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

Milli Council’s shadow boxing

Once again Milli Council has centered its focus on defeating the BJP in UP, by counseling the Muslims to vote for selected candidates from 5 political parties. This strategy can only be a negative stopgap policy hastily put into place at election time that hardly enhances Muslim political clout except as spoilers. 

It could be said, that over the period of successive elections, all ‘secular’ parties may consider it worthwhile to offer photo-sessions to a few office bearers of the Milli Council, or media may oblige them with more sound-byte opportunities. 

But beyond that it is hard to see how these strategies can be translated into a positive programme to influence the political process by acquiring electoral weightage. 

Besides, as had been accepted by Milli Council office-bearers, their ill-considered endorsement of Mayawati, not only deprived Mulayam the kind of majority that could have easily assured him to form the next ‘secular’ government, but their trust in Mayawati’s untrustworthy political record, with the fond hope that she will stick to her ‘personal’ assurance to Milli Council's self-appointed leadership, not to go with the BJP, was a big blow to all hopes of Muslim voters, to stop BJP coming to power in UP. 

It is debatable how much effective Muslim Council advice to Muslim voters had been, and how much Mayawati’s own strategies in winning Muslim votes, by offering liberal party tickets to largest number of Muslim candidates, in sharp contrast to Mulayam’s parsimony on this account, was the main reason for a sizable Muslim vote going to Mayawati’s BSP.

However, one thing is certain, that the Milli Council strategists have only concentrated on the first level of election planning, and had not taken into account the compulsions that any political party in the fractured state of election results, denying outright majority to any party, would take recourse to in its quest for power to rule the state. Milli Council appeared to be like Bush going into Iraq without any planning how to manage Iraq after Saddam has gone. 
It is apparent, after the elections, Milli Council had no leverage — certainly no candidate of its own — to push for Muslim interest in the formation of the coalition government in UP. 

At another level, BJP being an ideology based committed political grouping, has to be fought on ideological grounds. Whatever may be the pragmatic relevance of ‘secular’ polity in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural pluralist nation, political gerrymandering, had reduced the much-respected secular cover to a heavily tattered fig leaf. 

Milli Council’s overemphasis on the formal branding of the secular political parties, to identify like-minded partners, completely overlooks the caste factors that has enabled the Brahmanical BJP to conjure up a ‘close community of Hindus’ by pitting it against the ‘other’ – the Muslims. 

If Brahmanical Hindutva had divided the nation into Hindus and non-Hindus to rule the nation, Muslims too should adopt a divide and rule policy if they have any ambition or compulsion to come near the levers of power. And that division has to be at the level of caste formulations. 

Against this, full and open identification with lower castes as the oppressed class that has been under Brahmanical bondage for thousands of year, will give Muslims a much open acceptance and even at some stage leadership role in the 95% non-Brahmin majority. 

Even though the sizable Brahmin voting strength could be a limiting factor in UP, the Brahmanical formulation of Hindutva has to be fought with ideological alternatives to ensure complete isolation of Sangh Parivar’s hegemonical designs on the India’s future. 

On this count, Milli Council’s endorsement of non-Brahmanical political parties, like SP, BSP and Lok Jan Shakti, could carry some merit, but inclusion of ‘Brahmanical’ Congress Party into the equation on the basis of its dubious and spurious ‘secular’ credentials, will prolong the same higher caste bondage that has robbed the oppressed, the lower caste or caste-less classes of all dignity and self-respect as well as full power sharing according to their numbers to empower them to rule as full partners.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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