Muslims in revolt – By Farzand Ahmed – INDIA TODAY

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=95&id=30650&Itemid=1&sectionid=3&completeview=1

 

Muslims in revolt

 

Ulema council participants at their meeting

Ulema council participants at their meeting

 

Come election season and the M-word begins to resonate in the nation’s political mindscape. This time around, the poll dynamics of the community have gone into overdrive after the new-found friendship between ‘Maulvi’ Mulayam Singh Yadav and ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (emperor of Hindu hearts) Kalyan Singh triggered the mushrooming of political outfits across the nation. 

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, founder of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) which won 13 seats in the 2005 Assam polls, came to Delhi to announce a pan-India Muslim party, the first since Independence, with units in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. 

An alumnus of Deoband, he has the backing of the Dar-ul-Uloom, Jamaat-ul-Ulema Hind, Jamaat-I-Islami Hind and Nadwat-ul-Tameer. The AUDF seems set to contest 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Maharashtra and nine in Assam.

 

Similarly, the month-old Ulema Council (UC), created to fight “state terrorism against Azamgarh’s innocent youth” and to demand a judicial inquiry into the Batla House shootout, declared it would ‘bury’ Mayawati’s elephant and ‘puncture’ Mulayam’s bicycle in this election. 

Its February 20 rally at Lucknow reflected the mood of the Muslims who feel they are the victims of political gamesmanship. Sonia Gandhi was referred to as sunehri nagin (golden serpent) and Mayawati kali nagin (black serpent). 

Mufti Abdullah Phoolpuri, one of UC’s top leaders, said it would field its own candidates as most leaders forget the community once elected.


 

The launch of another front

The launch of another front

 

Meanwhile, Salim Peerzada, president of the Parcham Party of India (PPI), which has been contesting elections since 2002, has cobbled together a new front consisting of PPI, the All India Muslim Masjid and the National Loktantrik Party (NLP)—all of who have contested elections. 

“We want to create a 21st-century party, a secular-democratic outfit. Our objective is to help create a third front of Muslim-led, leftist, secular and centrist parties. We want to live in a democratic set-up and get our due, but not by extra-constitutional means,” says Peerzada. 

The trend is clearly national. Tamil Nadu, for instance, has seen a new Muslim-based political party Manidaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK). According to M.H. Jawahirullah, coordinator, MMK, the party will establish “a strong India… As a Muslim, it is our fundamental duty to strive for the development of our nation.”

 

While much of the political churning has to do with Uttar Pradesh, the parties are of significance considering the importance of the Muslim vote. Muslims form more than 30 per cent of the electorate in 42 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in the country. 

West Bengal accounts for 10 of them; Uttar Pradesh and Kerala come next with eight each while Assam and J&K account for five each. However, in constituencies where their percentage is between 20 and 30 per cent, the number of seats rises to a staggering 140, including 20 in Uttar Pradesh. 

The highest concentration of Muslims (between 10 and 20 per cent) is in Uttar Pradesh (42 constituencies), West Bengal (20), Bihar (17), Assam, Karnataka and Kerala (8 each), Maharashtra (7), J&K, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (6 each). 

New political alliances could rework the electoral calculus

New political alliances could rework the electoral calculus

In any Lok Sabha poll calculus, Uttar Pradesh—and consequently the Muslim vote—is the key. In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls only 7 per cent of Muslims voted for the BSP and 61 per cent voted for the SP, and in the 2007 Assembly polls, 32 per cent voted for the BSP and 40 per cent for the SP. Mayawati’s plan to turn the division in her favour could well upset Mulayam’s calculations. 

The Mulayam camp believes their leader would regain the confidence of Muslims once candidates and alliances are in place. 

So what impact would the new Muslim-oriented groupings have on traditional poll arithmetic? Analysts believe new parties like the UC might end up helping the BJP. 

“Its provocative slogans and posturing would polarise voters in favour of the BJP,” said Muslim Majlis vice-president Bader Kazmi. Others think that Uttar Pradesh already has seen a number of Muslim outfits that fell by the wayside. 

