We are witnessing one of the most hard-fought elections in West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee is facing a tough challenge from the BJP, which was non-existent in West Bengal politics a few years back. However, this article is not about the West Bengal election, this is about a phenomenon that can cause a major trouble in future.
There is an environment of anxieties in political circles over the threatened advances of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen party. He has tied up with a radical Muslim leader maulana of Furfura Sharif for fighting the forthcoming assembly election together.
Mamata Banerjee is also furious and worried about a potential impact on her votes due to Owaisi’s invasion in her political arena.
Owaisi is riding high on the good performance in recent Bihar elections, where his party won five assembly seats, in that election, Owaisi also gained a reputation of a pro-Muslim leader and a greater spoiler than a winner.
Owaisi has adopted a unique strategy from the last couple of years, where he is fighting the elections in almost every local election and he is gaining seats as well, look at what happened in Maharashtra, and then in Bihar. This is an alarming situation, as he is following the very footsteps of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
It doesn’t matter what Owaisi does in West Bengal elections, but his primary aim is the assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh in 2022. He is trying to repeat the similar Muslim polarization as happened during the provincial elections of 1937. After making gains in those elections, within three years Jinnah brought forth the Pakistan Resolution at Lahore, which ultimately became the reason for India’s partition.
If Owaisi achieves a create this big divide, then it will be a matter of grave concern for all the so called ‘secular’ political parties in the country. As most of the political parties including Congress consider themselves as the harbingers of Muslims welfare.
The Congress has always claimed that it represents the minorities (read Muslims) of Indian society. This has been so since the days of Gandhi and Nehru. Due to this image, the Muslims have been voting for Congress for six decades. Other political parties like NCP, TMC, AAP, TRS, etc are also implementing the same strategy to garner Muslim votes in their respective states.
However, Owaisi projects himself as the sole mass leader and he asked a valid question, that what has the Muslim community gained from the secular politics of these parties?
Owaisi retorts that Muslims are a less educated society; some would say rather backward and certainly less well off. This has been the community’s refrain since the 1952 elections and continues to be so.
Owaisi is giving a sense of assurance to Muslims that if they vote only for the AIMIM, he will do anything to secure their religious identity. Here it is important to note that Owaisi has indeed succeeded in convincing a large section of the Muslim Quam to vote only for him, in the name of Islam.
Owaisi successfully implemented this strategy in Maharashtra and Bihar elections and now going to replicate it in West Bengal’s assembly elections as well, and ay be implemented again in Uttar Pradesh elections next year.
Few people may reject this theory and may downplay this alarm as non-serious one. However, the past experience shows a different picture altogether, and to understand our concerns, we must revisit the history.
What happened in 1937?
In 1937 provincial elections held across India following the passing of the Government of Act of 1935. The Muslim League had almost negligible presence except for few pockets. But Jinnah revolutionized the prospects of the Muslim League, by projecting it as the sole political party which is fighting for the welfare of Muslims, and this strategy paid really well. Within just five years by 1942, Jinnah gained massive popularity among Muslims and had become the sole spokesperson of the subcontinent’s Muslims.
What happened after that is marked in history. Congress, which was the biggest political party at that time fared very badly in the Muslim seats of the United Provinces. Congress didn’t win even a single Muslim majority seat.
Muslim League and Jinnah used the 1937 elections to portray themselves as the only Muslim party and portrayed Congress as a Hindu-only (Anti-Muslim) party. This perception was was extremely polarizing in nature and helped Jinnah to successfully galvanize the Muslim masses and Religious clerics of Punjab and Bengal.
Jinnah convinced the Muslims that India under Congress will unleash a Hindu rule, and Muslims are going to face a tough time ahead. Jinnah portrayed that Muslims needed a dedicated leader, who can talk about their issues, fight for their welfare and forcefully negotiate on the issue of Muslim’s interest. If you see the pattern of Owaisi, he is exactly doing the same. He raises only Muslim welfare issues, he accused the Hindu (BJP) government of doing all sort of wrong treatment with Muslims. Be it is the issue of Ram Mandir, Triple Talaq, Voting in Muslim area, Demonetization, Muslim reservation, or CAA protest. Owaisi always projects himself as the Leader of Ummah, who can think about them, raise their issue, just like the Jinnah did.
After some time, the Jinnah left the pity issues and started telling the Muslims that their welfare is guaranteed only if they get an independent nation of their own. He convinced the Muslims about the idea of carving out a separate state for themselves based on their religious identity.
Well, here is interesting to understand that what Owaisi is planning to do after 2022. People may say that Uttar Pradesh of 2022 is quite different from the United Provinces of 1937. But the intransigence once of a particular community and political leaders waiting to exploit it are eerily similar, and that is quite evident from the action of Owaisi.
These signs are not assuring as such development can bring up the bad memories of partition. No one wants another partition on religious lines. Muslims really need moderate leaders or organizations, which will lead them out of the failed fantasies and dark ideas and enable them to join the mainstream of the nation and move ahead on the path of progress and modernity.