Still Appeasing The ‘Vote Bank’!
Muslim appeasement has been at the heart of Congress’ vote-bank politics almost since Independence. As the elections became more and more competitive with the BJP and regional parties gaining ground and other political parties like the Samajwadi Party under Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD under Lalu Prasad Yadav, JDU under Nitish Kumar, TMC under Mamata Banerjee and BSP under Mayawati adopting the same strategy, the Congress began to lose its hold on power. This desperation led to greater attempts at wooing Muslims which culminated in an additional document on “empowerment of minorities”. In a bizarre attempt to appease the minority community, the Congress has issued a sub-manifesto in the midst of the ongoing elections. In this sub-manifesto, the Congress promises that it will work towards earmarking a quota of 4.5 per cent for backward Muslims in the existing other backward caste (OBC) reservations. Though Congress’ main manifesto which was released on March 26 mentioned quotas for backward Muslims, the new manifesto specifically reiterates the 4.5 per cent sub-quota announced by the Manmohan Singh government in 2011, ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh. But the move was stalled in courts. The fresh minority pitch promises “extension of Scheduled Caste status to all dalit minorities”, which is opposed by many dalit groups currently getting these quotas. These quotas which are currently available to Hindus and Buddhists will allow ‘dalit’ Muslims and Christians also to access quotas. This move is strongly opposed by the BJP on the grounds that there is no caste-based discrimination in both religions.
The sub-manifesto also says that if voted to power, Congress government will “examine feasibility of mandating the next Delimitation Commission to ensure that minorities aren’t disenfranchised through reservation of constituencies where minority population equals or exceeds SC/ST population”. The major outreach to Muslims indicates Congress’ bid to consolidate minority support amid signs that BJP could be benefitting from polarization in many states. In Bihar, Congress’ alliance with Lalu Prasad’s RJD seems to be working, pulling in Muslim support, and the party may be trying to ape the similar results wherever the minority votes seems to be split.
The document further says that Congress will work to ensure adequate representation of minorities in all public positions and also in student and faculty positions in educational institutions. The equal opportunity commission will be empowered to check discrimination against minorities in employment and education opportunities. The document ends with an appeal: “We appeal to all our friends from minority community to support the INC so that we can fulfill promises made in the election manifesto to the minority communities.”
Muslims, who constitute around 13.4 per cent of Indian population, are treated merely as a vote bank by most of the prominent political parties. It is presumed that the community votes en masse. Therefore most Indian political parties, especially the Congress, prefer to encourage the fundamentalists and the clergy in the Muslim community. Fatwas (religious edicts) are routinely issued by the religious leaders of the community in favour of a particular party. India, a secular state, therefore has the ironic situation of political parties carrying favour with the Muslim religious leaders for a fatwa in their favour.
This appeasement of fundamentalism has also ensured that moderate and progressive Muslim voices are slowly receding into the background.
The appeasement practiced by politicians has ensured that while they canvass with Osama lookalikes in Muslim areas during elections, they prefer to look the other way when moderates like Taslima Nasreen are maligned and humiliated.
The politics of appeasement has reached its nadir during the ongoing elections in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. The state that sends the largest number of representatives to the Parliament is witnessing a no-holds-barred electoral slugfest for Muslim votes. Muslims, who constitute 18 per cent of the population of the state, are being lured with promises galore, some of them patently dangerous to the national interest. The war between Samajwadi Party and the Congress to lure Muzaffarnagar riot victims into their fold has reached a new low.
Appeasement for the sake of votes has obscured all constitutional propriety. India’s fight against terror is also being compromised for the sake of Muslim votes. The Batla House encounter which happened in New Delhi in 2008 is being communalised in the electoral battle. Politicians like Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh of the Congress party are questioning the authenticity of the encounter, which saw the deaths of two suspected terrorists and one Delhi Police Inspector. The fact that the Union Home Ministery has repeatedly vouched for its genuineness is being conveniently ignored.
India, which has been targeted by Islamic terrorists for the past two decades, could do well to maintain the integrity of its security. But in the mad rush for Muslim votes, recently a controversy was raked up. The secular character of army was questioned. One of the Samajwadi Party’s main leaders, Azam Khan somehow managed to add a communal twist to the Kargil war of 1999, which took place far away from Uttar Pradesh amidst Himalayan peaks of Kashmir. Khan said that “Muslim soldiers” were the reason behind India’s victory in the war. He also added that it was the Muslim faujis who raised the battle cry of God before conquering the peaks of Kargil. When such apathy against the very people who risk their lives to maintain the security of the nation could not find one reasonable political voice supporting them, people like Azam Khan are given free hand to bring in the soldiers in this pool of muck. It is the discipline of the security forces which makes them soft targets for politicians’ who are hell bent on damaging every institution in the country for the sake of votes.
While individuals are empowered to cast their votes for a political party of their personal choice in democratic countries, Muslims in non-Muslim-dominated countries do not follow this golden rule. Instead, they cast their votes according to dictates of their religious and community leaders. Therefore, all Muslim votes go for a single party. When the quantum of Muslim votes becomes significant, political parties start wooing their votes by offering them unfair, and even illegal, concessions. In this way, the politics of Muslim appeasement gains momentum. In Indian politics, Muslim-appeasers are identified as secularists and those, who oppose illegitimate appeasement of Muslims, are labelled as communalists. Muslim appeasement in India, thus, goes on under the dignified cover of secularism, which is led by the Congress and Leftist parties. The policy of Muslim appeasement is a two-pronged instrument—one is operated by the Central government, the other by local governments in respective states. This unlawful and undemocratic privileges are elevating Muslims into first-grade citizens in the name of minorities, while the majority Hindus are turned into second-grade citizens. These developments are turning India into a de facto Islamic State, where Muslims, despite being the minority, enjoy elevated status and privileges, generally offered under typical Islamic governance.
India, the largest democracy in the world, constitutionally offers equal opportunity to all citizens, irrespective of religion, caste, linguistic, regional and other differences, but the so-called secular parties and politicians trample this sacrosanct principles of equality for all by offering Muslims unlawful and undemocratic privileges. The reservation on the basis of religion is against the spirit of the Constitution. Even the Constituent Assembly had decided against giving reservation to religious minorities. The Minorities Committee of the Assembly, headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, decided that this form of reservation could lead to another partition of the country and Jawaharlal Nehru in his speech in the Constituent Assembly had called it a historic decision. The Congress Party should not forget the words of its founding fathers and stop appeasing the Muslim community for the sake of votes.
By Nilabh Krishna