What a turnaround in five years!
Though the Indian Muslim may have seemed adrift and divided, he
instead comprehensively sent out a clear message: a resounding
negation of divisive, communal forces, pretentious benefactors and
self-anointed leaders of the community.
Thankfully, in these elections various
myths were finally exposed as hollow. Over the years allegations of
targeted, homogenous, en bloc voting by Muslims have been drilled
into the psyche of all Indians. But, pushed into a corner, and
treated either as a vote-bank or a punching bag, the Indian Muslim
voted uniformly along similar lines as the rest of the country in
the 2009 elections. A state-wise analysis shows the following: in
Kerala, speculations that controversial cleric Madani would help the
LDF were wrong; the community comprehensively stuck with the
Congress-led alliance, not wishing to be identified with a cleric of
In Tamil Nadu, despite putting up
Muslim candidates, the NCP, BSP and LJP could not prevent the DMK
from winning in Vellore, which has a sizable percentage of minority
votes. Andhra Pradesh experienced terror attacks and riots during
the Congress regime; thus communal forces were hopeful, as were
numerous small parties fielding Muslim candidates, of cashing in on
emotions running high over the incarceration of young Muslims. Lo
and behold, the BJP was decimated and so were those candidates,
rejected for governance, development and stability. Meanwhile,
various Muslim organisations in Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra and
Rajasthan expressed anguish at how few Muslims had been nominated by
the Congress. Yet the results clearly show that numerous Muslim
candidates put up by the SP and BSP were firmly rejected in favour
of candidates put up by the UPA.
Indeed, even in his Raigad bastion,
Minister for Minority Affairs A.R. Antulay lost; his penchant for
polarisation failed to cut any ice.
In Bihar, Muslims joined with all
sections of society in voting for the “back-on-tracks” vision of
Nitish Kumar. (Ironically, Maulana Asrarul Haq, a Deobandi cleric
and a vociferous proponent of the nuclear deal, was the only Muslim
to win out of five minority candidates put up by the Congress. All
the dons, irrespective of religion, were routed comprehensively.)
Indeed, attempts by the BSP and the
Left Front to tag the nuclear deal as anti-Muslim resulted in
complete disaster for them. The Sachar committee report had already
exposed the Left Front in West Bengal; the “mahajot” channelled this
anger, in combination with Nandigram, for victory.
The BSP and other parties put up
Muslim nominees in Delhi, asking voters to punish the Congress for
not putting up any minority candidates in the capital, trying to
whip up sentiment around the Batla House encounter. That didn’t work
either. So, for the first time, the young urban voter competed with
poor Muslims in polling booths to vote together for a stable,
secure, reliable government. Thankfully, the Ulemas, led by the
Shahi Imam, maintained a studied silence and did not risk their
And then there’s UP. In that
all-important state the script of minority bloc-voting unravelled.
Despite provocative speeches from Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi’s
histrionics, the Mayawati-certified Ansari brothers, the political
turncoats of the SP and BSP, were uniformly rejected by both Muslims
and Hindus. Even Azam Khan’s script went awry; revulsion to the
sleaze posters resulted in sympathy for Jaya Prada. If Noor Bano had
properly condemned the objectification of another lady in politics,
the result might have been different.
The leader of the anti-nuclear hype,
the BSP’s Shahid Sidiqui, lost in Bijnore — which has a 67 per cent
Muslim-Dalit population. The SP may have lost about 15-20 per cent
of its Muslim support; instead, it appears here that a desire for
clean politics ensured the victory of credible leaders like Salman
Khurshid — after 14 years in the wilderness! Mayawati may have
misread her mandate in 2007; the arrogance of her lieutenants, her
personal aloofness from mundane routine matters of governance is
such that even many Dalits were left disillusioned. In comparison,
it appears that after 20 years the ghost of Babri Masjid and the
culpability of the Congress finally lie buried.
But here’s the clincher. The old story
of “communal voting” by Muslims seems to have been comprehensively
negated: the Congress, the SP and the BSP got votes from all
sections in places where they won. Noor Bano and Salim Sherwani lost
in areas with high Muslim densities; Zafar Naqvi and Salman Khurshid
won from constituencies which were only thinly dominated by Muslims.
This highlights secular voting by all communities.
This inclusive moment isn’t a moment
to lose. The new government must chart out a course that will
address the hopes and needs of all communities in an inclusive,
The writer is chairman
of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper ‘Daily