AIMIM provides an opportunity to its MPs and MLAs to take up issues important to the Muslim community and other deprived communities in Parliament and assemblies. That is why all political parties, even some leftist leaders and activists, are openly opposing the emergence of AIMIM as an alternate political voice in the country.
Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—The victory of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen led by its Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi on five assembly seats in Bihar has sent a direct message to the so-called secular parties like the Congress that Muslims can no longer be taken lightly in politics.
This is the first time that the AIMIM has succeeded in elections outside Telangana and Maharashtra.
The victory of AIMIM candidates on five seats, out of the 20 that the party contested, has also made it clear that the secular parties need to take Muslims along to challenge the communal and radical forces that are trying to convert India into a fascist state.
The Bihar results indicate that “secular” parties, who formed the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of the RJD, the Congress and left parties, would have performed better and won adequate number of seats to come to power in the state had they roped the AIMIM in their electoral alliance. But their disdain for a Muslim-led political party, not the Muslims per se, appears to have come in their way for they understood what it would mean to have an alliance with a Muslim-led political party. It is not that the AIMIM did not approach the Congress and other secular parties for an electoral alliance. After the Bihar results came out, Owaisi told mediapersons that he had himself approached the leaders of the Congress and other parties in Parliament House itself and requested them several times to make the AIMIM a part of the grand electoral alliance in Bihar but they disdainfully rejected his requests.
Need of Muslim political parties
The political history in India shows that all political parties, including the Congress, used Muslims as vote banks without giving them anything substantial in return. Even the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh, which is now led by his son Akhilesh Yadav, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati and the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav, now headed by his son Tejashwi Yadav, followed the Congress pattern and used Muslims as a ladder to rise to political power but dumped them afterwards or gave them a scrumb after coming to power. But they neither shared power with Muslims nor employed Muslims in government jobs.
The caste-based parties, the SP and the BSP, offered all benefits to the members of their own castes while the Congress mainly offered benefits to the upper castes, particularly Brahmins, Thakurs and Kayasthas. Muslim MLAs or MPs in these parties could not dare to speak against discrimination against themselves or their own community by their party bosses because they feared that they would be thrown out of the party or lose whatever small benefits they were getting if they took up the issues for the larger benefit of the community.
Mayawati, as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, dropped one of her Muslim ministers when he stated that her government was not recruiting Muslims in government jobs while people belonging to other communities were being disproportionately employed in government departments. Such instances can also be found in the Congress and other parties, including the SP. So, the presence of Muslim MLAs or MPs in so-called “secular” parties did not help them to protect the interests of their community because of the threat of their removal from the party or being sidelined in the party. They were expected to remain loyal workers of the party and many of the Congress Muslim MPs remained mute spectators when the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament simply because they did not have the permission of the party bosses to speak up.
“Secular” parties, no doubt, want the votes of Muslims but certainly don’t want to share power with Muslims. In Rajasthan, where the Congress has won elections in four municipal corporations, including Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota, with a majority of the elected Congress councillors being Muslims, the Congress is not offering the post of mayor to Muslims in any of these municipal corporations. Muslim Congress leaders protested against it by staging a sit-in outside the state Congress office in Jaipur on Friday but the party leadership is not ready to listen to their grievances. This indicates how helpless Muslims feel even in the Congress despite forming a majority of the elected councillors in these municipal corporations.
Governments of Left Parties, too, ignored Muslim interests
Even the leftist governments have ignored the interests of Muslims and its best example is that of West Bengal which was ruled by a leftist government for decades. But Muslims in West Bengal, even in its Muslim majority district of Murshidabad, happens to be among the poorest in the country because Muslims were neither accommodated in state’s power structure nor were they given their share in government jobs and other programmes intended to uplift their economic position. This happened because Muslims did not have a voice in West Bengal. Contrast it with Kerala where Indian Union Muslim League led by Muslims partnered in government formation in the state and this helped the Kerala Muslims to make progress and develop in every field. Kerala Muslims today are among the most prosperous groups in the country.
Had Muslim MLAs/MPs been in a party where they would have the freedom to speak on issues of their own choice, they would have certainly spoken on issues vital to the cause of their community or for the welfare of the larger society, and would not have confined themselves to the narrow interests of their own political parties.
It is here that the AIMIM provides an opportunity to its MPs and MLAs to take up issues important to the Muslim community and other deprived communities in Parliament and assemblies. That is why all political parties, even some leftist leaders and activists, are openly criticising the emergence of the AIMIM as an alternative political voice in the country.
Many people think that it is only Muslims who have voted for the five victorious AIMIM candidates in the Bihar assembly polls. This is not true.
Responding to media questions after the Bihar results came out, Owaisi clearly said that his candidates got the votes of Dalits as well that made them victorious in elections. He said that Imtiaz Jaleel, the AIMIM MP from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra, could not have won had he not got Hindu votes because Muslims account for only 35 per cent of the total population of Aurangabad Lok Sabha.
In Bihar, the AIMIM fought this assembly election in alliance with Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati and former Union Minister Devendra Prasad Yadav’s Samajwadi Janata Dal (Democratic).
AIMIM’s performance in Bihar a slap on those calling it a “vote cutter” party
AIMIM’s successful experiment is now threatening the established “secular” political parties because Owaisi is taking Dalits and OBCs along. Encouraged by the Bihar results, Owaisi has now announced to contest the assembly polls in West Bengal where Muslims account for 35 per cent of the total population and in Uttar Pradesh where Muslims account for 25 percent of the population.
The Congress and other “secular” parties feel that if Owaisi, like in Bihar, succeeds to mobilise Muslim and Dalit voters in WB and UP, it will disturb the existing political equations and bring immense political losses to the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party in these states. It would provide the much-needed leverage to the AIMIM or other Muslim political groups to raise Muslim issues in state assemblies and Parliament. That is why the leaders of the “secular” parties are saying that the AIMIM would eat into the secular votes and harm the electoral prospects of Congress and other “liberal” parties.
“Secular” political leaders derisively call AIMIM “vote katua” (vote cutter) party or the B team of the BJP. But they don’t have answers as to why the Congress and other secular parties are losing elections in states where the AIMIM never contested.
So, the presence of Muslim political parties is extremely important to safeguard the interests of Muslims, Dalits and weaker communities. This is so because even Dalits are facing the discrimination and a threat to their interests ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre in May 2014 with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
While the Central government reduced to nil the prospect of Dalit recruitment in universities and colleges with the University Grants Commission (UGC) changing the roster system of recruitment, the fast-paced privatisation of Public Sector Undertakings and contract employment in government departments under which there is no provision of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, EBCs etc, is further aimed to deprive these communities of their rightful claims in government assets.
The Dalit leaders are realising what is being done with them but feel highly feeble and incapacitated to raise these issues because of their own political compulsions. Hence, a countrywide Muslim-Dalit political alliance is the need of the hour as both the groups have common interests and face common problems. But they will have to face the ire of the established political parties that have used the two communities as a tool to remain in power.
Apart from the AIMIM, other Muslim-led political parties such as the Welfare Party of India (WPI) need to mobilise themselves and strengthen their bases in as many states as possible in association with Dalits and other weaker sections.