Before the Lok Sabha elections 2014, Muslim community seems to be in a piquant situation. If there is one word that summarizes their state of mind at the moment, it is nothing other than confusion.
They are finding it increasingly difficult to decipher the mystery of how this election is going to end. Will there be a BJP government, a Congress government or a government that will be supported by either of the two?
Media is making them believe that it is a Modi wave and many have already thought it a fait accompli that Narendra Modi after a few weeks time will be anointed as the premier of the biggest democracy in the world.
But many people remember as to what happened in the last general elections held in the year 2009 when media had painted the town saffron claiming NDA was on its way to get absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament and Advani was going to be the PM. There is no doubt that the results were shocking to the gullible who believed the media version.
This time round many media houses despite giving full coverage to Modi have tried to ensure that they don’t fall in the same trap like 2009 elections. So despite an 'obvious' Modi wave they have tried to keep them safe by not giving a complete majority to NDA till now.
There were reports that Muslims were being wooed by BJP in a big way. From Rajnath Singh to party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and almost everyone else talked about Muslims and how well the BJP was going to look after the interests of the community. Modi assured Muslims if he comes to power at the center his government will remove poverty among Muslims.
Muslims were seen in Modi’s rallies in significant numbers in many places. Zafar Sareshwala, Modi’s man Friday when it comes to his outreach programs to Muslims also brought a steady stream of Muslim businessmen and others to him. Rajnath Singh was also doing his bit and a few months ago he inducted a well-known community activist and one of the founders of Uttar Pradesh based Peace Party’s MJ Khan. But the biggest catch the party got was in the form of one of the top journalists in the country who is behind the successful launch of many newspapers and magazines including Sunday magazine, Telegraph and Asian Age besides many other dailies, weeklies and monthlies, MJ Akbar.
He has turned out to be the biggest catch for the BJP. But because the old Muslim faces in the party were not very happy with the newfound enthusiasm of the party for the community, another big catch Sabir Ali turned out to be an embarrassment for the saffron party.
BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who is not known for speaking out his mind against official party lines went all out to attack Sabir Ali and called him a terrorist. Going a step further he said the next induction in the party is going to be that of Dawood Ibrahim, the Karachi based underworld don responsible for Mumbai bomb blasts of 1992.
His strong words dampened the high decibel welcome the Bihar unit of the party had planned. It is because Sabir comes in the party with his own support base unlike Mukhtar and even Shahnawaz Hussain. The two basically don’t have a committed voter base that Sabir Ali has.
But the Muslim leaders of the party are not the only issue between BJP and its newfound love for the Muslims.
There seems to be deep divisions within the party on the issue. This may be the reason behind Vijay Kumar Malhotra’s unfortunate comment calling the Jamia Nagar area of Delhi as the hotbed of terrorism. Muslims have not taken his comment very kindly and the party is also finding it difficult to reason the outburst. But what is further making things difficult for the party is Malhotra’s claim that this was the party line as well. “I had said that some parts of Jamia Nagar and Batla House are not accessible to
police. I maintain my stand which is also party's view” Malhotra said while talking to media.
This all seems to have confused Muslims as to whether to warm up to the party or not to believe its confusing doublespeak.
On the other hand after initial setback with the community, the grand old party, Congress, is finally getting some luck with the Muslim community. Just the other day the imam of Jama Masjid was invited by Congress party chief to seal the deal with him. After sending feelers to the BSP, Ahmad Bukhari, the cleric who heads historic Jama Masjid, has now decided to support the Congress in the forthcoming elections.
Many other Muslim leaders are also finally going back to the party that has got their solid support in many elections in the past.
But Muslim votes will be divided among many parties. A recent survey had indicated that in UP where 80 parliamentary seats are at stake, Congress and SP will get highest votes from community. But BJP will get more Muslim votes than BSP. This seems shocking. But other pre-poll surveys have not backed the theory.
In the meantime, the youngest political party, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Kejriwal that has made overtures towards the community by talking about communalism, riots besides its pet topic of corruption may still not get the sort of response from the community that some people initially thought. It is not to say it will not get any support from the community, but it may well be limited to middle class population, the same way it may be getting support from other sections of the society.
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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.