Pandering to minority communalism for votes is sheer cynical
opportunism. Both Congress and the Left are guilty of it.
The mad race by so-called secular
parties to grab the Muslim vote-bank is resulting in absurd situations. In
Kerala, for instance, Hindus, who constitute 56 per cent of the State
population, have been reduced to a minority in the State’s Cabinet, following
the recent addition of a Muslim member to the Council of Ministers.
Recently, the leader of the
ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front gave in to the Muslim League’s
pressure, just as the party has done before, and allowed the League an
additional Minister over the four they already had. Consequently, there are now
six Muslim Ministers, including one from the Congress. Chief Minister Oomen
Chandy is a Christian.
For over a year, the Congress had
been resisting the League’s demand to grab the fifth Cabinet position. But the
party suffered considerable erosion of its representation in the UDF, as the
Muslim League and the Christian parties got almost all their candidates elected
in last year’s Assembly polls that saw the Marxist led-LDF ousted from power.
The UDF’s majority is slim and
this has made the leading parties in the ruling coalition cautious. The League
had stuck to its demand for five Ministers (all Cabinet rank) right from the
start. As part of the UPA at the Centre, the League already has representation
at the level of Minister of State, with senior leader E Ahamed as
Minister of State for External Affairs.
The capitulation by the Congress
to the League’s demand after some initial resistance exposes the growing power
of the Muslim community — now placed firmly behind the Muslim League in Kerala
politics. Several decades ago, Jawaharlal Nehru had proclaimed that the Muslim
League was a “dead horse”. Today, the growing clout, both economic and
political, of the party in Kerala, has made it a dominant constituent of the
State’s ruling coalition. The rise of the Muslim community has in effect been
facilitated by its partnership with the Congress in the UDF.
The national context in which the
Congress has been looking for opportunities to appease the minority communities
to retain them their vote-bank has also helped the League. As a UDF partner,
the League has forced the imposition of Arabic as a second language which is
compulsorily taught in all schools, even when a handful of students demand it.
Muslim leaders have also kept
close contact with political leaders in the Gulf countries. Often, they use
their religious affiliation to secure jobs and businesses in the Gulf in lieu
of votes from the beneficiaries. As a result, a majority of the 10 billion plus
dollars that come to Kerala have been benefitting the Muslim community alone,
and this is visible even to the casual visitor.
The Muslims League’s economic and
political clout has also led to extremist politics and the proliferation of
terror groups within that State. Earlier, the Marxist led-Left Democratic Front
sought to placate the community by turning a blind eye to extremism and even
supporting extremist organisations like the PDF of Abdul Nasser Madani,
who is now in jail in Karnataka for his role in bombing the Chinnaswamy
stadium. He is also suspected to be behind several other incendiary incidents
in Kerala. Yet, both the UDF and the LDF have shown great reluctance in
Today, terrorist outfit SIMI’s
newavatar, the Indian Mujahideen, is running riot in the
State. They are reportedly giving Gulf money to their well-groomed and heeled
young men, selected and trained by the IM. These young men then court girls
from other communities. This activity is known widely in the State as ‘lovejihad’.
To be fair, the Congress is not
the only party competing for the Muslim vote-bank. The Marxists have their eyes
on it too. Under the Marxist-led LDF’s rule, the police were informally ordered
to let extremism flourish. That is how the training camps set up by the IM were
allowed to function even after the police got wind of them. T Naseer, one of
the IM leaders and allegedly the man behind several terrorist activities, was
allowed to escape from police custody after he was caught from his hideout. He
was finally arrested by Bangladesh Police and handed over to the Indian
authorities. There are several instances of top Marxist leaders, including
CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and former Chief Minister VS
Achuthanandan having secret dealings with absconding criminals holed up in
Dubai. These were exposed by the media in the State, and led the party to
launch counter attacks against the newspapers, charging them with being CIA
It is interesting to note that,
in secular India a non-Hindu can be the Chief Minister of a Hindu majority
State. But a similar privilege is denied to a Hindu in a non-Hindu majority
State. Take, for instance, Jammu & Kashmir, where there is a substantial
Hindu population in the Jammu region and a Buddhist population in the Ladakh
region. Yet, no non-Muslim can ever hope to become Chief Minister of the State.
It is the same story in the Christian-dominated States of Meghalaya, Nagaland
The recent Assembly election in
Uttar Pradesh has exposed the competition among different, ‘secular’ parties
for the Muslim vote-bank. Even before the garlands around newly elected Uttar
Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has wilted, he has come under pressure
from the Muslim clerics for their share of the electoral booty. This is evident
in the tussle between the party’s powerful Muslim face, Mr Azam Khan, and the
Delhi-based Muslim cleric, Shahi Imam Bukhari.
The political drama between the
Marxists and the Congress, competing for the Muslim vote-bank, has been
repeated in West Bengal also. During the Marxist rule, the Bengali author from
Dhaka, Taslima Nasreen, was hounded out of Kolkata. We are also familiar with
the Congress’s dubious role in the Salman Rushdie episode that led the author
to abort his visit to the Jaipur Literary festival held at the same time that
the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election was on.
Now West Bengal Chief Minister
Mamata Banerjee is also in the queue to play this vote-bank politics. Recently,
her Government organised a massive conference of Imams in Kolkata, where she
announced monthly stipends for them to be paid from Government funds.
In Tamil Nadu, it is public
knowledge that Government power is used by both the DMK and its political
rival, the AIADMK, to confiscate temple funds and positions, and then use them
for promoting their brand image.
This is the type of secularism
that India must now suffer, with the Congress taking the lead. Against this
brand of so-called secularism, how does one define rank communalism? Are the
two any different?