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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Sonia gives Muslim voter a raw deal

While the ministers were being sworn in, 150 million Muslims could not help observing in helpless frustration that even though Muslim voters had helped turn the tide that got this coalition into power, they have been deliberately and contemptuously kept out of the power equation in the ‘secular’ political formation of the new order. 

DMK joined the cabinet, while even a man like Cho Ramaswamy admitted publicly on TV, that DMK left NDA mainly for fear of losing their Muslim votes. DMK’s remarkable turnout is in sharp contrast to Jayalalitha’s pronounced anti-Muslim posturing. There is not a single Muslim minister from DMK’s side too. DMK’s alliance with Congress made a big difference to the whole chanegover.

In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena’s Uday Thackerey too admitted openly that their less than expected results were mainly due to their failure to win Muslim voter support. Muslim voters in Maharashtra who have fresh wounds from a series of communal riots under Congress-NCP government, preferred the coalition rather than vote for BJP/Shiv Sena, even ditching the widely popular Samajwadi Party’s Maharashtra Chief Abu Asim Azmi for his attempt to open a Lok Sabha account after over 12 years robust representation of Muslim causes.
The saddest part is the step-motherly treatment by Sonia Congress to Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest State with largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha, where Muslim voters chose to support Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party which not only retained its largest party position, but even improved its elected member count against Congress suffering loss of another seat from their earlier count. In a secular turnaround, the absence of another big count of secular members of Samajwadi Party is nothing but a old-style Congress arrogance still showing up in its more garish colours. 

In the coalition age, all coalition governments should be tied up as national governments and not heavily tilted towards the largest party, this time, Congress, when the largest count is not large enough to be claimed to be as clear and explicit endorsement from the electorate. 

Once more, in Congress disposition, where the inner coterie is supposed to be from the soft Hindutva brigade, Muslims got a raw deal. NDTV’s brilliant commentator Rajdeep Sardesai regretted it as representing the ‘nature of mandate’. However he missed to highlight the fact that Uttar Pradesh heavily committed itself to secular tenor of the new Lok Sabha, which is now glaringly neglected in the Congress led coalition. 

It is time, Sonia gives some drastic new direction to Congress’s old anti-Muslim malign neglect of a very vibrant and ever-restive Muslim population of a multi-ethnic pluralist country, that will have to perforce open up to a world, where Muslim world would like to count India as a friend.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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