Making the Right Electoral Choice Dr M Manzoor Alam (April 12, 2007)

Making the Right Electoral Choice

For Muslims the UP elections are not merely of academic interest, but a question of their security

and future wellbeing, writes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM

The sordid CD episode in Uttar Pradesh has once again shown that the BJP has only one sure and tested way of winning elections, that is, by whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria. That this works has been proved in several elections, including in the massive Ayodhya movement, with all its attendant violence and destruction, and the landslide win the BJP managed following the Gujarat pogrom. The latter was so successful that the Sangh openly boasted about having perfected an art form, that of winning elections through stage-managing massacres of Muslims.

The CD episode shows that this party has tasted blood and would be willing to repeat the Gujarat pattern. Already it has some ammunition in the form of disturbances in UP, largely the doing of its estranged partner Mahant Adityanath, who has yet to distance himself from the Sangh whose more virulent version he peddles. It is in this background that the UP polls have begun and are going to be conducted in the next few phases. Once again Muslims are faced with the same old set of challenges to their very survival with dignity and with their vital interests protected.

Just before the CD mischief I had written an article for the Urdu press raising the issue of the difficult electoral choices before us. As of now we don’t seem to have enough clear options except closely examining secular parties’ candidates one by one before making our voting decision. There are a couple of No-Nos, obviously. The first is that no one in his/her sound mind will ask you to vote for a party that has a single-point manifesto (of course, not clearly stated), namely the extermination of Muslims and Christians. Secondly, nobody is going to waste his/her vote on the "seasonal" parties and formations that suddenly mushroom before every election. Once these two classes of candidates and parties are eliminated from our choice, we have to consider quite a few options.

In the past we had a sad experience in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. We voted for BSP in UP which went to form a coalition with BJP and in Andhra the TDP did the same after garnering our precious vote. Mayawati went a step further and canvassed for Narendra Modi right after the state-sponsored mass killing of Muslims. If that is not a stab in the back, one wonders what else is. The first issue that we should consider is whether the so-called secular party that we are voting for will end up forming a coalition with the BJP. Mayawati’s BSP has already done it openly and formally, but Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP has not done it openly and formally. The tacit support that it got from the BJP was something that the secular parties could have prevented by offering their support instead. In future Mulayam Singh Yadav is not likely to form a coalition with the BJP because he has the backing of the Left and a sizeable section of Muslims.

The most unfortunate part of this is that neither Mulayam Singh nor Mayawati can form a government on their own, nor would they come together. Wherever Mayawati fields a Muslim candidate others, too, would field their Muslims. The criterion here should be to vote for only the party (or independent) the least likely to join a BJP coalition. 

An important criterion for us, as I have pointed out repeatedly, is to largely back a conglomeration of secular parties in a decisive manner. This conglomeration should be able to emerge as a force that can prevent any coalition with the BJP. A Congress-Jan Morcha, RLD nucleus is sure to emerge as such a force around which other secular parties, including the Left, can coalesce. The SP is far more likely to draw close to this formation than to the BJP. No such guarantee is there in the case of BSP. Hence, this trio of Congress, Jan Morcha and RLD should get a special consideration in our reckoning.

That leaves us with the Jan Morcha which, like the Left or Congress, is the least likely to align with BJP. Jan Morcha candidates, Muslims or not, would also be good choice provided they can win with our votes. Although Ajit Singh has lost some of his support base among the Jats, his candidates, at least some of them, have got Muslim support. Again the criterion is whether they will stay with the secular formations. The likelihood is that they will. 

We have somehow to make sure that despite their lust for power and their willingness to go to any length to grab it, we should consider seriously whether we could create a situation in which secular parties don’t have to solicit support from the BJP. This is a rather tall order, but we can’t afford not to try. We must see to it that we don’t strengthen the BJP directly or indirectly.
Finally, we have to vote with our eyes wide open. Never vote in anger. Never vote somebody/party that would betray you. Never vote a seasonal party or formation that mushrooms before elections. Vote with the intent (niyat) of having a sound, secular government in Lucknow for the next five years. And yes, because no single party can form a government in UP on its own, we have to vote for different parties/individuals in different constituencies. Best of luck.g

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