Muslim votebank: myth or reality?

By M. Ameen

Shahid Siddiqui (“The Myth of Muslim votebank”, The Milli Gazette, 16-29 February 2012) forcefully asserts that Muslim votebank (MVB) is a myth. Quite true. May be for 65 years after independence Muslim disunity has made our votebank a myth simply because we have been allowing all political parties to fully exploit our weaknesses and have a free ride on our backs.

In fact, MVB is a powerful political weapon that we have but unfortunately Indian Muslim Ummah has never fully realised its advantages.

Strong, well-united and well-organised Muslim political parties to start with at state levels (and later on the national level) is a good idea. The question is: Do we have the right leaders, adequate resources, the unity, the motivation, the dedication, community spirit and unshakable Iman in the rank and file?

If Muslims are going to be politically united, we can repeat history, march forward and achieve wonders. Many political parties will come and beg our favours. Hence MVB is an attainable reality. I give one solid example of Muslim religious and political unity during the fourth Assembly election in Tamil Nadu in 1967 (45 years ago) when the Tamil-speaking Muslims were well-united under the dedicated leadership of a selfless, clean, stalwart leader Muhammad Ismail.

In Tamil Nadu, Muslims constitute only six to seven percent of the population. But under the leadership of Qaed-e Millat Ismail Sahib (Indian Union Muslim League), Muslims were well united. Ismail Sahib politically allied with DMK led by Annadurai then.

In the 1967 elections, DMK won with a large majority winning 137 seats (out of 234) while in the previous election (1962) it had won only seven seats.

After the 1967 elections, a Muslim newspaper called Marumalarchi (its editor was A. M. Yusuf, a spirited leader) from Trichy analyzed the results constituency-wise and proved that in 58 constituencies DMK MLAs had won only by a margin of between 2,000 to 7,000 votes. And these 2000 to 7,000 votes were en-block polled by the Muslims of the state. Hence, ensuring DMK’s massive victory and formation of the state govt. first time in their political history under Annadurai.

Everyone knows that in 80 percent of the constituencies, it is just the 5-10 percent of the marginal votes that decide the fate of the election. Hence the Indian Muslim minority can be the kingpin if we make use of our vote bank wisely, politically and solidly.

If six percent Muslims in Tamil Nadu could ensure a regional political party to win about 40 percent of the assembly seats in the state, form the government and make them yield to their political lobbying, imagine what may have been the outcome in the length and breadth of India if Muslims were united on an all India basis, particularly in states like UP, Kerala, Assam, Karnataka etc. Positively we can prove brother Shahid Siddiqui wrong in his contention that MVB is after all a myth.

I give another solid proof on similar empirical evidence from the 2011 Tamil Nadu Ssate legislative elections. Actor Vijaya Kant started a political party in Tamil Nadu just four years ago (National Progressive Party). Reliable survey indicated that his party would have about six percent support. He allied with ADMK and his party won 22 MLA seats. Can brother Shahid explain how a votebank of six percent was converted into about 10 percent political representation in the state legislature?

Let the UP, Assam and Kerala Muslims work out the ratios based on these calculations. Same story goes towards the Vanniar caste-based political party of Dr. Ramadas (PMK). Vanniars represent about six percent of Tamil Nadu and in the last Tamil Nadu state legislature, the party had 16 assembly seats (2006 elections) and quite a few parliamentary seats and a Cabinet Minister in 2006 elections allying with DMK.

How many assembly seats do Muslims contesting from Muslim political parties get in any assembly election in Tamil Nadu? One or two or zero. Why our votebank is a myth with 6-7 percent while the same ratio does wonders for other castes and political groups? Can anyone deny the fact that there is a Muslim edge in more than 125 assembly seats in UP alone? Well, the reason is: we find Muslims in all the 20 big and small political parties of Tamil Nadu. We are effectively and incorrigibly well-divided and have foolishly made ourselves an unworkable force unlike the Vanniar caste or Vijaya Kant’s Party (NPP).

Even those Muslims who have strong religious fervour strictly toe the secular party line and are unable to do anything constructively towards uplifting the community that propped them up and made them what they are today.

In Tamil Nadu, we find far too many “Muslim” political parties: 1. MMK, 2. Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, 3. India Thowheed Jamath, 4. Indian Union Muslim League, 5. Indian National League, 6. TMMK, 7. SDPI of Popular Front and so on. Even an scholar like SM Pasha was thinking of launching his own party. The list goes on.

The only thing which unites them is their utter division into innumerable bits and pieces. The division and disunity among Muslim political parties push the cluster of Muslim votes in the state towards a complete state of disintegration because of which they can never be equated with the political force of Vanniar’s PMK or Viojaya Kant’s NPP. Moreover, a single Muslim political party is infested with several factions. It’s precisely because of this increasing division among the Muslim political parties in Tamil Nadu that many believe that it’s practically safe for the Muslim electorate to side with either Amma or Ayyah (a reference to Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi respectively).

Colonialists divided and ruled us effectively. In our case, we foolishly divide ourselves and allow others to rule us.

Political polarization in India for the past 63 years has worked to the horrendous disadvantage of Indian Muslims. Hence time has come for Muslim polarization as a political necessity in order to effectively compete, as our VP Ansari says, on equity with other communities.

We hope, good leaders who are in other political parties bid goodbye to their present political affiliations and get behind the idea of Islamic political unity. This is the best way forward to develop the community and advance in all fields.
Once our leaders get rid of their big ego and have the interest of the Muslim minority at their heart, Insha Allah, we can move forward. May Allah swt bless all the good leaders.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2012 on page no. 2

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