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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 7, February 8, 2014

Will the Muslims become a Vote-bank for AAP?

Monday 10 February 2014, by Prem Singh

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did not succeed in the Muslim majority constituencies in the recently held Delhi Assembly elections even though the AAP leadership tried hard, even monetarily, in this direction to help the candidates. In order to secure the Muslim votes, the AAP supremo visited the heads of many Islamic organisations/bodies, and also appro-ached Maulvi Taukir Raza Khan in Bareli. The AAP found Muslim candidates easily enough, even the BJP is able to seek out Muslim candi-dates, but it could not convince the Muslim ‘voters’. This indicates that the perception of the Muslim community about politics is much different from that of the mainstream civil society in the country; they do not cast their votes simplistically—merely because the candi-date happens to belong to a particular or common category. The contenders of the ‘new’ politics, the leaders of the AAP, who want to fly before hatching, might consider the Muslims’ perception about politics to be old-fashioned and stagnant as their India Against Corruption (IAC) comrade, Chetan Bhagat, has suggested.

In the last three decades, most mainstream political parties of the country have become ‘agents’ of neo-liberalism, but its direct ‘product’ is the AAP. Neo-liberalism and communalism had begun to join hands in the eighties, disregarding the Indian Constitution. The union became stronger with the implementation of the new economic policies in 1991 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in the last month of 1992 and has been regularly gaining strength ever since. The hype that the new avatar of this alliance, that is, the AAP, created in Delhi, has been challenged only by the large Muslim population of the Capital. Therefore, it is a cause of worry for the AAP and it has formed a ‘special task force’ to win the Muslim votes in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Before the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections, when the AAP started a special drive to bring some important Muslim names into the party, as is practised by the other political parties, it became clear that the leadership of the AAP too considers the Muslims to be a vote-bank and not equal citizens. The making of a ‘special task force’ confirms that the AAP leadership considers the Muslims to be a separate vote-bank. The people, who equate the success of the AAP with the success of ‘new’ politics, underscore the fact that this new politics too looks at sections of the population of the country as categories, by dividing them into religions and castes. It won nine out of 12 reserved seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections, but did not put forward a single Scheduled Caste candidate in any of the other seats. Its next target is Haryana, where it has already started politics based on caste equations. To put up a Yadav candidate for the Chief Minister’s post in the Jat-dominated politics of Haryana, first and foremost priority has been given to the inclusion of Jats. The Jats are falling over each other to fulfil their political ambitions by doing ‘clean politics’. They hope that a Jat’s name may be decided upon later, to make the victory certain.

Like other political parties who are said to be secular, the AAP, while keeping a firm hold on the Hindus, wants to cast its sway over the Muslims by placing before them the fear of Narendra Modi. Now it depends upon the Muslim community whether it continues the same relationship with the AAP, the kind of which it had with the other secular parties. As per this relationship, the Muslims vote for the candidate of any other party that is capable of defeating the BJP. This decision is not wrong in view of the security necessary for their life and livelihood. Since the AAP is a party run on strategy rather than struggle, its leadership does not declare its position clearly either an neo-liberalism or on the question of communalism. Its only goal is to have electoral success as soon as possible by being vague and non-committal about these two major issues. In its bid to win votes from different communities/stratas of society, it speaks in so many voices. In the coming elections its multi-facedness may even beat the RSS.

From the time of its RSS-backed anti-corruption movement, the AAP has had a large number of neo-liberal and communal elements. Many BJP/Congress and SP/BSP leaders had joined the party before the Delhi elections. The AAP now has a growing number of opportunistic and power-hungry elements after its success in the Delhi elections and the formation of its government. In this scenario, the assurance to the Muslims that it has many secular faces is questionable. We must keep in mind that a neo-liberal can never be truly secular. The Muslims should keep in mind that there are a number of more secular parties other than the AAP which do not hesitate to form a government with the BJP at the Centre or in the States. The AAP too, after getting the Muslim votes, might resort to this practice. A secular leader from the AAP, Prashant Bhushan, has already advocated the formation of a government with the support of the BJP instead of the Congress in Delhi. Additionally he has also made the ‘grand comment’ calling the CPM corrupt, because of which an alliance cannot be made with it.

IT is unfortunate that along with many Marxists, secular intellectuals, political, people’s movements and civil society activists are trying to push Muslims in the AAP’s fold. Obviously, they all perceive the Muslims only as a vote-bank and are succeeding too in this effort. Some Muslim clerics and political leaders are apparently impressed by their campaign. They have started talking in terms of helping the AAP’s candidates to win, considering it to be a part of the truly secular camp. In this period of grave danger to the constitutional value of secularism, the Muslim leadership/intelligentsia should take a decision on this contentious issue after giving it a serious thought. For the Muslims and other minorities in India, this is a question of not just debate/discussion but one concerning life and death. The minorities suffer most the havoc unleashed by communal politics. Communal forces are so strong in the present time that there have been communal riots, one after the other, in Uttar Pradesh under the secular Samajwadi Party Government.

