Monday, 27 January 2014

Will the Muslims become a vote bank for AAP?

Prem Singh

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did not succeed in the Muslim majority constituencies in the recently held Delhi Assembly elections even though the AAP leadership tried hard, even monetarily, in this direction to help the candidates. In order to secure the Muslim votes, the AAP supremo visited the heads of many Islamic organizations/bodies, and also approached to Maulvi Taukir Raza Khan in Bareli. AAP found Muslim candidates easily enough, even the BJP is able to seek out Muslim candidates, but it could not convince the Muslim ‘voters’. This indicates that the perception of the Muslim community about politics is much different from that of the mainstream civil society in the country; they do not caste their votes simplistically – merely because the candidate happens to belong to a particular or common category. The contenders of the ‘new’ politics, the leaders of AAP, who want to fly before hatching, might consider Muslims’ perception about politics to be old fashioned and stagnant as their India Against Corruption (IAC) comrade Chetan Bhagat has suggested.
                        In the last 3 decades, most mainstream political parties of the country have become ‘agents’ of neo-liberalism, but its direct ‘product’ is AAP. Neo-liberalism and communalism had begun to join hands in the 80’s, disregarding the Indian Constitution. It became stronger with the implementation of the new economic policies in 1991 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in the last month of 1992 and has been regularly gaining strength ever since. The hype that the new avatar of this alliance i.e. AAP, created in Delhi, has been challenged only by the large Muslim population of Delhi. Therefore, it is a cause of worry for AAP and it has formed a ‘special task force’ to win the Muslim votes in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
                   Before the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections, when AAP started a special drive to involve some important Muslim names the party, as is practiced by the other political parties, it became clear that the leadership of AAP too considers Muslims to be a vote bank first and not equal citizens. The making of a ‘special task force’ confirms that AAP leadership considers Muslims to be a separate vote bank. The people, who equate the success of AAP with the success of ‘new’ politics, manage to underscore the fact that this new politics too looks at sections of the population of the country as categories, by dividing them into religions and castes. It won 9 out of 12 reserved seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections, but did not put forward a single Scheduled Caste candidate on any of the other seats. Its next target is Haryana, where it has already started politics based on caste equations. To put up a Yadav candidate for chief minister’s post in the Jat dominated politics of Haryana, first and foremost priority has been given to the inclusion of Jats. The Jats are falling over each other to fulfill their political ambitions by doing ‘clean politics’. They hope that a Jat’s name may be decided upon later, to make victory certain.
                    Like other political parties who are said to be secular, AAP while keeping a firm hold on the Hindus, wants to cast its sway over the Muslims by placing before them the fear of Narendra Modi. Now it depends upon the Muslim community whether it continues the same relationship with AAP, the sort that it had with the other secular parties. As per this relationship, the Muslims vote for the candidate of any other party that is capable of defeating the BJP. This decision is not wrong in view of the security necessary for their life and livelihood. Since AAP is a party run on strategy rather than struggle, its leadership does not declare is position clearly, position either neo-liberalism or on the question of communalism. Its only goal is to have electoral success as soon as possible by being vague and non-committal about these two major issues. In its bid to win votes from different communities/stratas of society, it speaks in so many voices. In the coming elections its multi-facedness may even beat the RSS.
                       From the time of its RSS-backed anti-corruption movement, AAP has had a large number of neo-liberal and communal elements. Many BJP/Cong and SP/BSP leaders had joined the party before the Delhi elections. AAP now has a growing number of opportunistic and power-hungry elements after its success in the Delhi elections and the formation of its government. In this scenario, the assurance to the Muslims that it has many secular faces is questionable. We must keep in mind that a neo-liberal can never be truly secular. The Muslims should keep in mind that there are a number of more secular parties other than AAP which do not hesitate to form a government with the BJP at the centre or in states. AAP too, after getting the Muslim votes might repeat this practice. A secular leader from AAP, Prashant Bhushan, has already advocated the formation of a government with the support of the BJP instead of the Congress in Delhi. Additionally he has also made the ‘grand comment’ calling CPM corrupt, with which an alliance cannot be made.
