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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

It’s poll time
Muslim outfits seek to unite the community
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: Mujhe ghaiz mein na de dhamkiyan / girein lakh baar ye bijliyan / meri sultanat ye aashiyaan / meri mamlekat yehi chaar par……. Were the words of Jigar Muradabadi when he spoke of the abominable rule of Britishers, but today, it has become an acronym for the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

"Constitution has to be saved, democracy has to be safeguarded, social fabric has to be strengthened, social harmony has to be nurtured and secularism has to be practiced. For restoring the glory of India these pillars of our nationhood need an extreme face-lift as these pillars are now under very real possibility of being turned to ashes by the examples already set by the six-year misrule of BJP at Delhi," said Manzoor Alam, secretary of the political affairs committee of the All India Milli Council.

AIMC was established in 1992 in Bombay on the call of Maulana Mujahidul Islam Qasmi who later became the president of AII India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). 

AIMC reportedly has 12 wings looking after educational, social, political and religious issues and works through a network of madrasas, Shahar Qazis and Imams of mosques

"These are the last general elections because if these pseudo-nationalists (BJP and allies) come back to power then everything enshrined in our Constitution to safeguard the pluralistic-fibre of India is going to be changed and we would be sinking into the Nazi times," he added speaking to a press-conference in Lucknow on March 24.

What is your strategy? "I attended a function in Bhopal last month where Dalits (untouchables) and Other Backward Castes NGOs organised a meet. It was attended by over 1000 Dalits. We unanimously decided that we should synergise ourselves to consolidate Dalits, OBC’s and secular people of the country and the response was overwhelming," he said.

What steps have been taken by AIMC to formulate a front to stop BJP? "AIMC UP unit held a meeting on March 15-16 attended by Maulana Syed Nizamuddin (Patna), Maulana Ashraf Ali (Bangalore), Maulana Hameed Aqil Husaini (Hyderabadi), Maulana Yaseen Ali Usmani along with Maulana Abdullah Moghisi. The meeting was also attended by Shiv Raj Patil (Congress), Hari Kishan Surjeet (CPIM), Amar Singh (Samajwadi Party) and Laloo Prasad Yadav (Rashtriya Janta Dal)," came the reply.

What was the outcome of the meeting? "We felt the urgent need for sincere efforts to forge seat-adjustments between SP and Congress in UP and not allow a split in the Muslim vote. Shiv Raj Patil is sitting with us for the two dyas still expecting a reply from SP. We tried our very best to contact Amar Singh but did not get any positive response from him," answered Yaseen Ali Usmani, assiatant secretary-general, AIMC.

"I have been entrusted to conduct a survey and come up with all the permutations and combinations within 15 days and present a blue-print for the Muslims to vote for the first-phase of polling," he informed. "We would be going into the field and take the help of at least three NGOs to formulate a strategy for the coming polls," he said further. UP would be going to polls in three phases.

Replying to a query on the issuance of fatwa by AIMC, Kamal Farooqui, spokesman of AIMC, was particular. "Please don’t use the word fatwa because it has religious connotations and should not be used for political purposes," he said. Aren’t you all politicians? "We are not politicians but surely we are politically aware campaigners and we refuse to take the sobriquet of being anyone’s political orderlies," he clarified.

What is your yardstick for selecting candidates?" Winnability and credibility along with formidability is our parameter. We will be going for tactical-strategic voting and we are still in the process of giving a final go to Muslim voters because the announcement of final list of all candidates is still to come," informed Farooqui.

A firm ‘no’ to Bahujan Samaj Party was a bit of a surprise, as no representative from BSP was involved in the talks. "BSP gave us an undertaking that it would never have any truck with BJP but the formation of BSP-BJP government in UP thrice embittered the secularists and Muslims alike," elaborated Farooqui. "We are thrice-bitten and very shy of BSP now," said Qamar Alam Advocate.

AMIC claims to be political-scientist group of Muslims trying to streamline Muslim voters in order to stop BJP riding to power. In the last assembly elections of 2002 AIMC supported 256 candidates from SP and 98 of them got elected (38%), it supported 67 from BSP and 24 won (36%), Congress won 11 out of 40 (27%) and CPI(M) won two out of four (50%) supported by AMIC. "We are more than happy that BJP after ruling for five years in UP could not even cross the triple figure. It could get 88 seats" said Yaseen Ali Usmani. UP has 402 seats in the assembly.

"Our tactical voting in UP brought BJP seats to an all time low and our success rate is about 70 percent in the overall number of legislators but Amar Singh of SP complains that because of our call his party was not able to achieve the desired number of seats," said Farooqui, adding that both Mulayam Singh and his party’s general secretary Amar Singh had called on AIMC today.

"We are on the brink this time as the elections’ outcome will decide whether the secular constitution will remain intact or be thrown to the wind. We are trying to address the nation to choose the best government and for this we have already initiated a rigorous interaction amongst Muslims and also dialogue-interaction with other communities, particularly the deprived sections, and we will deliver results," calimed Manzoor Alam on his turn to speak.

What makes you look so confident? "We don’t make empty claims as enough sand castles have already been broken. We, instead, go for microscopic details and analyse and then make suggestions to offer result-oriented democracy," he claimed. He also pointed out that secular parties have been organized to a large extent. "A white paper on the performance of BJP-headed NDA government would also be released in Lucknow two days later," he announced further.
UP, which is also called the ‘Hindi-heartland’ sends the highest number of parliamentarians and constitutes 18% of Muslim votes. A vote shift of even 2% is enough to make or break any party’s prospects in the elections. 

However, it needs to be mentioned that in 1947 Parliament saw 37 Muslims and the last 1999 elections sent lowest Muslim representation (25 MPs). What would be the scene of the next parliament vis-à-vis Muslim representation is yet to be seen, but if one goes even by the official percentage of Muslims as 15% it boils down to a figure of at least 80 in the 542-member Parliament.

As the first survey of Milli Council is being awaited, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) International General Secretary Praveen Togadia, made yet another bid to communalise the atmosphere in Lucknow on April 2 as he called Prime Minister Vajpayee to have set aside the ‘Temple Construction’ issue until the next five years. Tagodia said that VHP would this time support any candidate who would embrace Hindu agenda irrespective of his political party. He seemed unaffected by the cricket euphoria and said that it is no big deal to win a cricket test match in Multan as India must win Multan by tanks. He referred to the bonhomie between India and Pakistan as just a passing phase, claiming that the relations between the two would soon turn hostile after June 2004.

Congress UP President Jangambika Pal, on the same day, demanded that the state government should ban the entry of Togadia into UP and pointed that despite the temple issue not being on the NDA’s agenda, the DPM LK Advani is raising the temple-ante on his Bharat Uday Yatra which is nothing but misleading the majority community. Pal demanded that LK Advani Yatra be banned to enter Ayodhya.

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