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Bargaining for Nothing

20 May, 2009 10:04:07 AM

 

A section of Ulema in Mumbai are demanding five seats from Cong-NCP in Maharashtra. How viable is their demand, assesses Aleem Faizee

 

 
 
 
 

 

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The election season as always is the best suitable time to bargain for something. The chances of getting your demands accepted are more profound if you have a certain sizeable vote with you. Hence it is not surprising when we see people demanding for the heavens from the political parties for their communities during the election season. It is altogether a different matter that depending on their support base and how brilliantly they project their strength, they settle for either a Ministerial berth or a Rajya Sabha seat or sometimes on just a bagful of hard cash.

 

However there are some people in the country who come with such a demand that neither serves any purpose for their community nor for themselves. The result is that they gain absolutely nothing in this potential season also. In the same line are the demands by a section of Ulema in Mumbai. These Mumbai Ulema have gone to the extent of issuing the ultimatum to the Cong-NCP leadership to declare five seats out of the total forty-eight in Maharashtra for Muslim candidates. Failing which, they say, they will not only work for the candidates belonging to secular parties other than Congress and NCP but will also work to defeat the alliance’s candidates.

 

While no one today would like to question the importance of their demand, the timing and viability of their demand surely need a deliberation. The basis of their demand, which unfortunately finds quite a few number of supporters from some other parts of the state and the country as well, is that in Maharashtra since the Muslim population is 12% hence proportionally they should be given five seats in the state. They are even listing the places like Malegaon, Bhiwandi, Aurangabad, Akola and Washim where a sizeable number of Muslims live in Maharashtra as the potential constituencies that can win Muslim MPs.

 

Absolutely true and they have every right to demand for this. But when one asks them of the ‘winnability factor’ if at all their demand is accepted they are completely noncommittal. So the question one needs to ask these Ulema is that when they are not sure of the winning capacity of a Muslim candidate, the one and the only criteria considered by every party nowadays, why they are pressing so hard for these seats. To be very certain they don’t have any answer to this question. But the ground reality and the past history do suggest why they are evasive about the winning capacity of a Muslim candidate in elections.

 

Take for example the case of South Central Mumbai. The constituency has a large number of Muslim populations but a Shiv Sena candidate is winning the seat since last four elections. The reason for this is that the secular (read Muslim) votes in this constituency are so divided in every election that the Shiv Sena candidate always finds an edge over the others and easily wins the seat that should have surely sent a Muslim MP. In one of these four elections Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Sohail Lokhandwala had a good chance but lost against the Shiv Sena candidate just by a meager 153 votes. Ditto is with Aurangabad where since last two elections a Shiv Sena candidate is winning the Parliamentary elections. Despite a sizeable number of secular votes, in Aurangabad the division is so deep that even former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is reportedly not willing to contest from there. Same is the case with Bhiwandi. The Muslim dominated textile town should have sent Abu Asim Azmi as its Member for the State Legislative Assembly but the division of the Muslim votes helped the rival Shiv Sena candidate and he easily won the 2004 Assembly elections.

 

Furthermore it is not the division of the Muslim votes alone the reason for the defeat of the Muslim candidates. Polling percentages will reveal that whenever there is a powerful Muslim candidate in winning position, non-Muslim votes are polarized in favor of a non-Muslim candidate (read belonging to the communal parties) making it sure that the Muslim candidate is defeated. It shows nothing but the clear fact that the secular parties do not intend to give the party tickets to Muslim candidate in the first place and if they do, their chances of winning are reduced as they fail to transfer the non-Muslim party votes in his or her favor. Shawwal Seth, a sitting Congress corporator in Dhule Municipal Corporation is right when he says that to get the non-Muslim votes for a Muslim candidate is hardly possible.

 

So when this is the scenario then why the Ulema are so eagerly bargaining for something that is going to bring them nothing. Sure the Muslims need their representation to be increased in the Parliament if they want their issues to be heard. What then the solution is. Part of the solution lies in the decision taken by the Ulema in itself. Their decision to work for the secular candidates so that they win the elections is certainly part of the solution. Their extending the support to Abu Asim Azmi-in Mumbai North West and Mohd Ali-in Mumbai South Central also makes sense. But their assertion that they will work for the defeat of the Cong-NCP candidates is nothing but suicidal. Instead it is time the Mumbai Ulema bargain with the political parties to make it sure that the constituencies where the Muslim population is more than 30% be reserved for the Muslims. Of course there is every possibility that this demand will be turned down terming that religious based reservation will open a Pandora’s Box in the country, replacing the word Muslim by Minorities will surely make it viable. If the Mumbai Ulema are really worried about the Muslims as they claim, they should bargain for the reservation of the Minorities in the same lines as the government had done for the SCs and STs. Work on this now and you will get double of what you are demanding today in the next round of elections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sare Jahan Se Accha

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