Friday, September 2, 2011

Anna and Muslims By Kingshuk Nag - Times of India Blogs


Anna and Muslims

30 August 2011, 07:29 PM IST

In a symbolic gesture, Anna Hazare broke his fast with coconut water offered to him by a young Muslim and a Dalit girl. This was even as on the last day matinee star Aamir Khan made an appearance on the stage at Ramlila Maidan. These gestures point out that the message has gone loud and clear to Team Anna that no civil society movement in India of today can be successful without the support of Muslims and other minorities. And that these sections were missing from the milling crowds who had congregated.
Although Anna has been victorious, his further advance in bringing in the civil society offensive to curb corruption can be seriously jeopardized without the support of Muslims and in fact all other sections of the minorities.

Though he changed track later, Anna’s earlier message applauding the economic progress initiated by the Modi administration, did nothing to – to put it mildly -commend him to Muslims. And with claims being made by right wingers that ‘at least’ 10 per cent of the janata that came to Ramlila ground were RSS men, Muslims are feeling rather uneasy. This disquiet was reflected by the Majlis-e-Ittehadul –Muslimeen (MIM) MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi who publicly voiced his concern about the methods of Anna. With many right wing representatives claiming an even more prominent role for themselves now, this minority concern will get only accentuated.

If this civil society movement against corruption had happened (say) a decade or more ago, Team Anna could have possibly safely ignored what minority representatives like Owaisi are saying. But a lot of water has passed through the Ganga, Jamuna, Krishna and Godavari since then. The “minority vote” which was divided then has now become consolidated. The minorities now vote for a formation that is perceived as not being anti – minority. This concern overrides other considerations. For example, a formation that is likely to deliver higher growth in all probability will be abandoned in favour of a dispensation that is not anti-minority. In other words, security considerations are of paramount concern to Muslims and all minorities. It’s an existential issue for them.

Strange that it may seem, the credit for consolidating the Muslim and other minority vote goes to Narendra Modi. This gentleman set out to consolidate the Hindu vote, but his policies (to put in rather tamely) had the effect of consolidating the anti-Hindu vote and the minority vote. The biggest beneficiary of his continuance is not the BJP, as is generally perceived, but the Congress party. The Congress came to power in 2004 riding on the wave of a consolidated minority vote which evicted anyone connected with the Modi regime. A good example of this is the builder of modern Hyderabad Chandrababu Naidu who was evicted lock, stock and barrel as he was part of the NDA combine – one of whose chief ministers was Modi. Of course, other reasons were also responsible but the role of the minority vote in ousting him cannot be overestimated.

The Congress party also understood the utility of Modi and allowed him to continue in office though his fan following (assiduously built on stories of his administrative prowess, real or perceived) increased among the middle classes of India. In fact again in the 2009 general elections the Congress took advantage of the consolidation of minority votes to come to power. It is possible that this belief that the minority vote will be perpetually with them has given so much overconfidence to the Congress led coalition that they threw caution to the wind. In turn, this has led to corruption of the sort seen in the last few months and which is unparalleled in the history of Independent India. Of course this was ultimately responsible to emergence of Anna Hazare as a potent force.

The minority vote is so important now because of our electoral system. As per the first past the post system, anybody who gets the maximum number of votes gets elected. In a multi cornered contest this could be as less than 20 per cent. This translates nationwide in often electing governments at the Centre with between 25 -30 per cent votes cast in their support. Safely it can be asserted that in multi polar polity like ours any party which garners 30 per cent of the votes polled can safely come to power. It was earlier less, but now the minorities aggregate to 15 per cent of the votes – with Muslims constituting12.5 per cent. This means that any party that can be sure of minority votes can be assured of getting almost half of the votes required to come to power. This is a head start over other rivals. Though Team Anna is not standing for elections, they would do well to devise strategies which appeal to the minorities and make them part of this civil society movement.

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