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Muslims must not Shun the BJP - The Times of India

Prakash Nanda ()
February 18, 1998

Title: Muslims must not Shun the BJP
Author: Prakash Nanda
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 18, 1998

They live in four different regions, but G A Munshi of Surat,
Syed Jani Mirza of Calcutta, Din Mohammad Cheetah of Srinagar and
Bashir Ahmed Syed of Hyderabad share one thing in common. They
may not even know each other; but, going by press-reports, all
the four have, for the first time, decided to vote for the BJP in
the elections.

In fact, hardly a single day passes now when one does not come
across news that a prominent Muslim has expressed support for the
BJP-led alliance. Similarly, rarely does one miss the appeal in
public speeches and media-interviews of leading BJP functionaries
that Muslims should at least give one chance to the party to form
the government at the Centre and test its slogan of "non-
appeasement and positive secularism".

Important Factor

Muslims have always been an important factor in Indian politics.
Among many aspects of this factor, the fact that the BJP is no
longer "untouchable" in the Muslim mindset is relatively a new
phenomenon. Mindless opposition to the BJP does not serve the
interests of the Muslim community. The BJP may find it difficult
but not impossible to come to power sooner or later without the
Muslim vote, given its otherwise sound base. Many electoral
studies have proved that Muslims alone cannot ensure a party's
ultimate victory or defeat.

Now, imagine a situation when the BJP is in power, but because of
"the attitude of untouchability" towards the party, the 125-
million strong Muslim community refuses to be a part of the
decision-making process. This is a scenario which, perhaps,
explains the repeated appeals of the BJP functionaries to the
Muslims for a change of heart. Indeed, the other day, a former
BJP president was concerned that the party did not have adequate
Muslim candidates having a winning chance to be offered tickets
for contesting polls.

Of course, it can be argued that nothing prevents the BJP from
fielding the Muslims already in its ranks as candidates. But then
there can be a counterargument to it on the ground that fielding
Muslim candidates not for their worth as achievers but for their
religion amounts to tokenism.

A study in the Economic and Political Weekly had once shown that
the Congress gave Muslims only token representations in the
legislatures but made no significant efforts to improve their
lot. Interestingly, Muslim candidates were fielded in areas
where they did not have any chance of winning. Even those who
managed to win - many of them were rewarded not for their self-
endeavour but for having inherited the legacies of their parents
- hardly represented Muslim interests in Parliament or in

As it is, the representation of Muslims has fallen in the Lok
Sabha - 25 MPs in 1996 as against 47 in 1980. Similarly, in
spite of their avowed concerns for "secularism" and welfare of
the Muslims, neither the Congress nor the United Front has shown
any concern and done anything to uplift the Muslims who remain
far behind other minorities like Sikhs and Parsees in almost
every field.

The question that arises is: Should the Muslims continue to
repose their faith only in the non-BJP parties just because they
are said to be "secular" and avoid the BJP just because it is
perceived to be "communal"? Because apart from the dubious
"fear" of BJP's "communalism", there is nothing concrete that the
Muslims have against the BJP.

Weak Argument

It is a well-established fact that more anti-Muslim riots have
been engineered in the Congress-ruled states than in states under
the BJP. One often hears that this is a diabolic design on the
part of the BJP to tell the Muslims, "vote for us if you want
safety to your life and property or else face the consequences".
This is, again, a weak argument. For, one can counterargue that
communal riots are caused by the non-BJP parties just to
perpetuate the myth of BJP's communalism and prevent it from
coming to power.

It is indeed time that the Muslims went beyond their passive role
as a vote-bank of some select parties. They need to be much more
active politically to be a decisive factor in the country's
decision-making process. And for this to happen, they must
participate to emerge as an important force within all major
political formations, including the BJP. Mercifully, this is what
the thinking Muslims have started realising.

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