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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Muslim Mandate


To offset Narendra Modi, Congress is quite prepared to pander to dangerous minority sentiments, says Sutanu Guru
SUTANU GURU, MANAGING EDITOR, THE SUNDAY INDIAN. | Issue Dated: April 21, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Muslims | Minorities | communalism | Narendra Modi | Rahul Gandhi |

A friend recently pointed out in jest (but with a touch of gravitas) that if all noble intentions and all well meaning policies to promote the well being of minorities in India were honestly implemented over the last 65 odd years, then Muslims would have a higher per capita income than even Jews! Spoken in jest yes, but that just about sums up the shoddy, top down, hand me down and patronizing manner in which Muslims have been treated in this so-called secular country. Lets not repeat the statistics that all of us are familiar with: whether it is the bureaucracy or the corporate jungle, Muslims struggle to find jobs. The successful Muslim entrepreneurs are success stories despite government red tape, not because of favourable policies. And of course when it comes to human development indicators, Muslims invariably find a place at the bottom of the heap.

And yet, huge sections of mainstream English media and academia blindly support the so-called secular parties come election time when it comes to new sops for minorities. Of course, if the bogey in the Indira Gandhi era was the mysterious ‘foreign hand’ that was to blame for all our ills, the bogey in this Sonia Gandhi era is ‘communal forces’. A majority of Indians instinctively shy away from communalism. But it would be laughable to say that a majority of Indian politicians share the same sentiments. And it would be a travesty to accept the myth peddled by mainstream English media and the academia that the Congress is secular.

The fact is, political parties, the Congress more than anybody else, understand the language and logic of power and have no qualms about means as long the end(retaining power) is achieved. For quite some time, the brains trust of the Congress (Have no doubt about their brains, apart from some individual exceptions like Rahul Gandhi) has realized that there is something dangerously seductive about that outsider and ‘impostor’ called Narendra Modi. Despite repeated assaults by the party and the faithful scattered across media, academia and the world of activism, Modi refuses to fade away. This is a man who could teach lessons in marketing and branding strategy to the bunch of Ivy League baba log who advice Rahul Gandhi. No wonder, despite zero evidence that Modi has the power, the ability and the charisma to lure enough voters outside Gujarat, the Congress seems to have pushed the panic button. The Modi hype (And I would still call it hype unless he delivers Delhi to the BJP in 2014) is so potent that almost all the energies of the Congress satraps and sycophants are getting spent on either belittling or demonising Modi.

One thing the Congress strategists know with confidence is that a hell of lot of Muslims across India are very hostile towards Modi. BJP supporters can go blue in the face to defend the Modi track record during the Gujarat riots, but the fact is that politics is often more about perceptions than facts. And the fact is that a majority of Indian Muslims do not really love Modi. The Congress brains trust knows this; just as it knows that it has decisively lost the middle class vote that gave Dr Manmohan Singh and the UPA a second term. For the party, it is crucial to convince (or scare) Muslim voters into opting for the Congress at least as the lesser of the two evils in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. You simply cannot fault the Congress logic at least when it comes to the art of winning elections: if Muslims ‘come back’ to the Congress fold fearful of a Modi victory, then UPA 3 becomes a distinct, if distant, possibility. Who gives a damn about India when South Block is at stake?

It is this logic that prompts the Congress to aggressively push two new ‘Muslim friendly’ policies. The first has been in the works for a while while the second is a new rabbit out of God knows whose hat. The first one is already popular as the Communal Violence Bill that might just become an Act and then law if all ‘secular’ parties in quest of Muslim votes gang up in Parliament to pass it. I will not get into a detailed analysis of this Bill. I will just briefly summarize. If this Bill becomes law, the majority community will automatically and always be the guilty party in the event of a communal incident or riot. If this Bill becomes law, any minority citizen can make an anonymous complaint against a majority citizen accusing him or her of spreading communal feelings and the accused can be arrested immediately. If this Bill becomes law, then top government functionaries of a district like the DM, the SP or the Collector become automatically guilty of dereliction of duty if a communal incident or riot occurs. Much has already been written about the disastrously dangerous consequences of this Bill. I will only say that we are encouraging the creation of yet another Pakistan by advocating such foolish schemes that claim to protect minorities. The second equally disastrous move has been announced by the inimitable and unique Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. He is advocating a policy that will set up special courts for Muslims who have been `falsely' arrested on charges of terrorism. Now, there is no doubt that many innocent Muslims have been framed by Indian cops out to score points and earn promotions. But then that is the destiny of virtually all poor Indians irrespective of caste, creed or religion. When it comes to corruption and an opportunity to extort money, rogue Indian cops do not bother about religion of the victim; they are truly secular in at least this aspect! That great protector of media freedom and motormouth Justice Katju has also jumped into the bandwagon of this cause, as have many “loyal” activists.

The tragedy for India is that the Congress seems convinced that it can get away this time by repeating the 1980s folly. In the 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi tied himself in knots and lost a historic opportunity by pandering to regressive Muslims in the Shah Bano case. Unfortunately for the Congress, subsequent events resulted in Muslims completely deserting the Congress since 1992. This time, the Congress thinks the Modi bogey wil bring back the Muslim vote.

The question is: even if it does, will advocating such dangerously divisive, cynical and token policies help Muslims, or India?

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017