matter of Triple Talaq Bill. This is the man who wants a survey done on government jobs to ascertain the percentage of Muslim employees and whether the low number is evidence of a deep-rooted prejudice by the system.
Maybe to those who know or don’t know the names of the Congressmen who absented themselves (namely, Vivek Tankha, Ranjib Biswal, Mukut Mithi, Pratap Bajwa and Sanjay Sinh), it may come as a surprise that they did so against the express whip of their party to be present in the Rajya Sabha proceedings. Sonia Gandhi and the two apples of her eye: Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra have cloaked themselves from the public scrutiny on Triple Talaq Bill and their writ probably doesn’t run large as it used to.
Today, the husband-wife duo of Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose; Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt are like frogs in the well of silence. Gupta has donned the persona of a Sherlock Holmes as he delves into every grain of coffee that its founder, now unfortunately dead, VG Siddhartha ever managed for his enterprise, Café Coffee Day. Barkha Dutt has worked herself into a lather on the Unnao rape victim. Sagarika Ghose is just a cryptic “I-don’t-support-Triple-Talaq” while her husband is just an anchor on the subject with no personal opinion. And you thought their calling was upholding “freedom” and “gender justice.”
All of them have been caught in a bind. You stand up for Triple Talaq Bill and you alienate the Muslim community which number over 9 crores. You rail against the Bill and earn the wrath of fair gender and not just of Muslim women.
It’s the larger picture which has left them shaken to the core. An empowered BJP would now find it easier to push for the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. The hoax of scare-mongering is exposed. BJP, in one stroke, has created millions of extra votes for itself. The Opposition has nothing better than a fig leaf to hide their shame. The injustice of Shah Bano has been righted after a generation’s gap.
Above all, empowering Muslim women could transform the community. It frees them up to express opinion and seek financial security, gain education and pass on the good word to their kids. It loosens the control of Mullahs and Owaisis who exert it through the boardroom of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) or the platforms of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM).
As for Modi, history could judge him as the leader who took the first steps towards emancipation of a community which were led up the garden path by Nehru-Gandhis; Muftis and Abdullahs; Bukharis and Owaisis without deliverance. This would be the irony of the sweetest kind.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were to ask the majority of this country if they want “One Nation, One Poll” the answer would be an overwhelming yes.
People might not have the figures–Rs 6,000 crores on exchequer alone in recent Lok Sabha Polls and many times more by parties and candidates; Or the numbers on manpower—one assembly seat in Lucknow alone has over 300 polling booths and engages 2000 men on polling day; Or the imagination to guess how many lakhs of police, para-military forces, bureaucracy are pressed into service. Yet, they can sense a gap in their daily lives like a drawn tooth.
The erudites amongst us offer debating points we exhale in the musty air of a bar amidst gathered gentry. So Akhilesh Mishra tells us in Indian Express how it affects Rajya Sabha; how parties can make outlandish promises (Like Arvind Kejriwal on free Metro for women); how at least 15 state elections anyway fall more within a year either side of a Lok Sabha poll.
So what’s the problem?
The likes of Congress, TMC, BSP, SP, AAP, DMK, RJD, AIMIM etc sure have a problem for they stayed away from the all-party meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon on Wednesday. They saw it as an attack on the Constitution, the “federal” character of our set-up; and blurring the local and national issues which could affect a voter’s judgment.
All this is humbug. Indian voters know how to choose in a state or in a Lok Sabha elections. Constitution is for people of India and any measure which is good for them, must come into force. Such Constitutional changes could be made between ad breaks on television. IT TAKES NOTHING. As for the scaremongering on President’s Rule by stealth; what-if-government-in-Centre falls, these are easily fixable issues: E.g get the no-confidence-motion out of the way at the start of a new Parliament. And if I may ask how it has helped democracy when sworn enemies—Congress and JD (S)—joined hands only to usurp Karnataka last year?
The reason likes of BSP or SP, Congress or RJD, TMC or DMK or AIMIM don’t want “One Nation, One Poll” is caste and religion. With national issues delinked, the ones of dalits vs suvarans (upper caste); Muslims vs Hindus; Tamil or Bengali asmita easily gain currency. Narrow parochial issues keep these parties relevant. The faces of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Asaduddin Owaisi remain in circulation. The nation loses its steam on the tracks of targeted growth.
Just recall the incidents or speeches which happen around state polls. In Delhi, it was fake attack on churches in 2015, Una incident in Gujarat, Bheema Koregaon in Maharashtra: All were intended to sharpen the caste and religious divide. “Ramzaade” vs “haraamzaade” speeches surface. Quota politics come into play. What room is there left to discuss developmental issues threadbare?
In a paper to Niti Aayog last year, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai offered an easy way out to the cacophony of whether state assemblies could be dramatically reduced or enlarged so as it coincides with the Lok Sabha polls. They pointed out that 15 state elections anyway fall in and around Lok Sabha dates. The remaining states could be bunched together around the mid-way mark of a Lok Sabha term. So, one Lok Sabha elections and two for state assemblies in a span of five years, is the way forward.
It’s not to say the road ahead is easy. For, there is also this matter of panchayat elections and its 30 lakh representatives. The matter of getting all political parties aboard.
But then so was the issue with GST. It’s a reality now. There are examples galore around the world where simultaneous elections are held, including in US where a voter not only chooses his President but also 20 different representatives on a single ballot. Sweden has one election and so is the case with South Africa.
The fact is, in early years of Republic of India, elections were held simultaneously in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. It fell into abeyance because assemblies began getting dissolved due to Centre’s interference. The dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970 was the final nail which broke up the elections in India.