Resurgence of the grand alliance DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (MAY 18, 2009)
Resurgence of the grand alliance
After full 25 years, that is, a quarter century, the great unwritten socio-political covenant that had bound Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits together in a progressive, centrist (as opposed to leftist or rightist) alliance, has begun to reassert itself, writes Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam.
1984 was a turning point in India’s history: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Sikhs were massacred en masse (thus breaking the Hindu-Sikh understanding since 1947 to stay together), and the most divisive, violent and anti-national movement in independent India, the Babri Masjid demolition movement. The first of the destructive yatras launched by the Sangh combine in the long series of yatras, the Ekatmta Yatra, was launched in the summer of 1984.
Ironically, this Ekatmta Yatra (literally, unity caravan) divided the people on communal lines through the entire route of its passage. All along, fierce speeches were made against Muslims, raising anger and resentment. It was calculated to trigger massive anti-Muslim riots and mass murder of Muslims all over India. The day the yatra was to reach Delhi after traversing India, the organisers thought, would be a day of mass murder of Muslims. Muslims, too, were worried about it.
However, on that same day Indira Gandhi was assassinated. That was like throwing a lighted match into a petrol can. The massive upsurge of anger against Muslims suddenly had a new, ready target, the Sikhs. The pent-up emotions of anger and hatred suddenly burst up into violence, murder and destruction. Indian politics of consensus and moderation that had held together since Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination 36 years ago suddenly changed to the mode of partition days.
Undaunted by the massive violence the Sangh kept its hate campaign with the most vicious, lawless and murderous yatras. By the time five years had passed and the election of 1989 came round the great consensus had simply melted away. Brahmins deserted Muslims to join the anti-Muslim campaign of BJP, Dalits had got their own messiah in Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, Muslims were alienated from the Congress for acting like BJP. The Congress, under whose rule Babri Masjid was captured and locked decades ago, went on to get the locks removed to allow Hindu worshippers to do idol worship in the mosque, while Muslims were not allowed to enter it.
Meanwhile, Congress rule in Bihar had allowed the massacre of Muslims in Bhagalpur for weeks without hindrance. That was worse than what even BJP could do. Naturally, Muslims turned to Mulayam Singh’s SP in UP and other non-Congress, non-BJP formations elsewhere. The fracture of the consensus brought the number of Congress Lok Sabha MPs from UP to 15 in 1989 from 83 in 1984. The decline continued: it got five seats from UP in 1991, which remained five in 1996 to plummet to zero in 1998. That was the nadir. It crawled back to ten in 1999 and slipped to nine in 2004. With a big climb, it has hit 22 in 2009. However, it is still way below the 1984 mark (with a vote tally of 51.03 percent in 1984). This year its vote tally in UP was 26.01 percent.
The point to make here is that the centrist consensus in favour of Congress that was badly damaged by the communal politics of BJP, the caste politics of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh and Congress Party’s weakness, has begun to heal itself. Dalits and Brahmins who had deserted the Congress are getting back to the secular, liberal consensus. Muslims as usual have played their role in restoring the sane, secular political agenda to its rightful place at centre stage. If this trend holds in months and years ahead India will prosper and attain great height as an emerging power. g