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  Opinion   Columnists  16 Mar 2017  Why some Muslims in UP put faith in Modi

Why some Muslims in UP put faith in Modi

The writer is a national spokesperson of the BJP
Published : Mar 16, 2017, 1:54 am IST
Updated : Mar 16, 2017, 6:35 am IST

The Muslim voters have spoken clearly. For the vote merchants, it’s now time to come face to face with their own irrelevance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)

The BJP sweep in Uttar Pradesh, that decimated every prevailing equation of caste, creed, gender and religion, and retained the voteshare of the 2014 general election, is not just a reaffirmation of the faith reposed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his unflinching commitment to work untiringly for all 125 crore Indians, whatever their faith or gender, it also spells a rejection of the “secular” formations — the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress — that have consistently demeaned and demonised the BJP for being exclusionary and anti-minority.

Repeated ad nauseum in TV studios was that no Muslim was given a ticket by the BJP despite the minority community making up 18 per cent of the UP electorate. What was not said is that there aren’t enough Muslims who are electorally winnable as yet in the BJP.

Having joined the BJP in February 2014 before the general election, I was criticised. But now many, like me, also heed the growing voices within our community who believe that the clergy-instilled politics of isolation of the community from the ever-expanding BJP was wrong-headed.  The community has been used and abused by political touts, vote merchants and self-appointed clerics whose only claim to fame was the access they had to powerbrokers like Samajwadi bigwig Azam Khan and his cronies, and earlier to Naseemuddin Siddiqui and his cohorts.

The plight of the average citizen, irrespective of his religion, was deplorable. Targeted by partisan, politicised police forces, and wrongly accused of land-grabbing, loot and rape, they were forced to turn to the SP’s questionable leaders like Azam Khan, whose durbar of semi-literate cronies had been allowed to hijack the UP Minority Commission, minority finance bodies that were meant to address community issues. The SP rulers turned a blind eye to rampant corruption and nepotism. Even Mulayam Singh Yadav admitted that SP leaders and cadres were openly preying on voters by doing “thana ki thekedaari”. Unused funds of various Central schemes like MSDP were allowed to lapse. No action was ever taken on the `30,000 crores worth of waqf land that belonged to the community which was usurped. Self-appointed vote merchants like Imam Bukhari and other fatwa-spewing clerics were allowed to pursue their personal agenda.

These “vote merchants” who enjoyed the SP largesse while it lasted, and switched over to the BSP for this election, found that their openly communal endorsements and fatwa-like diktats to vote were rebuffed by the very audience it was intended for. Smarter than canny clerics, the promise of an accountable clean government based on non-discrimination and equal opportunity saw a sizeable section of Muslim voters turn a deaf ear to the communal clarion of both the SP and BSP.

Getting basics like the bijli, sadak, paani and good governance right, rather than religion-based appeals, matters more to everyone eventually. The PM in his victory speech emphasised that irrespective of voting preferences, the UP BJP government would work for all the 20 crore residents of UP.

The Muslim community has come to see this defining election as a much-needed opening where it can finally hold elected leaders accountable for governance and timely delivery of services. Getting rid of these vote merchants and powerbrokers was no easy task. The message is clear — the Indian Muslim will no longer allow his identity as an Indian and as a Muslim to be subsumed. The clergy’s role, they feel, should be limited to overseeing religious practices. The Indian Muslim wants to reclaim the aspirational, democratic voice enshrined by the Constitution that sees him as an equal. For this, it is imperative that we, as a community, end the reign of bigoted, misogynistic, gender-throttling, self-anointed leaders.

Every scheme of the Narendra Modi government, from Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, and common services under Digital India are caste and religion-neutral. Yet every scheme of the Central government was opposed. In this election, the voter destroyed the very Opposition whose obstructive strategy thus simply backfired.

Communities in villages and towns, majority or minority, are intrinsically intertwined by common aspirations. It is the poor in these communities who have been short-changed, repeatedly, by the systematic appeasement of the powerbrokers. Therein lies the immense responsibility of this huge mandate, a challenge that must be addressed by the incoming BJP government.

Having consigned the rabble rousers to political rubble, Muslim voters saw leaders like Bukhari, Asaduddin Owaisi and his ilk for what they are — men who create a fear psychosis that Islam is in danger, who put it about that minority rights enshrined in our Constitution will be snatched away, creating an insidious incendiary climate to reap a communally-tinged political windfall during the elections; all, in a bid to garner personal benefits of power, using the entire minority voter base as cannon fodder.

A younger, aspirational and gender-neutral emerging polity is eager for jobs and education to change the narrow isolationist narrative that these vote merchants espoused. The final challenge before us is to ensure that the Muslim Personal Law Board comes forward and address issues like gender disparity. Rather than fear the emergence of Muslim feminist voices that they believe — wrongly — would make them socially and politically irrelevant and threaten male Muslim privileges, they must see the change that has been wrought by the daughters of top clerics who have been educated in modern schools and colleges. The choice before the women of the community — to remain behind the veil, within the four walls of their homes, or become equal members of society — must be left to the women.

The Muslim voters have spoken clearly. For the vote merchants, it’s now time to come face to face with their own irrelevance.

Tags: prime minister narendra modi, muslim, azam khan