Nothing perhaps typifies the dilemma dogging Muslims in India than the prevailing political situation. Muslims along with their fellow countrymen would be choosing their rulers in an election in which the choices have severely shrunk in terms of ideology, candidates and parties. And even the two choices, namely the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress(I) which has no allies on the national level at the moment, in all probability will stitch a post-poll coalition, with few sharper lines of distinction.
Choices are difficult because ideology has taken a back seat. The line dividing the secular and the communal has practically vanished. The BJP-led alliance has several regional parties within itself that have consistently professed and even practised secularism. Their opposition against the Congress(I) has made them opt for the NDA. Level of communal violence has come down in the post-Bombay blast era. Even the BJP era was remarkably free of communal violence, though the Christian minority was targetted in selected pockets. But a more sinister plan of communalising the syllabus of schools, research institutions and saffronising vital institutions was put into action. The venomous harvest would be available after a few years when hate will pour out of every such source that was supposed to provide light.
As for pro-poor policies, all have pursued the IMF and World Bank dictates during their past tenure earlier in the decade. Even the so-called champions of swadeshi have sold themselves to videshi lobby, as is evident from the telecom scandal. Corruption is all pervasive and the ease with which the two combines have vied with each other in embracing AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, their commitment to give a corruption-free government is all but apparent. All through the tenure, the BJP-led coalition was prostrating before the ‘queen of corruption’ of Poes Garden to gain longevity. So much for the debate on the ideological front!
But then some issues of course demand attention. The BJP-led government is trying to appropriate the credit for the Kargil victory. What we need to look into is was it indeed a victory? We merely recaptured the hilly terrain which was captured stealthily by the intruders from across the border. And at the cost of huge loss of lives and psychological torpor of the nation! The voters need not be hoodwinked into voting a totally inefficient coalition back into power. Moreover, it will be foolish for the countrymen to bargain a five-year mandate for an inefficient, shaky coalition of opportunist elements that are displaying dubious patriotic wares and trying to take the credit for the victory of our jawans in Kargil.
It’s hard to deny the fact that some obvious changes have taken place in the nation’s political complexion. The Congress(I) has reasserted itself as a secular force and cast aside several of those communal and inept leaders who distorted the party’s secular character by allowing the Babri Masjid to be demolished and remaining indifferent to the communal hysteria created by the fascist forces. The Left front, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the various shades of Republican Parties are all likely to support the party. However, the Congress has paid a heavy price by suffering a split in the key state of Maharashtra. It is a reward for undemocratic functioning of the party where leaders with considerable political bases were humiliated by keeping them away from important positions. But it could be only hoped that the Congress would now do some soul-searching on its attitude towards the ideological foundations of the nation and not allow pogroms of Muslims merely to negate the Sangh Parivar’s canard of appeasement of minorities.
The emerging bipolarity leaves out little choice for Muslims. However, they will be well advised to opt for tactical voting by carefully choosing the candidates in individual constituencies. The criteria again would be one of choosing parties or candidates that would ensure rule of the law and their winnability. We are deliberately choosing “rule of the law” and not secularism because the former adequately covers all the citizens. The Indian constitution is based on the principle of equality for all and discrimination for none. Secondly, several candidates espousing the cause of secularism against a single candidate from communal and fascist parties is also likely to confuse the voters. It is therefore desirable that the media and lobby organisations pinpoint such candidates before the polls by assessing their winnability. While a considerable section of Muslims are genuinely perturbed over declining representation of the community in the legislatures, narrow considerations of caste and community must not colour their choice. What is of paramount importance at this hour is to ensure the defeat of communal forces that are indulging in characteristic double-speak on their hidden agenda and the opportunist allies who do not care for ideology.