Making UP poll a mockery of secular democracy
Why pseudo-secular parties behave as if only 15 per cent Muslim vote matters in UP? As if the rest 85 per cent is non-existent
By Sanjay Kaul
If you’ve ever wondered why elections in UP are always about Muslims and the reference point remains their community, here’s a low down on why the Congress and SP and BSP know what they are doing – and why they don’t know what it will do to the country.
In the tacit approval of the Indian Government to quarantine award-winning writer Salman Rushdie using all instruments at its command – its state government in Rajasthan, the police, the IB, the security apparatus and some high quality disinformation about a plot to assassinate him, then finally stalling his book reading and booking the writers who were actually merely readers and disallowing even a skype chat, it is perhaps deserving that the ultimate insult to India’s secular credentials should come at the behest of the Congress. Carved out of bloated Nehruvian narcissism and the Congress’ electoral expediencies, in a classic reversal of fortunes the beast it reared has come back to bite. Now the other beast it reared – the pseudo-secular liberals who would sing hosannas to these guardians of the secular faith – are also readying to gnaw off the hand that fed them for so long.
(When I mentioned this to a friend he cautioned me not to take it at face value. It is possible that the Congress has actually asked the pseudo-secular brigade to attack them so that the party could garner some more support among the Muslims in wake of the UP elections, he said!)
So what is it about the UP elections, that makes Congress suddenly so nakedly communal and so provisionally secular? What’s with this flexible secularism, which is more and more coming to define, or if you will, defame the Congress?
Between the last despatch, where I made the argument that by timing the elections so, the Election Commission had become an extension of the Congress Party’s strategy in UP and now, only some 25 days have passed. But as you will concur, the battle lines are drawn already. The Congress has upped the ante with an escalated demand for a nine per cent job quota for minorities in the OBC quota in UP: the SP has determined to better that. This is after the drama played out in Parliament and the Lokpal Bill was sent packing by their deft floor management after the Congress threw in the minority representation spanner in the works even as the freebies for weavers were already woven in.
Communalism— the religious right of Muslims
Every newspaper since then, national or regional, has printed reams of analyses on UP and how the numbers stack up, how the caste cauldron bubbles and how the Muslims will vote and how their collective vote will impact the fortunes on India’s most important state election. When a prominent economic daily of the country first published their estimates of the voter blocs in UP, the list included the galaxy of the Indian caste system including yadavs, jats, vaish, jatav and the hierarchical minutiae of the caste complex as well as Muslims and even Christians in UP. It turned out that the analysis was courtesy of a research organisation which was owned by a friend and I called him to point out that it seemed that while every caste and religion found a place in the study, clearly there were no Hindus in UP!
The debased electoral grammar of our politics provides that whereas the Muslims must be entertained as a religious group and encouraged to exercise suffrage as such, the Hindus may not be allowed to be consolidated and any attempt to that effect would tantamount to a breach of secularism and risk the stigma of communalism.
The media is always a good place to pick up cues, if one is really interested. A simple analysis of the media output since the elections were announced leads you to the same conclusion – the entire discourse has been dominated by what parties are promising Muslims; what Muslims want and how Muslims will vote. The odd murmur belonged to the old story of Dalits and Mayawati’s hold on them, a bit about the OBCs particularly after the Kushwaha episode and the BJP’s strategy and a few tid-bits devoted to anti-incumbency and Rahul’s antics. But anyone who cared to see, knew that the Muslim vote held centre stage going by the repeated references the community from SP and the Congress and the BSP.
The shrill response of BJP and its leaders, particularly Uma Bharti, to the proposed reservations may in retrospect look a bit hyperbolic as regards a second partition, but the thrust of the argument is validated by a genuine fear that the Congress and SP are irresponsibly pushing the envelope as regards the Hindu response to such appeasement. Ms Bharti and the BJP leaders are not speaking without basis; remember that the rise of the BJP is a direct response to precisely this trend of Muslim appeasement. With its back to the wall in UP and the reputation of the Gandhi scion at stake, the Congress is forgetting the lessons it should have learnt by now and retracing its bellicose steps down the road to hell paved with good intentions for Muslims.
Muslims, on their part, have claimed to aggregate behind chosen ‘psychological’ security providers such as Congress and SP in the name of a fear psychosis which was ingrained into them by regime after regime at the behest of their own community leaders who fed off the Congress – a faux fear, for Hindus never attacked the idea of Muslims within India – to the contrary, because if at all, they attacked the idea of Muslims outside India – the notion of partition. Therefore the clamour of this fear factor and its fake foundations stand revealed to the extent that instead of fearing for their security at the hands of a Hindu ethos, the opposite is becoming truer each day. Islam has wreaked more havoc in India – spread more terror and hate and continues to threaten everyone each day an aircraft flies, a train takes off, a market opens or a Mela is organised.
The vote is veto
Even internationally, the experience is the same: Boko Haram, most recently in North Nigeria, which bombs and beheads people to cauterise western ideas from visiting their people. Even as the romance of the jasmine revolution is paling, the spectre of new strains of radical Islam loom in its place. And even as Pakistan looks like hitting melt down, Kashmir erupts over four Christians in their midst. Historically too, the experience has been the same.
Muslim leadership in India has for long been emaciated and today its figureheads are faceless, mindless freaks who act as agencies of an international Islamic commissariat. The community has not been able to throw up a single pan-India or even a regional leader after the first flush of independence and now a host of charlatans, mavericks, mullahs and misogynists have taken over who speak unabashedly in their codified language of implicit hate and fear and threat, bucked on by a host of Congress cohorts that provide them cover.
Is it also because the Muslim leadership in India has had little to do, except ensure that the religious lines they draw for their believers continues to hold and the theory of their innate alienation with this Hindu majority land is kept alive? To that extent, they have provided robust evidence of their pattern of actions and their incipient will, their overarching ambitions.
In seven constituencies of UP, Muslims are the majority with over 50 per cent of the total voter population. In 10 constituencies they are between 40 and 50 per cent of the voter population. In 43 constituencies they are 30 to 40 per cent of the voter population. In 27 constituencies they make up 25-30 per cent of the voter population. In 34 they make up 20 to 25 per cent of the population. In 52 constituencies they constitute 15-20 per cent of the voter population. It is the aggregate of these constituencies that gives us the figure of 173 constituencies where Muslims will in effect determine winners. Anyone conversant with election maths will accept that most often winners are decided with a 30 to 35 percent vote share. But in all these constituencies, the common factor is that Muslims are the single largest voter bloc, with all other caste sub castes split between contenders of various factions. A corresponding check of other caste/communities shows there is no other caste bloc in numerical comparison, effectively making it a cake walk for candidates who secure Muslim support.
I know that this idea will raise hackles but this is not to be read as a fatwa against Muslims individually, but as a reality of the trend of their collective thought leadership globally. I know that many reasonable Muslims will disagree and claim to represent a modern and inclusive bent of mind, but the truth is that the DNA of their religion will make them irrelevant to the process, to the essential motor of Islamic thought and action. They will be swept away in the onslaught.
The idea that we shall in our life time see the creation of an entity as indicated in the headline of this piece should merit a gasp – but only for now. The eco-system of the recent elections in UP has for the first time brought to the surface the precise outlines of exactly such a possibility. For those who think of this as a pipe-dream, it should be a wake up call. For those who think this is rabble rousing, wise up – you’re the ones who will have to deal with this – if not today, then tomorrow. Mark my words. Or mark your graves.
(The writer is a spokesperson of the BJP in Delhi. Views are personal. Illustration credit: Rahul Kumar, Unnati India)