The Congress decision to support the chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and seek the suspension of AIMIM’s Waris Pathan (MLA) in the Maharashtra state assembly has its roots in vote bank politics. The Congress perceives AIMIM’s growth as the biggest threat to its age old traditional Muslim vote bank.
The All India Majlis E-Ittehadul’s politics have veered around to stoking emotive passions which are making inroads into the urban Muslim, the next generation and this has alarmed the Congress.
The developments in the Maharashtra assembly could have been defused with the BJP seeking an unconditional apology from Pathan for his decision not to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. However, the Congress along with the Shiv Sena took an unusually aggressive posture seeking strict action against Pathan.
The ruling BJP, which never misses the opportunity to promote its agenda of cultural nationalism, seized the opportunity to use the incident to its advantage by suspending Pathan for the entire budget session which ends on April 17.
The big question is not whether the action was constitutional or justified but who stands to gain what? While the BJP-Sena and AIMIM want to keep the issue alive, the Congress finds itself in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, it does not want to invite the tag of being anti-national and on the other it cannot be seen to be supporting the AIMIM brand of politics in Maharashtra or the rest of India.
A majority of the minorities leaders in the Congress say that the AIMIM gaining political momentum will be detrimental for communal harmony apart from threatening our traditional assured vote bank across country.” It was not surprising then to see Abdul Sattar (Congress, MLA) screaming for the expulsion of Pathan in the state assembly.
At present AIMIM has only two MLAs in assembly while the Congress has 41 MLAs. However, the Congress believes it will have to check the AIMIM’s growth to retain and consolidate its own vote share amongst minorities.
The Congress now faces the task of redefining its politics and brand of patriotism in the public sphere.