Amid the RSS door-to-door campaigns and aggressive speeches, the projection of Narendra Modi as PM candidate, and opinion polls that project a strong BJP performance, those ranged on the other side, too, have been at work.
Several leaders and groups claiming to have Muslim interests at heart have been making quiet but determined moves to ensure that “good, non-BJP candidates” come in large numbers and prevent a situation where an RSS-influenced government comes to power.
It is unclear what influence community or faith leaders eventually have on the voting public. But these could serve as weather vanes for which way the wind is blowing among Muslims. As per indications so far, the leaders seem to want to ensure candidates best suited to squeeze the BJP’s chances must be backed.
The shahi imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, told Urdu newspapers after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi Tuesday: “We have a 35-year-old distance from the Congress.” He was referring to the time when the then shahi imam, his father, was drawn into national politics to help rally Muslims to oppose the Congress in 1977. “But at a time when communal forces are waiting… we should support secular forces.”
But in an interview to a recently-launched Urdu daily, Roznama Khabrein (April 2), the shahi imam reasoned that “the Congress would get supported by or will support a secular progressive government. So why should we not support such a party to keep the communal opposition out?”
Asked about that apparent U-turn, as the shahi imam has been known to have been critical of the Congress through the 1990s, and has been close to the SP and even in conversation with the BSP, Bukhari said his opinion on several issues was the same as before but “this is about the national election and we will have to swallow the bitter pill.”
The imam went on to say the SP has disappointed Muslims and “despite a press conference with me promising appropriate representation for Muslims, has failed them”. “And are laptops solving problems? The difference between Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar is only the number of dead. This SP government should be taught a lesson as it’s a failed government which is anti-Muslim.”
On the BSP, he said, “ After Muzaffarnagar, why has she (Mayawati) been unable to answer why she has not gone there?… I fear that for power, Mayawati can go anywhere, though Mamata Banerjee has assured me she won’t go to the NDA.
He termed the AAP a ‘khel’ of the “RSS and Israel, in order to further divide the community” He spoke of how “communalism is a much bigger issue than corruption, as communalism actually breaks countries. Why has Kejriwal not spoken on Muzaffarnagar or the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat? He is funded by Israel…”
Another community leader, Syed Shahabuddin (former foreign service officer-turned-Janata Dal MP, and now convener of the Joint Committee of Muslim Organisations for Empowerment, which held an “urgent meeting” on March 17), sent out a communication Tuesday on voting. Different from just a community-centric approach, the JCMOE hitches Muslim interests with those of all other deprived sections in India. It stressed the need of the hour is to consolidate votes of all deprived sections, including Muslims.
The committee has taken the line that Muslims must ensure a secular government as vital not just to Muslims but to all backward and disadvantaged sections and act as a group with them.
The meeting concluded that “the voting strategy it had developed was perfectly suitable even in a general election to achieve the objective of the secular forces to raise the representation of secular members, particularly of Muslims and other deprived groups, in the coming Parliament as well as to defeat the BJP and promote and help the formation of a secular government”
Urging all deprived groups to vote “unitedly and massively,” the committee has also put out a ten-point charter of demands on issues ranging from reservation of Dalits, tribals, backward groups and minorities to the state ensuring lower-income-group, urban housing to all deprived groups.