MIM, Muslim vote & secular parties

MIM, Muslim vote & secular parties

The visit of BJP president to Telangana on September 17, the day on which the erstwhile Hyderabad State was liberated from the clutches of autocratic Nizam rule sparked off firecrackers between the TRS and the BJP. The ruling TRS always had a different take on the history of Hyderabad, especially the rule of Nizam. 

The visit of BJP president to Telangana on September 17, the day on which the erstwhile Hyderabad State was liberated from the clutches of autocratic Nizam rule sparked off firecrackers between the TRS and the BJP. The ruling TRS always had a different take on the history of Hyderabad, especially the rule of Nizam.

The party even from the days of the movement for separate State had no inhibitions in praising Nizam’s administration. Such an understanding of Nizam’s rule and its feudal dispensation is contrary to the popular conviction of the people of Telangana .However, this view is more strategic, rooted in politics than history. Therefore, Amit Shah’s reference to the MIM and its leaders Owaisis to hit back at KCR is contextual.

Notwithstanding the fact that the TRS and the MIM fought the GHMC polls separately and in a couple of constituencies, there was even a keen contest between them, it’s an open secret that the TRS has some sort of unwritten understanding with the MIM. At least, this linkage is to the extent of not antagonising MIM. The government and the party in power would do nothing that would rub the Owaisis on the wrong way.

But, the TRS alone cannot be accused of hatching such a covert deal with the MIM. The Congress for a long time cherished the undeclared alliance with the MIM. The relationship between the secular parties in power and the MIM that represents a politico-religious mobilisation of Muslims kept the fortress of Owaisis impregnable.

This trade-off was a win-win situation. Now and then, the MIM attempts to make inroads into the interior areas of the State. Thus is the carrot and stick politics of MIM with the parties in power. The secular parties continue to play this game while in power as such bonhomie with the MIM in Hyderabad had no political ramifications for them elsewhere.

This is also more due to the fact that the MIM influence was more or less confined to few pockets, largely the capital city. Quite unfortunately, secular parties which accuse the BJP of majoritarian communalism do not feel uncomfortable to be in the company of politico-religious formations caliming to represent the minorities. Such brazen appeasement of minority politics is discrediting the brand of secularism.

It gives credence to the BJP’s accusation that these secular parties are in fact pseudo-secular. This is not to adjudicate on BJP’s characterisation of secular parties. But, the fact remains that if religion-based political mobilisation is anathema to democracy, it is equally true with both majority and minority communalism.

At times, given the global context of rising Islamic fundamentalism, minority appeasement and minority communalism is more dangerous too. The majority and the minority fundamentalism breed on each other. Therefore aligning with minority politics would defeat secular parties’ resolve to frustrate majoritarian theocratic politics. For narrow political aggrandisement, the opportunistic politics are tearing apart the secular fabric of Indian society and politics.

Emboldened by the secular politics of chicken heartedness, the MIM leadership has embarked upon a national mission to spread its wings across India posing a challenge to the secular parties which nourish MIM in its bosom for local advantage. The Congress experience with the MIM in the fray in Maharashtra illustrates this phenomenon.

Barring Kerala and Assam, the Muslim vote is fragmented. It primarily goes to secular parties that have the potential to resist the BJP juggernaut. Mulayam in Uttar Pradesh and Lalu-Nitish in Bihar are such principal beneficiaries of Muslim vote-bank politics. Such parties many a time successfully tried to forge a formidable alliance of Muslims and marginalised Hindu communities that became politically conscious in the post-Mandal era.

Given the absence of a pan-Indian Muslim political outfit, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is nursing national political ambitions. Though , it has ‘All India’ in its party name, never in the past did it seriously attempt for a national presence beyond Hyderabad Old City and some pockets in Telangana where there is a sizable presence of Muslim population. Before that it could penetrate into a few pockets of erstwhile Hyderabad State, which now constitute parts of Maharashtra.

A noteworthy breakthrough for MIM came in Maharashtra assembly polls in 2014. It contested 24 seats and won two, one each in Mumbai and Aurangabad district. The Electoral performance of MIM was better than that of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) which won only one seat. Interestingly, the MIM candidates were runners-up in three other constituencies and came third in another eight constituencies.

The pre-independent Indian politics saw the consolidation of Muslims under the banner of All-India Muslim League, thanks to the British politics of divide-and-rule through separate electorates. But, the partition of India and emergence of Pakistan has made the Muslim League politics redundant, confining the name to Kerala alone.

Since then, no other Muslim party could show a pan-Indian presence. But, the MIM leadership, perhaps, is confident that the surge of BJP would give it an opportunity to rally a largish chunk of 17.2 crore politically bitty Indian Muslims. For first few decades after independence, the Congress was the sole beneficiary of scattered Muslim vote as it was viewed as a formidable secular political force having solid all India presence that can successfully thwart the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and subsequently the BJP onslaught.

But, the demolition of the controversial Babri Masjid severely dented the secular credentials of Congress. Mired in a cavalcade of corruption scandals and with elitist economic policies, it got further alienated from the people and Muslims were no exception. Thus, the alternate regional parties and smaller parties dominating the political space in the respective States started garnering Muslim vote. But most of these parties at one point of time or other aligned with BJP. The likes of Mulayam, Nitish, Mamata, Chandrababu etc., are only a few examples.

The bleak prospects of national revival of Congress and the faint heartedness of regional secular satraps to take on BJP have left Muslim voters leaderless. The MIM fortunes, if not its ambitions, stem out of this national political reality.

Like the Congress, even the regional political forces would be adversely hit if the MIM succeeds in surging ahead. The MIM suffered a break in Bihar after its impressive maiden show in Maharashtra. Still, its political ambitions cannot be brushed aside.

Amit Shah’s comments reflect the BJP’s electoral strategy in Telangana in the coming years. The demographic composition of Telangana is conducive for MIM’s advance. The earlier successes of MIM in places like Bhainsa in Adilabad district and Karimnagar only indicate this potential. Perhaps, the TRS or Congress had always resorted to politics of compromise with MIM to prevent its penetration beyond Hyderabad.

But, notable gains elsewhere in the country would certainly effect a change in the political strategy of MIM which would not hesitate to take on TRS head-on. The TRS may now reject BJP chief’s remarks. But, it cannot be oblivious to the emerging political milieu.

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