Just as one does not live by bread alone, the empowerment does not come merely through ballot box. A whole lot of prerequisites go into empowering a people. The Muslims who wake up at the eve of polls, discover that the groups who enjoy or wield power mobilise and manipulate public opinion elections through so many levers. These levers may be media, banks, industry, trade, social institutions, research and marketing agencies, lobbies, bureaucracy, and even some other centres of authority whose naming here may invite their wrath. How do they assist their favoured parties? The media acts favourably, projects their statements, makes their leaders known through constant visual display of the personalities, lampooning and demonising their critics and demoralising their supporters etc. Bureaucracy assists them by preparing favourable social composition of voters in large number of constituencies and gerrymandering (dividing) the constituencies where their opponents are likely to get most of their votes and diluting their decisive nature. Trade and industry pump in the much needed moolah and in turn assure their own post-poll benefit from the politicians thus helped. Social institutions lend them a helping hand by offering their vast premises, ideal advertisement spaces, quiet lobbying with their members etc. The research and marketing agencies chip in by artificially boosting their prospects through public opinion surveys. Their influence with police and home guards etc. enables them to have posting of “cooperative officers” etc. and even some extra constitutional measures.
Now Muslims need to look if they have any say in these permanent yet vital sectors of power which help the political parties to clinch a decisive victory in elections. Obviously not. It is therefore necessary to empower the community in all these sectors. Elections are a route to legislative empowerment which is temporary in nature and comes once in a while, though more frequently in recent years. But permanent power stays with the communities. This needs elaborate planning; setting up institutions, nurturing values, character and discipline through them, and above all a long-term vision and a world view. Unless this is done, the power through ballot cannot be sustained for long. The forces of social justice which twice in the last decade captured power, could neither exercise it nor hold it for long merely because they did not bother to develop all the accessories for it. Power always stayed with those who had elaborately carved a niche in the permanent sectors of power. Even though former prime minister V P Singh offered them such a big sop as reservation of some per cent of seats in government jobs and educational institutions, the personalities and parties representing the cause were systematically dismembered with being pitted against one another. Inasmuch as a decade later the most trenchant critics of Mandal opponents are helping the saffron camp in bulldozing the last of their power bastion. Undoubtedly, their own king-sized egos played the major role, but no less important was the role of the two uppercaste parties in smashing them into smithereens.
The Muslim minority in India would require to ponder over it. Indeed ‘one person, one vote’ principle applies to all. But those communities which wield power unify all those ‘one votes’ through this elaborate paraphernalia and hoodwink others into voting for their chosen candidates. Temporary power cannot be had unless the community gets a share in permanent power.