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Periscope
Assembly elections in retrospect
By Saeed Suhrawardy

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee declared at Varanasi that Bhartiya Janata Party would come to power, even without Muslims’ votes. That was when results of elections to four state assemblies were not out. The main object of tactical voting by Muslims has been accomplished. BJP has not been successful in any among the four states. Muslims have reasons to feel elated over the success they have achieved. 

Their number in the recent election to UP Assembly, has gone up from 42 to 45, short of the highest 53 in 1985, but above the lowest 19 in 1991. Among the lucky 45, 21 have been elected on Samajwadi ticket followed by 14 on BSP ticket and 4 on Congress ticket, independents and those affiliated to splinter political groups are six.

At least for the time being, the ambitions of Sangh Parivar have been grounded. However, the share of Muslims in the crushing defeat of BJP is not large. They have contributed substantially to the victory of anti-BJP forces in Uttar Pradesh, to some extent in Uttaranchal also. But the defeat of BJP and allies in Punjab and Manipur is their own making. They tried to cover up their communal bigotry aggravated by blatant misrule and corruption, by raising the bogey of terrorism and foreign threat. The voters were neither convinced nor amused by their antics. The people of the states have defeated Mr. Vajpayee’s Party; the majority among them were not Muslims. 

But the fractured mandate in Uttar Pradesh carries the risk of BJP misrule by the back door. The antipathy of Ms. Mayawati leader of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to Samajwadi Party, led by Mulayam Singh is so strong that it rules out coalition of the two parties. Congress Party although reduced to the status of a minor player, once again has adopted ostritch-like posture. Their tall claims about fighting communalism have vanished in thin air. By their reticence, they are paving the way for a coalition of BJP and BSP. 

Once again BSP is emerging as the B team of Sangh Parivar. Muslims, who bought BSP tickets and managed to win their seats, may find themselves seated in the company of Sangh Parivar. That keeps the door open for BJP government supported by BSP or BSP government supported by BJP. If there is no agreement about terms of sharing power between the two major contenders for power, it keeps alive the possibility of imposition of President’s Rule in Uttar Pradesh.

In reality that shall be the rule of the Governor, having affiliation with Rashtriya Swayam Sangh (RSS) or the proxy rule of the Home Minister L.K. Advani. 

The emerging scenario is not likely to make Muslims of the state very happy. The line of tactical voting adopted by them has not been complete failure but it has not yielded desired results. It has caused a major setback to the ruling coalition led by BJP. But if they do not find a ruling combination of their choice, they should prefer to wait.

Results of elections to the four state assemblies have to be judged from several angles. What is their likely impact on the future situation of the minorities, particularly Muslims? What is the possible fall out of the crushing defeat of Bhartiya Janata Party on future political alignments, particularly on the fate of the National Democratic Alliance presently in power at the Centre? What is likely to be the possible political scenario of the country? How can Muslims play a positive, constructive and effective role in shaping the future events?

As far as Muslims are concerned, persons connected with Sangh Parivar, particularly those who had a prominent role in the movement that led to the demolition of Babari Mosque, are still in power with their true colours unchanged. Union Home Minister Mr. L.K. Advani continues determined to play an adversary to Islamic educational institutions and create a hostile climate for Muslims. The Union Minister for Development of Human Resources, Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi remains engaged in saffronization of educational system. Ms. Uma Bharati, another Union Minister continues functioning as ‘Kar Sevak’.

The adverse results of recent Assembly elections are a verdict on their performance also. But, as soon as it became clear that they are likely to lose, they starting harping on the familiar plea that the elections to state assemblies are not a referendum on the performance of the Centre. Democracy, being a game of numbers, as long as they have the required numbers, they shall continue to rule. 

Unless the game of BJP & BSP for getting into the seat of power is effectively thwarted, Muslims should not expect a favourable and positive change in the situation in Uttar Pradesh 

The tactical line adopted by them by aligning with any anti-BJP political party, capable of defeating RSS and Sangh Parivar is only a beginning and not the end of their political journey. They must continue to forge alliances with friends and ensure the defeat of those who are hostile to their progress and well being. In this context, the recent carnage and massacre in Gujarat carries important lessons. It shows that any success through democratic methods can be undone by undemocratic brutal methods. RSS and Sangh Parivar can go to any extent in furthering their political objectives. 

Their challenge requires united action, preceded by joint consultation of all representative bodies of Muslims, not merely for increasing the number of Muslims in the state assemblies and Parliament, but for having a government that is sympathetic to their interests. 

In that context, it is necessary to define what Muslims expect from a just and sincerely secular government. Firstly they want peace, security of life and property, equal opportunities for a fair and equitable share in power and progress. Further, they expect protection of their religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity and freedom to manage their institutions. 

This should be supplemented by a healthy climate, in which there is no reflection on the sincerity of their patriotic feelings. Till their credentials about loyalty to the country are suspected it should be futile to expect end of discrimination against them.

The demands are not extravagant. If the constitutional provisions had been sincerely implemented both in letter and spirit, there would have no occasion for reiterating them.

For future political action, the recent results of state assembly elections should be studied from every possible angle. The choice of Muslims should not be limited to a single political party. The criterion should be clear. They should avoid political groups, who at one stage of another, collaborated with BJP and Sangh Parivar. Secular credentials of organizations, helpful in the furtherance of communal designs of Sangh Parivar should not be trusted. should not be judged from only one angle. 

Defeat of BJP in four states is not the only important aspect of election results. It is equally important to take note of the resurgence of Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Now, the Party is in power in fourteen states. In addition to Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, Indian National Congress may be a choice in areas, where none among the former have any base. For example, Elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi are scheduled to be held shortly. In the capital, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal have no prospect of replacing BJP in MCD. In that case united and undivided support to Indian National Congress becomes a political necessity.

The bright and positive side of tragic event in Gujarat is that for the first time all organizations representing Muslims have sunk their differences and appeared on a single platform to register their protest against the brutal role of BJP Government in Gujarat.

The process has to be continued and strengthened so that opportunists and upstarts among Muslims do not go about begging for party tickets and eventually damage the cause of the community. If the selfish, wilful and opportunist role of a Muslim leads to the defeat of a Muslim candidate, the community should not fight shy of recording their disapproval of such irresponsible conduct.
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