Communalism has grown steadily with neo-liberalism. Fundamentalism is gaining greater footage in every religion rather than tolerance. Its latest proof was that when congratulatory declarations about political ‘miracles, God’s grace, celebration, hawan and Vande Mataram’ were being made on the occasion of the AAP’s oath-taking ceremony in Delhi, just 100 km away, more than 60 people were killed and 60,000 people uprooted from 185 villages in communal riots in the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli districts. Thousands of them are still not ready to go back to their homes after four months. The SP Government has been rightly denounced for their misdeed of holding and attending the Saifai Mahotsav. But those who denounced Saifai had no qualms about the celebrations in Delhi. The New Delhi Government’s oath-taking ceremony, that could have been managed within a few thousand at the Lieutenant Governor’s house, was carried out with a lot of fanfare at the cost of crores in Ramlila Maidan. The celebration of the ‘feel-good’ factor generated by the AAP’s electoral success led to the celebrations of the New Year with special zeal by the rich in Delhi and other metros in the country. Those who claim to check Modi did not even take a peek at the riot-affected areas. Nevertheless, they are sharpening their political axe by organising membership campaigns in that area.

The Muslims need to seriously examine the arguments being propagated by secularists in favour of the AAP. The argument that Arvind Kejriwal has dimmed Modi’s ‘shine’ may be an alibi of the secularists to join or support the AAP. This argument may help some Muslims from the AAP to reach Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies. But it will not strengthen secularism. The fading of Modi’s ‘glow’ will not lead to the fading of communal fascism. The ideologically-neutral stance—‘neither Left nor Right’—could only lead towards the streng-thening of the fundamentalist forces, be it of the market or religion. It is to be noted that the corporate world and the media, which have already pronounced Modi to be the next Prime Minister, are simultaneously singing paeans of Kejriwal.

The Muslim voters need to realise that Modi is not just a name that they are gearing to challenge. Communal fascism will not end even if Modi loses the election. The extremist views of the RSS are personified in some or the other leaders from time to time. This time it is Modi who has risen as its biggest representative. There is a need to look at this extremist streak. May be on a smaller scale, but the same is visible in Kejriwal. There is some solid evidence available on that count.

Modi easily won the third Legislative Assembly elections in Gujarat. Many individuals and organisations have been trying to seek justice for the victims ever since the time of the state-sponsored massacre in 2002. Kejriwal and his followers, despite repeated and loud claims of saving the country, have not spoken a word about it, neither at the time of the incidents nor later. We do not find any comments on the anti-constitutional and anti-civilisational deeds of the demolition of the Babri Masjid either from him or his guru, Anna Hazare. Anna Hazare, whom Kejriwal brought from Ralegaon Sidhhi to Delhi, dropping his first choice Baba Ramdev, had initially praised Modi from Jantar Mantar. Modi immediately conveyed his thanks by a letter. At the same time he cautioned Anna, that his detractors will try to create differences between them. Some secularists tried to make damage-control, but Kejriwal still didn’t speak up.

An important member of the India Against Corruption team, Chetan Bhagat, had campai-gned for Modi even before the RSS came out with its decision in his favour, and is still doing so. Lately he has been trying to ‘educate’ the Muslim youth in favour of the ‘modern and progressive’ Modi cautioning them against the ‘old-fashioned and stagnant’ Muslim community. An important leader of the anti-corruption movement and Kejriwal’s comrade-in-arms, Ramdev’s utterances and literature are not hidden from anyone. Ramdev called Modi to his ashram at Haridwar and declared him to be the leader of the Hindus. Kejriwal did not speak even after that. The Sachar Committee report and its recommendations came out in 2006. This report has become a central issue in Indian politics. All the political parties advocate the implemen-tation of the recommendations of the report in one way or the other. Only the RSS-BJP has opposed it. But the AAP has still not issued any comment on that report. Therefore, one may assume that the AAP sides with the BJP on this count. The Sachar Committee report records the pathetic state of Muslims in the country and seeks their empowerment by suggesting some immediate measures. The Ford Foundation- sponsored AAP’s leadership, including Kejriwal, never speak a word against the neo-imperialism based on the America-Israel axis.

It is astonishing that the secularists consider Kejriwal to be their card against Modi when he has never said a word against Modi. It will be interesting to see what decision the Muslim public takes with regard to the AAP which has pushed back the real socialist and secularist forces and is continually hobnobbing with the neoliberal-communal forces that have forged a nexus.

Dr Prem Singh, a former Fellow, IIAS, Shimla, teaches Hindi at the Delhi University and is the General Secretary of the Socialist Party (India).

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