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What is wrong with the PM's statement?

What is wrong with the PM's statement?

Author: Arvind Singh
Publication: Hindu Vivek Kendra
Date: February 27, 2002

On 18 February, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee said that even without Muslims voting for his party, it can form the government in UP. He criticized opposition parties which had appealed to Muslims not to vote for the BJP. Addressing a rally, he said that his party had not done anything discriminatory against the minority community.

He lamented that it was not appropriate for Muslims to take anti-BJP stand. However, he went on to add that BJP would win the elections even if Muslims vote against it.

Apparently the statement is plain and commonplace. It is empirically established that Muslims in India hardly vote for parties which talk of Hindu interests. Similarly, it is also empirically established that Muslims vote for parties which talk of enhancing Muslims interests. The BJP's predecessor the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, for instance, had talked about banning cow slaughter and enacting a uniform civil code to which Muslims abhorred. The BJP stuck to the old agenda of BJS. Likewise Muslims continued to abhor the BJP.

Hence the impression that after December 6, 1992 Muslims turned their back to BJP is preposterous. What PM said, therefore, is a historical truth and he has merely reiterated it. The statement will distress those who have allergy to the truth. However, the PM was mordantly denounced.

"By making such a statement, the Prime Minister is indirectly pandering to the communal instincts of the other community. This tactic cannot be permitted to be adopted by Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world," the Congress Party spokesman Jaipal Reddy said.

Samajwadi Party, which is supposed to be the largest beneficiary of Muslim votes in the ongoing elections, demanded PM's head. In a letter faxed to President K R Narayanan, Mulayam Singh Yadav said the Prime Minister's remarks were intended to divide the country. "By making such a statement publicly, he violated the model code of conduct," alleged Mr. Yadav.

Former Prime Minister VP Singh said Mr. Vajpayee's remark was in "bad taste" and "unbecoming" of the head of the government. Mr. Singh, who is seeking to play a bigger role in Indian politics, castigated that Mr. Vajpayee appears to have forgotten that he is not just a political leader, but also the Prime Minister of the country.  On 2 February the Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, appealed Muslims not to vote in the assembly elections. He said that all political parties are inimical to minority interests. Whereas the All India Milli Council exhorted Muslims of UP to actively participate in the elections to defeat BJP. The council is reported to have organized a survey of constituencies where Muslims are in position to influence election results. The council learnt, thanks to the survey, that approximately in 150 to 200 constituencies Muslim accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of the voters. In the last assembly elections, in 115 seats the margin of victory or defeat was less than 10,000. While the BJP had won 44 of these seats in the last election, the rest of these went to SP, BSP and Congress.

The survey "criteria" was - No support to communal forces; no support to ally of communal forces and support to secular-minded candidates who could provide a clean government. Accordingly, the council has released a list of 92 constituencies which went to poll in the first phase of elections in UP directing Muslims to support only those candidates who are in a position to defeat BJP nominees.

The council, in tune with its policy, has urged Muslims to support the Samajwadi Party on 48 seats, BSP on 21, Congress on 11, CPI-M in Najeebabad and Indian Ekta Dal in Nukur assembly segment.

This clear "direction" given to Muslims by the Milli Council has gone unscathed, however. But the PM's statement has caused a huge political reverberation. In fact, what the PM has said was not new but the Council repeatedly told to Muslim voters. If there is any differences exist that is only of angle in which both the positions are looked into. The Milli Council said that Muslims should not vote for the BJP while the latter said it did not want Muslims vote.

We must ponder a while why Muslims often took anti-BJP stance. Many Hindus are really upset that the BJP which once protested Haj subsidy is now increasing it. Many Hindus are really upset that BJP leadership which once lambasted Iftar parties are now seen prostrating to Muslims to eat their Iftar food.

The PM's statement came as a fresh air. It perhaps stems from the realization that Muslims would not vote for the BJP in any circumstances. The same was explained to BJP leadership by its sympathizers time and again but in vain. One hope this controversy would serve an eye opener to the BJP.

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