Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clueless Congress: Rahul Gandhi, his party's disconnect from Muslims and the community's aspirations

Congress has suffered a jolt with Samajwadi Party's landslide victory in UP elections. The drubbing is not just because of consolidation of Muslims voters but also other sections, however, the fact remains that Muslims didn't get lured by Congress' promises.

There are several reasons:

1. Muslims don't want anything special but simply need basic amenities. However, Congress governments fail to deliver even on this count in states where they are in power.

Muslim ghettoes that overwhelmingly vote for Congress, remain the same. There is no change. The lesser said about the presence of hospitals and dispensaries or schemes regarding opening schools during Congress regimes, the better it would be.

Muslims don't expect any party to promise that it will get them moon. It is well-known that such things [which BJP would instantly term as 'appeasement'] are not possible. Congress promises implementing Sachar panel recommendations but UPA's first term went without any step in this regard and soon this five year term at the centre would also end. Won't people feel that they are being taken for a ride?

2. If you can't provide jobs or better civic amenities, the most basic expectation is that the law-and-order would be effective and there would not be fear of communal riots. But either it is Rajasthan where policemen fired at Muslims in Gopalgarh, a one sided action which was initially defended by state government, unjustifiable use of force at Karbala Jor Bagh despite a court order in favour of Muslims or illegal detentions [harassment] of Muslim youths in Delhi, the situation remains the same. What's the difference between Rajasthan and NDA ruled Bihar where firing in Forbesganj occurred?

3. The Congress-led UPA government cares about the morale of police & security agencies but not sensitive enough to the demand and morale of hundreds of millions of Muslims. From police to lieutenant governor, at every step attempt was made to stop information sought regarding the Batla House encounter case. Would heavens have fallen if a judicial inquiry in Batla House encounter was instituted?

After all, inquiries keep lingering for years, and even if there is a recommendation, you can simply ignore it. Haven't you been doing this for the last sixty years. This strange attitude shows Congress' contempt towards us [Muslims]. It hurts. You don't consider us anything except electoral slaves.

4. Twice in Maharashtra, Congress fought election on the promise that it would implement recommendations of Sri Krishna Commission panel regarding 1992-93 Mumbai riots. This hasn't materialised. No wonder, Muslims voted for SP and your party lost in BMC election in Mumbai.

In fact, recommendations in all such cases including the infamous Maliana killings still gather dust. There is either no will or a strong right-wing presence in your party which ensures that not a single killer cop would ever get punished.

Such is the hold on bureaucracy that in cases like Hari Masjid firing where policemen entered mosque and fired at devotees, Maharashtra police acts with unusual zeal to protect its tainted cops.

5. Congress often gets Muslim votes by default. Muslims wanted an alternative. Many of us wanted a party that would be centrist, even a bit towards the right, but which would not act dubiously. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP had somehow got a bit of Muslim support.

Unfortunately Gujarat happened, and just the fear that Gujarat carnage didn't recur, Muslims had no option but to support your party. There was no third front [unlike the United Front or Left Front in late 90s] and hence Congress became the sole alternative.

6. Even though the Muslim electorate forget all the past follies of Congress ranging from installation of idol in Ram Temple to former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's promise of rebuilding Babri Masjid, but even today, there is no clarity in its approach.

Forget giving adequate representation to Muslims, the party leaders and 'Muslim faces' imposed by it remain out of touch with ground realities. Perhaps there is a feeling that Muslims have no option and will keep on voting for your party.

Just for the record, SP has inducted 10 Muslims in its 47 member cabinet. Congress wouldn't have named five. It doesn't show interest in letting Muslim leadership in the party grow. If there are outspoken politicians within party they either don't go up or are not given as much importance.

7. Rahul ji, your leaders aren't approachable. At ground level, they fly or whiz past us without listening to our problems. When we tell them, they appear listening sympathetically listen and when they go back, simply forget to take action.

Now if we come to the issue of virtual world, it is common complaint that Congress leaders aren't approachable on Twitter or Facebook. A few of them have accounts but don't interact or reply, compared to other parties.

Akhilesh Yadav promised promotion of Urdu
Initially I thought that I would give this post a title 'Open letter to Congress from an Indian Muslim' [or Rahul Gandhi]. But somehow, one feels, it would be futile. It is not that Congress leaders won't know what their voters expect from them.

In Urdu papers, these issues are mentioned regularly. But is there any interest visible on part of India's oldest political party when it comes to improving infrastructure in Muslim localities or ensuring swift action on schemes for Muslims.

8. Despite tall claims made by UPA-I and also UPA-II, Muslims are still denied loans by banks. Figures suggest that there is little change despite reminders and rebukes.

The money for scholarships don't reach the students easily. Congress blames opposition parties that rule states from where many complaints about lack of implementation of policies for betterment of minorities are received.

Congress leaders immediately release huge amounts when Chief Ministers of non-Congress states accuse Centre of bias in releasing funds to non-Congress states. While releasing the funds, the UPA leaders can push the States for release of funds for minorities. Can't they? Why year after year, funds are earmarked but only to get lapsed.

9. Rahul Gandhi seems sincere and interested in redressing the problems of Dalits, Muslims and other sections. But the party doesn't seem interested at all. Whenever Congress governments take charge of office, they begin acting arrogantly.
Target Next:  Election 2014 

Just now Congress has managed to come to power in Uttarakhand. We are yet to hear a word regarding Muslims. Will the status of Urdu as second official language, which almost ended during BJP rule, be restored? We haven't heard a word as yet.

10. The role of UP unit of Congress in closing down Urdu medium schools in post-independence era is too well known. It may not be printed too often or voiced publicly but the steps that were responsible for backwardness among Muslims in North India, aren't forgotten. Even today, Congress cares little about Urdu. Here is an old post: Read

It is possible that at the national level where the issues are different and electorate think in terms of installing a government at the centre, the voters' behaviour might be different. In UP, the party that was in a position to defeat BSP was supported and of course Muslims overwhelmingly voted for SP.

When Congress leader Salman Khurshid talked about Muslim reservation, Muslims were not amused. The 4.5% quota was a bad joke and it was meant for all religious minorities [that include Sikhs, Christians, Jains & Buddhists apart from Muslims] but was projected as if Muslims will be the sole beneficiaries. Bhai ham log itne saal se bewaqoof ban rahe hain, aur kitna banenge!.

It is just an exasperated Indian Muslim's rant. One hopes that Congress would understand that Muslims, like rest of Indians, don't want anything special. Good governance, access to basic amenities, justice and understanding of their issues. Of course, no false promises. And whatever little you promise, at least deliver or show the intention to deliver.  

[This was the third and last part in the series of posts after UP elections. First was about SP's victory and the second about BSP's strange relationship with Muslims]