by Advocate S. Warsi and Faisal Ahmed Khan
Even though the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has succeeded in winning only two seats in the just concluded Maharashtra assembly polls, it has won the hearts of lakhs of people and is now able to walk hand in hand with the minorities and people from backward communities.
The party has not only demonstrated its ability to contest elections outside its stronghold of Hyderabad and Telangana/Andhra Pradesh but also proved that the Muslim voter is no longer a puppet of the “secular” parties. The Muslim voter, overwhelmingly young, is no longer prepared to bear the burden of secularism all by himself.
The General election results early this year have had a direct impact on the assembly elections in which the Muslim voters saw secularism at its weakest with the majority of voters openly polling in the name of religion!
After the Maharashtra verdict, some people who supported reasoned saying as to how long the Muslim voter will carry the burden of secularism on his shoulders and allow himself to be taken for a ride time and again.
After all, Muslims have all these years voted for the parties of Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mulayam, Ajit Singh, Lalu Yadav, Communists and Mamata and elected them and their party candidates in the name of Hindu-Muslim unity and secularism.
In the general elections this year, the Hindu voters in north India chose the hardline Hindutva candidates who openly spewed venom against Muslims amidst unprecedented communal polarization. Under the circumstances, why is it surprising if Muslim voters choose to vote for candidates who are seen as protecting their interests?
Many in the community feel that the so-called secular parties have largely ignored their problems all these years and in fact instead of solving them they’ve muddled them up. Now in this scenario if they witness someone from their own ranks came forward to take up their problems and concerns then there should be no objection from any quarter.
MIM President Asaduddin Owaisi, who has been a very successful parliamentarian and a good orator, completely demolished Samajwadi Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra and performed well. His party’s success deserves to be acknowledged and seen in its right perspective, instead of being portrayed as a mere “Muslim party”.
Many people have chosen to see the Majlis success in Maharashtra polls as a threat to secularism and even the country’s integrity. What do they think about the role of the BJP unabashedly devoted to the Hindus, Kerala Congress of Christians or the BSP which is dedicated to the welfare of the Dalits?
This is not to argue that the Majlis should and would be an answer to these parties catering to a particular community or group. However, until and unless all sections of the society get their due and their representatives in the parliament to convey their viewpoint, no democracy can truly claim to be one.
Some suggest that the MIM is nothing but the Shiv Sena of Indian Muslims. But this argument doesn’t fly. Shiv Sena’s existence has always been on the ground of promoting regional chauvinism and hatred towards non-Maharashtrians and openly indulging in violence at each and every opportunity.
This hasn’t been the case with the MIM. Shiv Sainiks have been found guilty in a number of communal riots and violence all over the country. The Justice Sri Krishna Commission held them responsible for the 1992-93 Bombay riots in which more than 900 people died.
So comparing the MIM’s championing of the minority rights with the violent politics of Shiv Sena isn’t fair. Of course, Akbaruddin Owaisi’s controversial speeches do not help and cannot be defended by anyone. But then, as the MIM President Asaduddin Owaisi has repeatedly asked, why Togadias and Adityanaths roam free in spite of their continuous hate speeches and venomous propaganda? In the wake of Muzaffarnagar carnage, BJP president Amit Shah openly asked Hindu voters to take revenge for ‘love jihad’ and other crimes.
Given the disappointment with the Congress, Samajwadi Party and others and lack of trust in the other available options, it’s hardly surprising if Muslims voted for the parties like the MIM.
Since the BJP came into power, there has been a hysterical hate campaign against the Muslims in the name of ‘love jihad’ and other imagined conspiracies. This has been visible almost in every state. Inflammatory speech has become an everyday job and the RSS has been aggressively enforcing “Hindu” identity and agenda.
No wonder Muslims are forced to turn to their own parties. If they continue to vote in support of a particular party, then the worth and strength of this party with even a handful MLA’s increases. Hopefully, there would be more representatives of Muslims in the parliament who could raise and voice their opinion freely.
However, the party articulating minority concerns and interests could and should work for the betterment of the society as a whole. So the initial MIM success in Maharashtra needs to be seen from this perspective and viewed as a good development for democracy. After all, it is the right of everyone in a democracy to choose their representatives and voice their opinion.
Advocate S. Warsi and Faisal Ahmed Khan are lawyers based in New Delhi. Views expressed here are personal.