KMMA Begins Pre-Poll Exercise

Enrolment in voters’ list was emphasized. Concern expressed over purchase of voters ID cards by vested interest prior to polling day.

with the elections to the Karnataka Assembly approaching, the Karnataka Muslim Muttahida Mahaz (KMMA) began its exercise to
influence the Muslim voting pattern with its first conclave held on October 20. The elections are due in the state around April-
May 2013. Setting the tone for the conclave, Mr. Syed Tanveer Ahmed, secretary KMMA, said the voters’ demography suggests
that Muslims could influence the election outcome in at least 70 of 224 Assembly constituencies in the State. Quoting studies
to this effect he said, Muslim voters constitute between 40 to 50 per cent in seven constituencies. Here a Muslim candidate can easily win the seat. These are: Mangalore 50%; Pulikeshinagar (old Frazer town area of Bangalore Cantt.) 49%; Bijapur 47%; Narasimharaja
(Mysore city) 44%; Sarvaganana Nagar 44%; Chamrajapet (in Bangalore city) 43%; Gulbarga 49.7%. Of these only four are currently represented by Muslims. Pulikeshinagar has been reserved for the Scheduled Castes. The BJP won the Bijapur seat as two secular parties put up Muslim candidates and divided the Muslim votes in 2008 elections. The second category has 12 Assembly segments where Muslims make up between 25 to 30 per cent of the electorate. Muslim candidates can win with good deal of effort. These
are Kudachi, Belgaum Uttara, Humnabad in Bidar district, Raichur city, Bidar, Shiggaon in Dharwar district, Kolar, Hebbal and Shivajinagar (both in Bangalore city), Jayanagar, Ramanagram (close to Bangalore) and Bidar South. Of these Muslims could win only in four places. Four of these went to BJP in 2008. A third category of seats is where Muslims constitute between 20 and 25 per cent of voters. Here they are the largest community and if their votes are tilted solidly in favour of any secular candidate, he is likely to sail
through. These are: Raibagh (SC reserved), Chincholi, Sirsi, Davangere, Shimoga and Tumkur. A fourth category of 30 Assembly segments is where Muslims constitute between 15 to 20 per cent and can influence the trend in favour of a particular candidate. Of these, 20 elected BJP MLAs in 2008 Assembly election. Of the remaining 10, five each were shared between the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular. Mr. Tanveer said so far the largest number of Muslim MLAs i.e., 16 were elected in 1978 when the Congress
ruled the roost in Karnataka. Mr. Tanveer emphasized that at grassroots level, the Muslim organizations should enroll Muslim voters, encourage Muslim youth to enter politics  and talk to the political parties to include programme aimed at socio-economic betterment
of the community. He said currently Muslims were highly under-represented at every level. He said there were only 11 Muslim MLAs in the state and among 32,000 members of the taluka panchayath, only 84 were Muslims, which works out to merely two per cent.

Mr. Atharullah Sharief, convener said, the Mahaz would work for the success of candidates of the parties committed to secularism
even while striving to enhance the Muslim representation in the Assembly. He said the Mahaz was for empowering the Muslim in every which way it is possible and would not like communal forces to get political ascendancy in the state. Mr. K. Rahman Khan, MP who
put up a brief appearance, said the Muslim political workers should help Muslims to enroll as voters. Sometimes the list
at the booth is different from what has been issued earlier as manipulation is done by the local functionaries among the
Election staff. He said Muslims can either win or influence in 40 odd segments in the state. He said there was need to dialogue with political parties where Muslims constitute 15 to 20 per cent of electorate. The dialogue should be taken up at the stage drawing the political strategy and persons or leaders should be identified in whom the Muslim repose confidence. It is also crucial that contest is
avoided between two Muslim candidates from secular parties in segments where the community has more numbers in order to
ensure fair representation for the community members. Veteran Congressman Jaffer Sharief spoke some home truths. Reflecting on his unbroken record of seven wins, he said, his first victory was from Kanakapura Lok Sabha seat (in the outskirts of Bangalore) where
Muslims were not sizeable. Later he was fielded constantly from Bangalore North where he defeated three brothers, George Fernandes, Michael Fernandes and Lawrence Fernandes in successive elections and later Syed Shahabuddin from Delhi. He said it was futile to think that one can win only with Muslim votes and said it is necessary that Muslims reached out to other communities and social groups. This needs a paradigm shift and Muslim politicians would require to work for cementing their ties with love and harmony.
He said the KMMA has been issuing mere certificate of  support to supposedly secular candidates. “But have you checked as to how they behave during their legislative career”, he questioned. He said pluralism was deeply embedded in the country’s bodypolitic. “You
can have a Muslim minister, but cannot ensure that the secretary and the clerk too would be a Muslim”, he reminded. Sharief said he (as the local MP) and a group of political activists went inside the RSS camp when it was held in Bangalore in 2003 and told them they were there to extend any assistance as they (RSS members) were their guests. This was a surprise for the RSS people who never expected any Muslim politician to come up with such offer. (He said in order to emphasise his point on building harmony and
removing prejudices) Mr. Roshan Baig MLA and Mr. Nisar Ahmed, a former MLA (from Kolar) asked the Mahaz not to issue support
certificate to candidates as people have begun to create duplicate certificate. Baig said the Mahaz should work to avoid clash between two Muslim candidates in a single constituency by bringing about a political understanding between political bosses or parties.

Mr. Maqbool Ahmed Siraj, journalist, said in order to expect commitment to secularism from others, we too need to check whether we
ourselves (Muslims) are seclar. He said diversity was deeply embedded in the Indian ethos and Muslims too have behaved in a highly partisan manner at certain times. He said younger generation among Muslims was too engrossed in narrow pieties and was totally oblivious of the history, sociology, law, Constitution and economy of the land which—and not the religion—play a dominant
role in statecraft. He said, electoral eve exercises would not empower the Muslims. It was necessary that the youth were trained by a series of workshops on political, and socio-economic issues. Several participants expressed concern over purchase of voters ID cards before elections in order to keep away the Muslim voters. MLAs Zameer Ahmed  and N. A. Harris, MLCs Naseer Ahmed and Mudeer Agha and several other political workers and leaders were seen at the conclave.

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