Are Muslims only a vote bank?


Are Indian Muslims more unsafe and insecure under the BJP regime as they are seen as en bloc voters of Congress? Is this perception based on reality? Nadeem Nusrath ponders.

It’s tragic that of late, in our democracy, the Muslim vote in particular has become famous for all the wrong reasons, especially to deride, abuse and indeed lynch its community members on the popular notion that ‘they vote en-bloc for secular Congress’, which indeed also works as a great motivator in the hate campaign targeted towards them. This, despite the fact that in reality, right until the mid-1980s, the whole of India voted for the Congress en-bloc except for the Emergency years, where again the Muslim vote went with the overall national sentiment.

The BJP and the insecurity of Muslims

If indeed, as facts show, such has been the scenario, why have the Muslims felt perpetually unsafe when BJP in particular is seen as coming to power, or indeed when it is in power? Why does the insecurity of Muslims become the lingering question only during BJP rule? It would be safe to deduce, it’s because of the patronage, support and indeed the sanction the threat calls to Muslims supposedly gets from the regime, as seen from the various statements issued by BJP lawmakers across the country, post 2014. Even an issue as insignificant as the dietary habit or its preference by an individual gets linked to a Muslim life. And when this happens as has been seen since 2014, then we can hardly dismiss the notion that it’s a figment of our imagination that Muslims are unsafe, or indeed that he has ever been safe.

Considering the fact that since post Independence the Congress has been securing votes in its favour, pan-India it was quite expected that the opposition would try and break this Congress hegemony. The Left and the Socialists tried and succeeded, but the BJP found it difficult due to its distinct right-wing agenda, which is still considered unacceptable when pitted against the caste-based politics of the other regional political parties. But the general election of 1989 changed that when BJP supported a non-Congress government from outside, along with the other opposition parties. Overnight they became acceptable and mainstream. That acceptability since then has only grown, and today BJP is the single largest party, and has a majority in the Lok Sabha. And all this even as it grapples with its image of an anti-minority party, and not just as an anti-Muslim party considering Christians too have been targeted on the issue of offering sops for conversion. Does this image actually help BJP acquire power? Yes, it does, and this can be gauged from the fact that the Congress which actually prided itself in being branded as a secular party, is now more often than not seen as pedaling a soft Hindutava line.

Riot victims and justice
The other aspect that needs to be touched upon is to consider the deliverance mechanism of our justice system. Indian courts seem rather comfortable with the accusation of being slow in their deliverance mechanism, so the other yardstick could be how a political party reacts to this issue of justice being done to the riot victims.

Congress cannot be faulted for its soothing words post riots, but in actuality it has not only rewarded an accused named in the Srikrishna Commission Report with a ticket to contest an election in Mumbai, but has also rewarded another who actually watered down his testimony to help the Late Balasaheb Thackeray avoid a conviction, by making him a minister. And when this is juxtaposed with the idle ruminations of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that “Muslims have a first right towards our country’s natural resources”. But it is worth considering who actually provides fodder to the BJP to make a serious leap to power even as the cohesive Muslim vote in some cities and mohallas get fragmented either as a boycott of Congress or a vote for an acceptable BJP candidate, or a vote for a Muslim centric party, whether an UDF in Assam, an Owaisi in Mumbai, or a Muslim League in Kerala.

The run up to the general elections of 2019 is not about the relative safety of the Muslim or a Christian or indeed a Dalit in a BJP regime. It`s more to do with the narrative that secular political parties weave around the minority vote and it certainly cannot be weaved so as to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi an opportunity to make a clarion call as he did in Azamgarh, that “ Congress is only for Muslim men and not Muslim women.” Because then we will grapple with another scenario on whether Muslim men are more unsafe than the Muslim women in a BJP regime!

Nadeem Nusrath

Nadeem Nusrath holds an MSc degree from the University of Wales, UK, and a first degree in Economics from the University of Mumbai. He is the former National Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress and is presently engaged in the private sector.