 Latest alliances

  • Feb 23, 2009: UP Milli Mahaz — Formed by three existing parties—PPI, AIMM and NLP, all of which have fought elections. Wants to create a secular democratic outfit and a third front of Muslim-led parties. The AIMM is a known party since 1968 and the other two have their own areas of influence
  • Feb 19: Ulema Council — Held rallies in Delhi and Lucknow and plans to contest 8 seats in Uttar Pradesh. May help polarise votes in favour of the BJP.
  • Feb 16: Secular Ekta Party — Formed by Haji Shahid Akhlaque, after denial of ticket by SP. He was BSP’s Lok Sabha MP in 2004 and later joined the SP. May create an impact in Meerut with former minister Haji Yaqoob.
  • Feb 8: MMK — Launched in Chennai to strive for the development of the nation, welfare of minorities and the underprivileged sections.
    MMK coordinator M.H.Jawahirullah says the party was launched with a view to establish “a strong India through service to the society.”New in the political arena and just a beginner.
  • Feb 2, 2009: United Democratic Front –Launched by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal of AUDF which won 13 seats in the 2005 Assam polls. Called the MUDF in Maharashtra, the party, along with other outfits, can affect the BSP and SP in western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Feb 10, 2008: Peace Party of India — Launched by surgeon Dr Mohammad Ayub to unite Dalits, Muslims and the backward classes. May have an impact in pockets of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Existing Muslim parties include Salauddin Khan’s People’s Democratic Front (PDF), the Peace Party of India led by surgeon Mohammad Ayub, the Majlis-e-Mashawart and the National Loktantrik Party. There is also the Insaan Dosti Party, led by former director-general of police S.M. Naseem. But most don’t last. 

The 2007 Assembly polls in the state saw the PDF, supported by CPI (ML) and the late V.P. Singh’s Jan Morcha, and Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari’s United Democratic Front (UDF) making waves but later their leaders were won over by Mulayam or just disappeared. Other states have well established Muslim parties. 

These including the India Union Muslim League of Kerala and the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen in Andhra Pradesh.What is more relevant in the Muslim context is the sociological profile. Muslims in southern and western India are better off because the wealthy among them stayed back during Partition whereas most of the educated and wealthy Muslims in the north migrated to Pakistan. 

Then there is caste, which does not exist in theory but divides the community into three groups—Ashraf, Ajlaf, and Arzal. The Ashraf are upper-class Muslims, while the Ajlaf are Hindu converts. The Arzal are considered converts from the lowest Hindu castes. 

This complex sociological structure is prone to being upset by shifting poll alliances, especially in Uttar Pradesh. The coming together of Mulayam and Kalyan has already disturbed the poll arithmetic in the state. 

Veteran leaders, including former minister Mohammad Azam Khan, and influential MPs like Saleem Shervani, Shafiq-ur-Rahman Barq, Afzal Ansari and Shahid Akhlaque have rebelled against Mulayam and, barring Azam Khan, one of the creators of the SP, have walked out on him.

Other controversial leaders—Atiq Ahmad and Mukhtar Ansari, in jail, and Rizwan Zahir— have shifted to Mayawati. “Mulayam’s alliance with Kalyan has created revulsion among Muslims. He will have to pay dearly,” said state Nationalist Congress Party chief Ramesh Dixit. 

Indeed, the ‘revulsion’ runs so deep that SP national general secretary Amar Singh was turned away from the seminaries of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband and Dar-ul-Uloom (Waqf) when he tried to explain that the deal with Kalyan was to weaken the BJP. 

In Lucknow, Mulayam invited over 100 religious leaders to discuss his political moves but failed to convince them. Kalyan’s record in Uttar Pradesh makes matters worse, apart from his role in the Babri Masjid demolition. 

After quitting the BJP, he formed his own regional party, helped Mulayam form a government in 2003 and in the bargain got ministerial berths for his son Rajbir and confidante Kusum Rai. Later, on the eve of the 2004 general elections, he dumped Mulayam and returned to the BJP.

“He is a four-ticket leader. He will go with any party which would give tickets to Kusum, his son, his daughter-in-law and him,” says Dixit.

Now, he is the cause of the Muslim revolt against Mulayam by seasoned politicians— many of who were looking at the BSP after Mulayam either changed their constituencies or denied them tickets. SP leaders believe, however, that it could well be a knee-jerk reaction.

All India Babri Masjid Action Committee chief Zafaryab Jilani says: “Except for shaking hands with Kalyan, Mulayam has not yet done any harm to Muslims, so the damage is not irreparable.”

At the root of the controversy is vote share. While Mulayam wants to get the Lodh vote (2.5 per cent) in central Uttar Pradesh to add to the Muslim (18.5 per cent), Yadav (8.61 per cent) and Thakur (12.78 per cent) vote, Mayawati wants to corner Muslim votes and add them to the Dalit (21 per cent), Brahmin (13.82 per cent) and Vaish (3.91 per cent) vote.

The emergence of new Muslim groupings may not amount to significant vote shifts in the coming polls, but the political churning does indicate that the Muslim vote cannot be taken for granted. The battle to win the Hindi heartland and Muslim minds has been joined.

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