Apr 27, 2014, 04.57AM IST [ AJAZ ASHRAF ]
The media’s Johnnycome-latelies seem to have missed the significance of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) having as its members both Shazia Ilmi and Parveen Amanullah. Shazia’s brother-in-law Arif Mohd Khan, who’s several years senior to her, and Parveen’s father Syed Shahabuddin argued passionately from contrarian positions in the Great Muslim Personal Law Debate, which the Shah Bano case in 1986 triggered.
Is it only coincidental that the female kin of Shahabuddin and Khan chose to join AAP, as against mainstream political parties? Or does it symbolize the emergence of a new political consciousness in the Muslim community , a stirring to find liberation from the shackles of old ideas and parties?
The Johnny-come-lately will not think of these questions because he is too busy discerning signs of Muslim consolidation, and the community’s presumed obsession with religious identity that ostensibly dissolves all internal differences. To create this myth, it is imperative for him to gloss over contrarianevidence.
But it isn’t just the Muslims who are subjected to vacuous media representations. You hear of Dalit consolidation, OBC consolidation , and, occasionally, even Jat consolidation. But you never read about upper caste consolidation, presumably because their wisdom is nonpareil, inevitably inclining them to choose the nation over their selfserving group interests. In this narrative, only upper castes make rational voting decisions. The others ride their primordial passions to the polling booth.
Anecdotal accounts and statistical evidence, however, suggest a complex picture. Till the time the JD (U)-BJP alliance was intact, chief minister Nitish Kumar was praised lavishly for his governance. At the collapse of the JD (U)-BJP alliance last year, he was promptly portrayed a weakling , this image bolstered by a rash of communal incidents occurring in a state which had been relatively free of the menace in recent times. Oh, do not ask about the motives of those who masterminded these skirmishes!
Pore over the 2009 National Election Study, which the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies (CSDS) carried out. It shows 44% of upper castes voted the NDA, down by 9 % from 2004, but the BJP’s decline was just 4%. The UPA bagged 33% of their votes, the Left 10%, the BSP 3%, and Others, a category comprising parties neither in the UPA nor the NDA, 12%. In the 1999 elections, the BJP alone bagged nearly 50% of upper caste votes. Can’t Johnny perceive an upper caste consolidation?
But the incidence of consolidation is far more among other groups, Johnny will rebuke. The same CSDS study shows 31% of upper OBCs voted the UPA, 27% the NDA, 3% the BSP, 2% the Left, and 37% Others. Take the Dalits, of whom 34% voted the UPA, 15% the NDA, 11% the Left, 21% the BSP, and 20% Others. As for those jaahil Muslims, some 47% voted the UPA, of which the Congress bagged 38%, 6% the NDA, 12 % the Left, 6% the BSP, and 29% Others.
This statistical evidence tells a few things. One, other social groups boast as diverse a voting pattern, if not more, as existing among upper castes. Two, voting patterns among all social groups fluctuate over elections. Three, every social group is strongly inclined towards one or two parties which it believes represents its interests.
The tendency to search for Muslim consolidation dates back to the Mandir-Mandal politics, which saw upper castes in significant numbers desert the Congress for the BJP. But their heft was diminished because Muslims and Dalits, who had sustained Congress domination for decades, didn’t follow them into the BJP. The myth of Muslim consolidation helps spawn mobilisation of Hindus to offset the numerical disadvantage of upper castes, among whom the BJP is most favoured.
True, Muslims vote tactically in every constituency to vanquish the BJP.
But, really, you can’t pursue Hindutva politics, and expect Muslims to endorse what menaces them, for masochism can’t be a community trait. But ask Johnny: Why does he consider the support of upper castes for the BJP secular, but that of Muslims for any party communal?
This piece too stereotypes upper castes, many of whom are formidable opponents of the identity politics. I apologise to them. But please tell Johnny that we the Muslims, we the Dalits, we the OBCs, we the XYZ too find stories of community consolidation deeply insulting to our intelligence. Sirji , zara sochiye about your theory.