Political Parties Eye For Minorities Vote
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Come every election and the hunt for minority votes become the buzzword in India. The other day, Prime Minister Vajpayee wore a green headgear and addressed to a Muslim gathering sermonizing them about his peace initiative with Pakistan. A few days later, Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani did the action replay, extolling Vajpayee's peace initiative with Pakistan while addressing a Muslim gathering.
How Vajpayee's seeking cordial relation with Pakistan will make an impact on Indian Muslims or improve their general condition? Don't they know that to a large Muslim population in India, Pakistan is just another country on the world map? What does the two leaders had in mind when they link Muslims with Pakistan?
By reinforcing the idea of religious camaraderie, the two leaders were definitely not invoking a sense of patriotism among the Indian Muslims. Their utterance only reinforced their 'Sangh' ideology that by having rapprochement with Pakistan, they have done a great service to the Muslim in India.
It was appalling to find that the two leaders had no specific policies and programme to the uplift conditions of minorities in India. Even though they talked about "feel good factor" none gave any assurances to rid the nation from the scourge of communal violence for which the minorities may have felt good.
Both Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister's address reflects that mindset of the Indian politicians, who except paying lip service to the minorities, do nothing to improve their sordid state of affair. The political hypocrisy of Indian leadership stands vindicated by JM Lyndoh, the former election commissioner comments; "all them are cheating most the times."
It is one the ironies that even more than fifty years after independence, our political leadership is still not sensitized to the sensitivities of the minorities. They are following the footsteps of the colonial masters who perfected the art of playing one against the other to rule the country. This murky game of differential politics has resulted in the creation of two imagined communities in India. Both in the course of time have developed their own constituencies and work at cross-purposes, feeding upon each other's fear psychosis. The political leaders instead of bridging the differences are guilty of sharpening the divide, which has blocked the integration of the minorities in the nation building process. Minorities unable to be co-opted, feel sidelined and resultant frustration make them hesitant partners in the development of the country, which ironically is being construed as symptoms of separatism. The blocking of the over all progress of the minorities has not only a telling impact on the community but also on the growth and prosperity of the nation as a whole.
Caught in the cross fire of competitive politics are the Muslims in India, who make up more than 12 per cent of the population. They are as diverse as the country and face the problem of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, communal pressure and the right to live with dignity and honor. Muslims want an end to riots after riots (read periodic genocide), which have become a common feature in independent India. It is in the realm of backwardness and fear of life and property that emerges a pan Indian Muslim identity. The irony is none of the political parties has tried to address their problems and a result they have stacked over the years and continue to pile on. The so-called secular parties of India have always exploited the multifaceted problems of the minorities. Their aim is to grab the initiative of being true custodian of secularism, which they do so by professing to be the messiah of minorities but in reality done nothing significant for the welfare of the minorities. In fact, the secular parties are shying away from providing platform to the genuine leadership to the minorities.
There is an increasing realization that the aim of the present leaders is to make use of minorities to reach to the hot seat of power. In the political game minorities are being sidelined the moment their utility gets over. This has led the feeling that minorities are not only being cheated and neglected in this country.
Initially there use to be many towering personalities from the minority community who assumed the leadership of these parties. However over the years due to electoral compulsions this has way to a new trend of having such leaders only for cosmetic value.
Muslim's grievances continue with the allegation that the leaders who carry their religious names are not their true representatives but are only for show who are used for political mobilization and their utility ends once the ballots are being cast. The no availability of leaders or genuine leaders is one of the main grievances of the minorities in India.
A new twist has emerged in the political thinking with regard to the minorities, since the BJP has come to dominate the political space in India. Any assurance to pay heed to the sensibilities of the minorities is being considered as pandering to communal groupings. The protagonists of Hindutva started dubbing those who profess to be championing the cause of the minorities as pseudo-secularist, accusing them of indulging in vote bank politics. They in turn mobilize the majority community on a strident anti-minority campaign saying that if the majority community does not get united, minorities would grab power in India.
The vicious campaigning has brought the situation to such a pass that no political party likes to espouse the cause of the minorities. Even the leaders belonging to the minority community openly say that their job is neither to speak nor to work for their community and they are just a worker in their respective political parties. Some minority leaders that have come to the limelight espousing the cause of secularism for their own political aggrandizement have abandoned their ideology and joined the ranks of those with whom they had serious reservations.
This electoral cacophony has created havoc with no realization of the dangerous fall out of pursuing such divisive politics. It is high time that political parties realize the dangers of playing politics centering on the minorities. Neglecting the minorities would be weakening the edifice of the country and purging them would be creating problems of unimaginable magnitude. It is only by espousing the cause of the minorities that India as a nation could be developed stronger internally.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a television journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org