Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mayawati's strange relationship with Muslims: Why BSP wanted to throw away all its Muslim support?

'They didn't vote for us' : Why should they?
BSP has lost power in UP and its leader terms loss of Muslim vote to the party as one of the main reasons. More than others, she has to reflect over it.

But before coming to her strange relationship with Muslims and TEN points on Muslims' disillusionment, just a recap. Wayback in early 1990s, the rise of BSP had given hopes to Muslims, who wanted an alternative to Congress in North India, especially, UP.

Muslims felt that if BSP manages to get a majority of Dalit votes, it would be in a position to form the government on its own.

Though Muslims had soft corner for SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav because of his bold stand in the Babri Masjid issue, it was clear that Yadavas were not as numerous as Dalits.

Also, whenever Muslims actively supported SP in those days, it led to reverse polarisation in favour of BJP. Kashi Ram's efforts from the days of BAMCEF bore fruits and the BSP had finally managed to become a strong cadre based party in Uttar Pradesh.

Though Dr Faridi had passed away long back but his dream of forging a Dalit-Muslim alliance was coming into reality. Muslims were disillusioned with Congress, which was responsible for backwardness of Muslims in UP.

Congress appeared to seek Muslim vote only because if it didn't win, there was the fear of BJP coming to power. After Kashi Ram's death, Mayawati finally took control over the party. In her initial tenure she didn't seem to take any important pro-minority steps.

But whenever she lost, she seemed upset that Muslims didn't vote for her. However, a substantial percentage of Muslims always voted for BSP. In 2007 when she sought Upper Caste support and got absolute majority in UP Assembly, it was time Muslim community expected some good decisions.

Muslims didn't want anything out of the way from the party. However, just keeping the state 'riot-free' could not be a sop for Muslims, as they also get aspirational. Strangely, she never even tried to understand Muslim psyche or their just demands.

Nasimuddin: None better than him!
Nasimuddin Siddiqui remained her sole link to Muslims and as far as his image or understanding of the needs for the community, the lesser said is the better. In this tenure, she remained aloof from Muslims. In fact, one felt that she has certain disdain or disinterest towards Muslims.

Earlier when she lost, she had (in)famously said that Muslims are 'kattar' [fundamentalist] and didn't vote for her party. On this occasion, she said that Muslims didn't vote for her. Doesn't she realise that Muslims have no reason or obligation to vote for her.

Here are just a few points I would mention regarding Mayawati's strange relationship with Muslims.

1. Forget any schemes or projects aimed at uplift of Muslims, BSP government never tried to even build bridges with Muslims. Kashi Ram, when he had roped in Urdu poets and intellectuals in late 80s and early 90s, knew this well that a few 'occsaional' statements are enough to make the Muslims happy.

2. When Azamgarh was defamed or when Muslim youths were routinely picked, she never even sympathised with the community or speak against the trend of demonising the place. Muslims expected nothing from the state government, just statements that 'Azamgarh shouldn't be branded as den of terrorists'.

3. When BSP MPs Akbar Ahmad Dumpy and Ilyas Azmi protested in Parliament, wearing the striped keffiyeh and raising copies of Mail Today, over the Batla House encounter, she had reprimanded them
for their stand, without consulting her. This didn't go down well with Muslims, who in fact, wanted her to take a stand.

4. Muslims have an emotional link with Urdu. The language killed in UP during successive Congress regimes and the discriminatory law that stops opening of Urdu medium schools in the state was promulgated. SP did take steps for restoring Urdu's status.

But BSP never seemed concerned about Urdu. In ten years, I have seen just two Urdu banners of the BSP supremo in Lucknow in more than ten years. Her government took no interest in continuing services of Urdu translators or the issues pertaining to the language.

Of course, she stalled Azam Khan's Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar University project. The Arabic-Persian university which was the only big project announced for Muslim students during her five year regime, remained a non-starter.

