, by MOHAMMAD NAUSHAD KHAN
The political buzz in Uttar Pradesh witnessed dramatic turn after BJP’s posturing of Amit Shah and gross dereliction of duty on the part of Samajwadi Party government in controlling Muzaffarnagar riots and needleless to say ill treatment and humiliation of riot victims. The vicious atmosphere created on the ground particularly after the Muzaffarnagar riots has to a great extent polarised and polluted the Ganga Jamuni culture. The BJP wants to capitalise on this polarisation. Under the given, opportunistic polity and ambiguous political scenario, Muslims are more perplexed than ever before.
After having realised numerical strength and political influence of Muslims in the state, all major stakeholders are trying to woo the community because the outcome of Uttar Pradesh will have its impact on the post-poll scenario for any party to reach the magic figure. Either in Assembly or in Lok Sabha polls Muslims have the weight to impact the outcome of the poll to a reasonable extent. A comparison of the number of seats in which Muslims can exert their influence in Assembly or Lok Sabha polls will elucidate the kind of political strength they have if they vote tactically keeping all the factors and their impact on the national polity.
It is true, Samajwadi Party, even after getting the lion’s share of Muslim votes in the last Assembly elections, failed to reciprocate the sentiments and the kind of support they had got from Muslims. The representation of Muslims in 2012 Assembly elections was 17 per cent, much closer to their population percentage. In the last Assembly elections the number of Muslim MLAs elected were all time high. Of the total 68 Muslim MLAs 42 were elected on SP tickets, 16 from Bahujan Samaj Party, 4 from Congress, 4 from Peace Party, 2 from Qaumi Ekta Dal and one got elected from Ittihade Millat Council. These figures amplify that though Muslims voted for SP in large numbers yet the Muslim votes got divided which is a matter of concern. Many believe Muslims will have to vote smartly for a decisive mandate. In UP, there are 16 Parliamentary constituencies where the percentage of Muslims is between 21 per cent and 50 per cent.
On Muslim representation front, Samajwadi Party’s role is satisfactory but on governance it has failed rather miserably. Approximately, Muslims are roughly 19-20 per cent and their vote share is almost 17 per cent. Out of 42 Muslims out of 224 SP MLAs there are 10 Muslim Ministers in the SP-led government. Very recently, the government has appointed three new Muslim ministers and for the first time UP got Muslim DGP, and the chief secretary is also a Muslim. Many believe all these recent recruitments are an attempt at damage control particularly after the Muzaffarnagar riots.
But the big question: even after good representation why they failed to exert pressure on the government to stop recurrence of riots at regular intervals. Why they failed to stop the government when riot victims were subjected to humiliation and when children were dying from severe cold in relief camps. In the last Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, it was for the first time that people from all castes and religions voted for the Samajwadi Party in large numbers but the party failed to hold that spirit.
The sharp increase in the incidents of communal violence reminds that both the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government have failed on the administrative front. As per new figures released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, there has been 30 per cent increase in communal violence as compared to last year. The Home Ministry, while replying to a question in Parliament on 5 February, said the total number of communal violence registered in 2013 was 823 as against 668 in 2012. In 2013, 133 people got killed and 2,269 were injured as compared to 94 killed and 2117 injured in 2012. Notably, Uttar Pradesh after having ruled by the self-proclaimed champion of minority cause has topped the index of communal violence as compared to other states. Uttar Pradesh registered 247 incidents in 2013 as compared to 118 incidents in 2012. The figure of Bihar was 63 cases in 2013 against 21 in 2012. Gujarat registered 68 incidents in 2013 as compared to 57 in 2012. Tamil Nadu witnessed 36 incidents in 2013 against 14 in 2012 while Rajasthan recorded 52 incidents in 2013 as against 37 in 2012. Even these figures do not compel political parties to pass the Communal Violence Bill at the earliest because once again the bill has been mired in political logjam for no obvious reasons.
Of all these incidents, Muzaffarnagar riots can be dubbed a classic example of how three major political parties, SP, Congress and BJP played politics on the misery, death and agony of riot victims in particular and the people of the region in general. Samajwadi Party, instead of providing genuine helping hand, left the victims to die from cold. Some in the party even said that victims were people conspired to remain in camps by BJP and Congress, while on one occasion the party even made a mockery of riot victims by saying there are professional beggars, or the explanation of Siberia to justify their negligence when children were dying due to severe cold. The role played by the BJP and Congress is also questionable because BJP honoured their MLAs alleged to have added fuel to the fire during riots. On the other hand, Congress, instead of putting reasonable pressure on the state government, made the life of riot victims more miserable by saying that Pakistan’s ISI had met some of the riot victims. This very allegation has been denied by Minister of State for Home RP Singh by saying that as per information from Central intelligence agency there is no input to claim that the riot victims were in touch with the Pakistan’s ISI.
Now, it becomes crystal clear as to what the role of political parties was during and after the Muzaffarnagar riots. Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, IBN 18 network has said in his article in The Hindustan Times on 7 February: Let’s be clear: no riot takes place without either the incompetence or complicity or both of the regime in power. No riot also takes place without one group using its numerical majority to ‘settle scores’ real or imaginary. The Samajwadi Party seems to have erred on both fronts: security and development because as per available reports of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, of the total money Rs 12,000 crore sanctioned for MPLAD funds for the 15th Lok Sabha members Rs 2,500 crore remain unspent. Surprisingly, Uttar Pradesh which has the maximum number of members has so far failed to utilise Rs 332 crore. Is it good governance? Issue-based politics must supersede caste and religion at the earliest so that political parties can find it difficult to manipulate people by exploiting caste and religion.
Muslims of Uttar Pradesh are certainly in catch-22 situation and groping in the dark as to who is the most suitable party for them or rather which party will hurt them less or help them more. The findings of Sachar Committee Report on the plight of Muslims across India suggests that none of the existing parties either in States or at the Central level have worked to uplift Muslims so that the latter can walk in line with the same pace as compared to others in all walks of life. But since they are not politically strong enough to form government on their own, they will have to rely on others or vote for one or the other anticipating that this time the party they decide to support would prove to be better than the previous one.
Muzaffarnagar riots have exposed the uncanny love of secular parties for the minorities. Then what lies ahead for them is to be pondered upon because sometimes even a strong opposition is far better than the government in power. Feeble opposition at the Centre and in States sometimes creates space for other parties to rise up and be counted. For Muslims, the upcoming Lok Sabha polls provides an opportunity to contemplate and think twice before they vote because the Indian polity is changing very fast and the need of the hour is to catch it up at the earliest before it is too late.
In Uttar Pradesh, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, applicants aspiring to contest elections are pouring in and it seems there is a rush to get tickets of their choice. So far, for the total 80 parliamentary seats AAP has received 1,365 applications of those willing to fight elections mainly from urban constituencies which are even higher than those received by Congress and the BJP in the State. The BJP has received 1200 applications while the Congress has claimed it has got more than one thousand applications. It is now for people to read which direction the political wind is blowing and what could be its fallout on the overall figures after the elections.