A muslim activist speaks his mind

How will muslims vote in the General Elections 2014? Not surprisingly, as Tanweer Alam explains, there is a single point agenda- vote tactically, stop the BJP/NDA. There are also some claims about how the UPA govt has delivered for muslims (but much more remains to be done).

The observations are generally on the money except for Kerala. IMO Congress will win big in Kerala, Karanataka and Telangana backed by muslim votes. This will mark Congress as primarily a south Indian (shudra) party with north Indian (brahmin) leadership (a bit like Tamils being led by a super-caste supremo).

Also one major howler- India does practice a variant of secularism but it is hardly the case that
“this country has evolved over millennia in a way that religion and
its practice have been left out of the domain of the state”
as stated by the author.

majority of Muslims live in states such as UP, Bihar, West Bengal and
Kerala that have a strong presence of regional parties. Congress figures
only in the third or fourth position in these states. In these states, a
majority of Muslims vote for regional parties. In states such as Assam
and Andhra Pradesh, Muslim voting for Congress has come down.

According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, more than
70% of Muslim votes go to Congress in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya
Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi where the contest is bipolar, between
Congress and BJP.

In states where the contest is multipolar and
Congress is in number two or three position, or the junior partner,
Muslim votes for Congress come down to 30%. A majority of Muslim votes
are fragmented and go to different political parties, reflecting their
local and class interests. It is evident from this that no party can
take the Muslim vote for granted.

In the 2014 parliamentary
elections, they are likely to vote for the best-placed candidate to
defeat BJP nationally.
In 2009, Muslim votes started to come back to
Congress in UP. They voted for Samajwadi Party and BSP also in almost
equal proportions. There is a ray of hope for Congress in UP in the
post-Muzaffarnagar situation, where Muslims may largely vote for
Congress and BSP.

AAP is a new phenomenon and Muslims are still
sceptical. The AAP agenda does not fully reflect their hopes and fears.
For Muslims, communalism is a much bigger issue than corruption.

There is another myth, largely among Muslims, that they have not
benefited from economic development. It is nobody’s argument that a lot
has been done for Muslims by succeeding governments. However, it is not
the case that nothing has been done for them.

Independence, the state’s approach to the rights of religious minorities
has proved inadequate in promoting inclusion. Despite constitutional
safeguards and stark backwardness of the Muslim community, it has been
kept out of the purview of affirmative action policies, except for a
small number of Muslims in the OBC category.

Their issues were
limited to protection of religious identity and security. But over the
last decade a noticeable shift has occurred in political thinking
regarding minorities, and many policy initiatives have been taken to
empower them. The Sachar Committee report was one such landmark step.

In pre-Sachar days, talking about Muslims meant ‘appeasement’. Sachar
gave an atmosphere in which pluralism and diversity could be acceptable
socially and legally. In the wake of Sachar’s recommendations, many
welfare programmes were started for Muslims, yielding substantial
improvement in some areas.

As per latest data by HRD ministry,
enrolment of Muslim children at elementary level has risen to 13% from
8% in 2006-07. The refrain about no benefit having reached Muslims is
obviously untrue. As per government data, the flow of priority
sector credit to minorities during 2012-13 reached Rs 1,71,960 crore,
which was more than 15% of total priority sector lending.

studies found problems in the delivery mechanism of minority welfare
schemes during the 11th plan. In the 12th plan a focused strategy has
been adopted, making blocks instead of districts the basic unit for
planning and implementing these schemes. Now that an area-specific
approach has been adopted, benefits should go directly to
minority-concentrated villages where a substantial number of Muslims
live. Bottlenecks are now being identified and the delivery system is
being streamlined. Amid all this, nobody can honestly claim that
benefits of economic development have bypassed Muslims.

Finally, there is a misunderstanding among some people, mainly Muslims,
that preservation of secularism is the exclusive responsibility of
Muslims. This certainly is not the case. India is secular not because
Muslims want it to be so, but because this country has evolved over
millennia in a way that religion and its practice have been left out of
the domain of the state.

This is reflected in India’s
Constitution. It is relevant to note that Europe did not become secular
to accommodate Jews, Muslims or Buddhists, but to protect people from
sectarian strife within Christianity. US secularism has similar origins.
India too is secular because of Hindus, not Muslims, Sikhs, Christians
or Parsis.

Nehru’s idea of nationalism was based on a shared
historical past and a future project of common development. This idea
still holds good. It is a broad reflection of Congress thinking and a
tradition of accommodation and synthesis that stretches back to a hoary

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