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

Choice before Muslim voters
Electing the best in the national interest
By Rizwan Ullah

What the rightist brigands believe to be in the national interest may or may not be so, but it must certainly be in their cruel sectarian interest and with the same certainly it must be against our interest. On the other hand what we believe to be in our interest must certainly be in the national interest. For instance when we demand equality before law and equal opportunities in all walks of life it is in the best interest of all people including minorities. So we should have a clear perception about what is in our interest for a clear perception leads to firm and straightforward action.

A step by step approach should be adopted for reaching rational conclusions. The first and the foremost requirement is a strong and stable government at the center, which is not propped up by crutches provided by the gangs of headhunters and maintained through unethical manipulations. It should firmly stand on merits, should be able to defend the country from external threats including all sorts of terrorism and overwhelming economic onslaught, should be able to maintain internal security not through suppression and state terrorism but through providing a sense of security and participation and a feeling of relief for all without any discrimination.

At the same time there should be a strong and vigilant opposition to keep the government on its heels all the time, pulling it on every fault and compelling it to rectify the wrongs and retracing its faulty steps. Such an opposition must be led by capable people who can take over the responsibilities of running the administration in case of the failure and fall of the government. While looking back we find in recent years not only the government has failed the people and the country on several vital counts but the opposition too stands indicted. While talking about the indictment of the opposition we don’t mean only the main party in opposition, that is the Congress Party, but all other parties, which had sent their members to the parliament and were never part of the ruling or misruling alliance.

They are indicted not only for holding the whole parliamentary system to ransom for a substantially long part of the tenure, they failed to show the same vehemence and force out of the parliament house at the peoples’ level. They failed to take a united stand on any vital issue. They could not compel the government to try in a court of law the persons holding responsible positions in the government and believed to be guilty on several counts, they failed to do anything to protect the minorities especially Muslims, when they were in jeopardy and could not do anything to save many precious lives and huge properties which in the last analysis were part of the national property. Thus they stand to lose any claim for votes. Moreover, they have no ideology as such, they are undependable with regard to their stated future course of action in a spineless polity.

To sum up: A wise course of action for all voters in the forthcoming general elections would be to elect a party and enable it to form its government on the basis of its own strength without depending upon the self-seeking, unfaithful and untrustworthy political blackmailers. But at the same time a powerful opposition should also be built up which could keep the party in power on leash so that it may not attain a monstrous posture and position throwing all human values to winds. We have examples in Gujarat where the hands which were supposed to rule virtually rocked the state, stood witness to the genocide of Muslims and they were rewarded for that cruel atrocities and were patronised by the party in power at the center. But the question is how to build a strong and balancing opposition in the face of growing regionalism and absence of any political ideology, which has been replaced by caste and creed considerations. Thus far we have considered what should be the national approach of Indian voters in general. We have yet to consider what could be and should be the Muslim approach to strike that balance and contribute their mite to the achievement of that national objective.

In devising any electoral strategy we should differentiate between the parliamentary and state elections, for the position, strength and effectiveness of parties vary in the parliament and in any given state. For instance a regional party may have a favourable policy in a particular state under its rule may not have the same effectiveness in the parliament. So it is entitled to our vote in an election for the state assembly but its candidate for a parliamentary seat may not carry the same weight and preference. It is applicable in the case of national parties and their candidates as well who should never be given an unqualified support and a blank cheque. There could be a special case requiring special approach, such as in UP Samajwadi Party candidates carry weight in the assembly elections as well as for the parliamentary seat. If they reach in the parliament in substantial numbers they can prove to be a powerful force for whichever side they choose to sit.

While the strategy calls for keeping one party in power and the other in opposition in balanced positions there comes the question of preference and choice and that calls for some criteria to be followed for offering the first choice. To be more specific, the Congress and the BJP are the main contenders for power and the idea of a third front is good for gossip only in a political sphere of ideological vacuum. The bitter experiences and sufferings we had during the four decades of the Congress omnipotence and omnipresence can not be wiped off our memories. If the Gujarat massacre is any indication we can not expect a better treatment in a BJP rule, and those who ask Muslims to forget what happened in Gujarat must be asked would they forget if all that would have happened to them and their kins? They must also be asked what they have done for healing the wounds of the victims while they are still in power?

Now, what makes the difference from our point of view between the two contending rivals is that the Congress government and its functionaries did not participate in anti-Muslim riots as a matter of declared policy, but the BJP members and government functionaries were openly and directly involved in the massacre. While they roasted a Muslim Congress leader, his party could not come to his rescue. The difference between the two is that of commission and omission. Thus the choice is obvious.

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