Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
The M factor

The M factor

Author: Farzand Ahmed and Shafi Rahman
Publication: India Today
Date: July 10, 2008
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&issueid=62&task=view&id=11162&Itemid=1

Introduction: In about 100 constituencies where the Muslim vote is decisive, the N-deal may generate more debate than inflation or terrorism

When in desperation, put on your skull cap. The nuclear deal hitherto debated away from its communal implications, has been gaining the good ol' Muslim angle.

Though the deal is yet to be signed, community organisations and politicians are revving up for the occasion. It all started with CPI(M)'s senior politburo member M.K. Pandhe inserting the nuclear deal into the list of grievances of Indian Muslims and announcing that "an overwhelming majority of the Muslim masses" opposed it.

He urged Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh Yadav not to alienate them by supporting it.

Though the Left party quickly distanced itself from his comments, the debate gained momentum as political parties jumped to the conclusion that the deal with the "Satan" can be a big ticket item in around 100 constituencies, where Muslim votes are decisive.

Last week, as her arch rival Mulayam extended support to the Congress-led UPA over the nuclear deal with the US, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati felt political tremors under her feet and followed up Pandhe's comments with vigour. She targeted Mulayam by saying that his secularism had been a tamasha.

"Remember, it was Mulayam who had stopped Sonia Gandhi from becoming the prime minister and helped the BJP-led NDA to rule for six years. Now the Congress and SP are cosying up for the deal," she said.

She firmed up her "anti-Muslim" theory by inviting influential Sunni and Shia clerics to discuss the deal's impact on the community and the problems the Muslims faced.

It was due to the efforts of former Union minister Akhilesh Das and Siraj Mehdi, both of whom had recently resigned from the Congress to join BSP, that a group of ulema and maulanas including Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Fringi Mahali and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman, many of whom were with 'Maulvi' Mulayam till recently, walked into her house to thank her for her bold stand on the deal and to pledge their support to her.

Mahali even declared that through her clear stand, Mayawati has won the hearts of Muslims even as Rahman, the firebrand Imam of Tilawali Masjid, warned Mulayam that if he did not desist from joining hands with the Congress, a fatwa would soon be issued against him.

In response to this, SP General Secretary Amar Singh, the main architect of the SP-Congress deal, said that the whole world knows that Mayawati has been hobnobbing with the BJP by sharing power with the saffron party thrice in the past.

However, Mayawati's move to win over the Muslims suffered a serious setback when Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, the deputy rector (naib mohtamim) of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband and Hazrat Maulana Tauquir Raza Khan, the spiritual head of the Barelvi school of thoughts supported the nuclear deal and snubbed the handpicked clerics of Lucknow for supporting Mayawati who had "never cared for Muslims".

And these men head two of the highly-revered Islamic institutions that can influence many Sunni Muslims in north India.

The Congress, which has been wooing Muslim votes with a slew of schemes, is now trying to diminish the stirring nature of the anti-Muslim theory.

The party claims that the Muslim opposition is restricted to the policies of outgoing US President George W. Bush and not with the deal.

"Muslims may have an issue with the shopkeeper but not with the product," said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.

But like the Congress and RJD, SP leaders too seem to have turned the table upon Mayawati and the Left by trying to convince the Muslims that not only is the nuclear deal in national interest but that the BJP was a bigger threat to them.

Uttar Pradesh, with 19 per cent Muslim votes, plays a key role in deciding the fortunes of political parties in the Lok Sabha polls.

The community had been a strong pillar of Mulayam's Muslim-Yadav combination till Mayawati forged her rainbow coalition successfully. SP is, therefore, planning to announce its Muslim candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, before the trust vote in Parliament to keep its flock together.

The party is also making use of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's endorsement of the deal to counter the anti-minority perception.

Leading Urdu weekly Nai Dunia, ironically, owned and edited by SP MP Shahid Siddiqui carried a survey that showed that 70 per cent of Muslims in the country were opposed to the deal.

It also said that 85 per cent Muslims considered America their biggest enemy while about 70 per cent felt that the UPA Government has done nothing for the Muslims.

The party under the changed situation has rubbished the survey. But the tragedy is that the survey was "conducted" when the party had been against the deal but was published when it had reversed its stand.

Major political parties of Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference (NC) and People's Democratic Party have said that the deal is not against the community.

"We do not consider it against Muslims. The deal is either good or bad for the country. Where does the issue of Muslims come here?" said Omar Abdullah, NC president.

The CPI(M) in West Bengal and Kerala too is planning to hit the poll turf with the nuclear deal issue. In northern Kerala with a sizeable Muslim population, the party will play to community sentiments by raising the issue.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), part of the Congress-led front in Kerala, will find it difficult to hold its turf. The IUML, whose sole representative in Parliament is Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed, will be meeting in the coming days to finalise its stand on the deal.

The party has been caught between risking electoral backlash and pulling out its man from the Government. The youth wing of the Indian National League, a Left ally, has already demanded that Ahamed should resign from the Government.

Pandhe's fresh gift to Muslim grievance roaster will surely add up to the election planks in the coming Lok Sabha elections. But, so far, there are no clear winners in the first stretch run towards the corridors of power.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements