Congress president Sonia Gandhi'sremark that the ?under-representation? of Muslims in public employment and public life is ?unacceptable? is a classic example of the irresponsible brinksmanship that characterises her public life. Inaugurating the India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi recently, Smt Gandhi tacitly held Hindu society responsible for the Muslim community'sfailure to take advantage of the religious, cultural and educational rights and opportunities afforded to them by the Constitution. The poor development of a majority of Muslims, she said, is a matter of equity and social justice.
The UPA chairperson expressed concern over Muslim under-representation in society. Given the Congress propensity to secretly plan and then ram reservations down the throat of a resentful nation, one fears this could lead to another round of divisive reservations in Parliamentary and Assembly seats, this time on religious grounds. The suspicion is justified by the manner in which Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Samuel Reddy tried to impose five per cent reservation in Government employment for Muslims, though this was mercifully struck down by the courts.
The spectre of political reservations for Muslims is now seriously facing the country, and other political parties would do well to wake up to this threat before it becomes fait accompli. The results can only be on the lines of what communal electorates under the British achieved earlier, viz, the vivisection of the land. If the UPA'sforeign-born leadership did not have a seriously divisive agenda for India, for which the Muslim community is being used as an instrument, there would be no need to set up two committees to specifically survey the status of Muslims in the country. The Sachar Committee set up by the Prime Minister to study social, economic and educational status of Muslims has generated grave misgivings for trying to bully the armed forces prepare a communal census of the troops. Now, the Planning Commission is preparing special inputs for the minorities in the Eleventh Plan. These half-baked religion-specific schemes bode ill for India.
Politically, it is understandable that the Congress President should lure the Muslim community with baits of reservations in elected bodies. The ability of Muslim candidates to get elected from general constituencies has declined steadily since the early decades of Independence, as a popular reaction to the operation of secularism as an anti-Hindu force in the political arena. Due to en bloc voting, Muslims have been able to ensure the victory of ?secular? parties in the first-past-the-post system of elections, and defeat parties inimical to their political agenda.
However, the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi'selevation in the polity has inspired Muslims to shed their inhibitions and pursue their political agenda openly. Muslims are no longer content to operate through secular political outfits, and this will impact upon the political vote base of all parties that have hitherto relied upon a core Muslim vote for their electoral strength. The Shahi Imam of Delhi'sJama Masjid has launched a second Muslim political party in the populous Uttar Pradesh, to demand a separate package for Muslims and their inclusion in the OBC quota. Syed Ahmed Bukhari'srejection of the Muslim front launched by Lucknow'sShia Muslims a month ago is no doubt consistent with rising Shia-Sunni tensions in the international Ummah.
Bukhari has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding a separate package for Muslims; he also wants reservation benefits. Political observers believe that the recent Sunni Muslim assertiveness is inspired by the success of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal'snew party in Assam, but it is possible that Ajmal'sboldness was inspired by international forces determined to overwhelm India through demographic aggression. Short-sighted political parties are meanwhile continuing to play the minority card when it has outlived the period in which it could be safely utilised. The recent Kerala elections saw the CPM-led Left Democratic Front espousing the cause of Abdul Nasser Madani, the principal accused in the Coimbatore blasts that killed over 50 persons. Congress brought out its poll posters in Arabic.
It is too early to predict what will happen in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections next year. But the presence of two Muslim denominational parties will certainly impact upon the fortunes of all other parties. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has sustained himself in power on the basis of the Muslim-Yadav combination, will be the first to be in trouble. This fragmentation of the polity on religious lines is a corollary of Sonia Gandhi'sascension in the Congress, and her assiduous promotion of Christians within the party. As the country'slargest, and hitherto most pampered, religious minority, Muslims feel the need for a greater assertiveness for commensurate benefits. This can only have a negative impact on the nation'sterritorial integrity.
For the first time after Partition, in important Hindu-dominant states (first Assam, now UP), the Muslim community has decided to shun non-Muslim communities and parties and chart its own course. This suggests that the emerging political persona of the Muslim community will absorb both the ?moderate Muslim? as well as the hardline clerics who control the populace. It is not yet clear how this will play out in a state where there are many major players, viz., BSP, BJP, Congress and of course, the SP. But in Assam, the fledging party of Ajmal caused Congress to loose as much as 11 percent of its vote. The Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) secured 8.07 per cent of the vote and won 10 seats. It came second in 13 and third in 14 Assembly seats. A communal realignment of the nation is clearly underway.