                    It is unfortunate that along with many Marxists, secular intellectuals, political, peoples’ movements and civil society activists are trying to push Muslims in AAP’s fold. Obviously, they all perceive the Muslims only as a vote bank and are succeeding too, at it. Some Muslim clerics and political leaders are apparently impressed by their campaign. They have started talking in terms of helping AAP’s candidates to win, considering it to be a part of the truly secular camp. In this period of grave danger to the constitutional value of secularism, the Muslim leadership/intelligentsia should take a decision on this contentious issue after giving it a serious thought. For the Muslims and the other minorities in India, this is a question not just of debate/discussion but one concerning life and death. The minorities suffer most by the havoc unleashed by communal politics. Communal forces are so strong in the present times that there have been communal riots, one after the other, in Uttar Pradesh under the secular Samajwadi Party government.
                   Communalism has grown steadily with neo-liberalism. Fundamentalism is gaining greater footage in every religion rather than tolerance. Its latest proof is that when there were congratulatory declarations about political ‘miracles, God’s grace, celebration, hawan and Vande Mataram’ in Delhi on the occasion of the oath-taking ceremony in Delhi, just 100 km away, more than 60 people were killed and 60,000 people uprooted from 185 villages during communal riots in Muzaffarnagar-Shamli districts. Thousands of them are still not ready to go back to their homes after four months. The SP government has been rightly denounced for their misdeed of holding and attending the Saifai Mahotsav. But those who denounced Saifai had no qualms about the celebrations in Delhi. The New Delhi government’s oath-taking ceremony that could have been managed within a few thousands at the Lieutenant Governor’s house was accomplished with a lot of fanfare at the cost of crores in the Ramlila Maidan. The celebration of the ‘feel good’ factor generated by AAP’s electoral success led to the celebrations of the New Year with a special zeal by the rich in Delhi and other metros in the country. Those who claim to check Modi did not even take a peek at the riot affected areas. Nevertheless, they are grinding their political axe by organizing membership campaigns in that area.
                     The Muslims need to seriously examine the arguments being propagated by secularists in favour AAP. The argument that Arvind Kejriwal has faded Modi’s glow may be an excuse for the secularists. This argument may help some Muslims from AAP to reach the Parliament and the legislative assemblies. But it will not strengthen secularism. The fading of Modi’s ‘glow’ will not lead to the fading of communal fascism. The ideologically neutral stance – ‘neither left nor right’ – could only lead towards strengthening of fundamentalism forces, be it market or religion. It is to be noted that the corporate world and the media, who have already pronounced Modi to be the next prime minister, is simultaneously singing paeans of Kejriwal.
              The Muslim voters need to realize that that Modi is not just a name that they are gearing to challenge. Communal fascism will not end even if Modi loses the election. The extremist views of the RSS are personified in some or the other leader, time to time. This time it is Modi who has risen as its biggest representative. There is a need to look at this extremist streak. May be on a smaller scale, but the same is visible in Kejriwal. There is some solid evidence available on that count.
             Modi easily won the third Legislative Assembly elections in Gujarat. Many individuals and organizations have been trying to find justice for the victims, ever since the time of the state sponsored massacre in 2002. Kejriwal and his followers, who despite repeated and loud claims of saving the country, have not spoken a word about it, neither at the time of incident nor later. We do not find any comments on the anti-constitutional and anti-civilization deed of the demolition of the Babri Masjid either from him or his Guru, Anna Hazare. Anna Hazare, whom Kejriwal brought from Ralegaon Sidhhi to Delhi, dropping his first choice Baba Ramdev, had first praised Modi from the Jantar Mantar. Modi immediately conveyed his thanks by a letter. At the same time he cautioned Anna, that his detractors will try to create differences between them. Some secularists tried to make damage control, but Kejriwal still didn’t speak up.
                    An important member of the India Against Corruption team, Chetan Bhagat, had campaigned for Modi even before the RSS came out with its decision in his favor, and is still doing so. Lately he has been trying to ‘educate’ the Muslim youth in favour of ‘modern and progressive’ Modi cautioning them against ‘old fashioned and stagnant’ Muslim community. An important leader of the anti-corruption movement and Kejriwal’s comrade in arms, Ramdev’s utterances and literature are not hidden from any one. Ramdev called Modi to his ashram at Hardwar and declared him to be the leader of Hindus. Kejriwal did not speak even after that. The Sachar Committee report and its recommendations came out in 2006. This report has become a central issue in the India politics. All the political parties advocate the implementation of the recommendations of the report in one way or the other. Only RSS-BJP has opposed it. But AAP has still not issued any comment on that report. Therefore, one may assume that AAP sides with the BJP on this count. The Sachar Committee report records the pathetic state of Muslims in the country and seeks their empowerment by suggesting some immediate measures. The Ford Foundation sponsored AAP’s leadership, including Kejriwal, never speak a word against the neo-imperialism conducted from the American-Israel axis.
It is astonishing that the secularists consider Kejriwal to be their card against Modi, when he has never said a word against Modi. It will be interesting to see what decision the Muslim public takes with regard to AAP which has pushed back the real socialist and secularist forces and is continually hobnobbing with the neoliberal-communal nexus!

Dr. Prem Singh, a former fellow, IIAS, Shimla, teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is general secretary of Socialist Party (India).    

Comment Prof. Anil Sadgopal


Dear Dr. Prem Singh,
You deserve kudos on your article ‘Will the Muslims become a vote bank for AAP?’ for four special reasons.First, you rightly identified AAP as a direct ‘product’ of neo-liberalism while most of the mainstream political parties have become agents of neo-liberalism, whether out of choice or compulsion. I have been saying this since the birth of AAP (indeed, since the inception of IAC of Anna and Kejriwal) but this is the first time I have seen this in written form, though others, too, must have pointed this out. This is precisely why AAP arrogates itself as a party without either a theory or a vision and projects its ‘Solution-Oriented’ political agenda, just like a corporate consultant giant or Ford Foundation would do. Prof. Prabhat Patnaik has recently dwelt upon this matter of AAP’s political preference to be theory-less and vision-less in his powerful piece appropriately entitled, ‘Rule by Messiahs’ (8th Jan 2014). Second, you have correctly linked neo-liberalism with the rapid rise of communalism in India from 1980s onwards. If you investigate this linkage further, you will find that this linkage has a much deeper philosophical and epistemic basis, not just a strategic one. It will be a fallacy in politics today for a political party to say that it is fighting against communalism but has no problem with neo-liberal assault on India and vice versa This principle holds true not just for AAP but also for others too.

Third, you have done a great service to the country by underlining that since IAC was “RSS-backed anti-corruption movement, AAP has had a large number of neo-liberal and communal elements.” Although this fact has been widely known but, for reasons best known to the corporate-controlled media, it have never been allowed become a widely acknowledged public knowledge in assessing the socio-political character of AAP. I have myself witnessed in Bhopal how IAC campaign was not only mobilized by RSS but effectively utilized to project its communal ideology. However, the real tragedy was (and is) not that RSS did this to pursue its own agenda but that progressive intellectuals and activists failed to understand (or feigned not to understand) this and joined IAC/AAP for their own questionable purposes.

Fourth, you provided concrete examples of how AAP is playing the same ‘vote bank’ politics by pursuing both communal and casteist agenda as most of the mainstream political parties are inclined to do. AAP’s pursuit of Jat vote bank in Haryana or its silence on Muzaffarnagar communal politics are telling examples of AAP’s forthcoming agenda. The latest episode of AAP’s law minister leading a vigilante group, taking law in its hand, and not only violating the democratic rights and dignity of African women but also making racist remarks should come as no surprise to anyone. All this was done in the name of the ‘local people’ which should be a warning signal about AAP’s ideas of devolution of power to mohalla samitis by misconceiving Gandhi’s transformative vision of Swaraj. All this must not be viewed only as a caution to the muslim intelligentsia and leadership alone but to all concerned sections of society in order to save India from both neo-liberal and communal attack now camouflaged under various garbs – be it the Gujarat Model, anti-corruption ‘drama’, identity politics or ‘Youth Being Better than the Old’ prescription.

In solidarity,

Anil Sadgopal

Comment Dr. Madhu Prasad

Dear prem singhji - what a relief to read your article, when so many on `our side' seem to have out-sourced their struggle to AAP. 
Neoliberal corporations and the media funded and controlled by them have played a very significant role in undermining public confidence in india's democratic institutions - not just political parties and politicians, but even parliament, electoral politics, and even governance with `due process' and the judiciary. That has created the space for the creation and support of a `movement' and its leadership that has no declared perspective or goals but has provided justification for vigilante methods of political practice. It will easily fit into the practices of RSS/parivar, MNS, moral policing upstarts, and other such communal/ fascist elements, although some who should know better think that there can be a tactical if not strategic opposition between them which can be used to the advantage of secular forces or communally targeted communities, castes and social groups like women, gays etc.
If we lookback to the history of latin America this is exactly how powerful peasants and workers parties and movements were destroyed so the it could be stripped by multinational corporations of its people's wealth and assets. The convergence of fascist forces with this agenda is too well recorded to be ignored.
Madhu Prasad
Secretary, AIFRTE

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