When recently the Congress danged the carrot of reservation for Muslims in the OBC quota, which was in fact for all minorities, she was first to oppose it though later realising the folly, changed the stand and asked for a separate quota.

5. Neither priority was given to Muslims in recruitment in police nor in other government schemes. For a while [2010-2011] scholarships were given to Muslim girl students in schools but they were also insufficient and mostly in cities. When she spoke about quota  for Dalits in private sector, she forgot Muslims.

Akbar Ahmad 'Dumpy' spoke but Maya...
 6. Certain things hurt a lot. She didn't interact with Muslims, even Muslim women. Even this could be ignored as it had become her style.

But when delegation of Ulema went to meet her, they were asked to take off their footwear and frisked in such a manner, that Muslims felt offended.

7. Whenever new districts were named, it was done after Dalit leaders. Unlike other caste groups Muslims never opposed her constructions, parks and memorials, as they had seen how post-independence Congress governments in UP had erased Muslim-sounding names in UP.

While BSP never cared to initiate any scheme or project after a Muslim freedom fighter's name, it even went ahead and changed names that disturbed Muslims. A case in point is Amroha, which is now part of JP Nagar. Its a question of identity. Over the years, the word, Amroha, had become to symbolise Muslim culture and if the district had to be renamed then why not BSP consider a Muslim personality for renaming it?

Everybody on the street asked, why she takes decisions so arbitrarily as if we don't exist, have no identity and no voice. Christening places is also an interesting electoral ploy but it works. Once even Jayalalithaa had named a Tamil Nadu district 'Dindigul' as 'Dindigul Qaid-e-Milleth' after Maulvi Islamil and the decision had earned her huge Muslim support then.

8. Mayawati CAN'T BE written off. She might bounce back. Yes, her Dalit support remains intact. But it remains a mystery why she doesn't at all care about Muslim support. Why, after all, she takes it for granted or feels that it Muslims will anyhow vote for her.

The elephant was even termed an Upper Caste symbol in slogans during campaigns by changing the earlier anti-Upper Caste stand 'tilak-tarazu aur talwar, into maro jootey chaar', but Muslims, who were never averse to wear the blue hue, were neglected.

9. Perhaps, she felt that Muslims will vote for BSP wherever a Muslim candidate is fielded by her party. So the strategy of fielding more Muslims was enough! But the fact is that Muslims were too hurt. And they are so disillusioned that the feeling wouldn't go in five years. 'Sukh-dukh mein saath' [even if just verbal] is what one expects from the leader.

10. The issues of Muslim artisans were never on priority. The weavers were suffering but the UP government didn't take interest. The power [electricity supply] situation in Muslim dominated parts of cities and towns remained as bad as it was during BJP rule.

If not wholeheartedly, there can be at least, moral support to an extent. But she neither tried to implement a development agenda for Muslims, nor speak on behalf of Muslims who felt besieged on several occasions. If she didn't understand Muslim psyche, why she never took any step towards getting emotionally close to Muslims. At least, should could have a got a few good advisers. What stopped her from doing that? It's a big question?

Mayawati may win once again. But it is a bit saddening that she somehow remains apathetic to Muslims. Had she been a bit proactive, she could have cemented a winning Dalit-Muslim alliance. If a party gets support of this block, there is no question of electoral loss for it in Uttar Pradesh.

Mulayam couldn't muster more than 30% even if all Muslims and Yadavs voted for him. Mayawati could get over 30% just if half of Muslims supported her [and 40% if all Muslims supported her]. Had she taken a few positive steps, a majority of Muslims would have supported her. After all, a party that is more likely to win gets more support.

Leaders, MLAs, and politicians who were part of the government, always expressed their frustration. I'm not talking about the legislators whose sole aim is 'influence, power and money' but the educated ones who wanted to raise real issues of Muslims at the grassroots.

But she didn't evoke any confidence among Muslims. The message was not for once that 'this is your party also'. Of course it is a Dalit-based party, Muslims didn't want to be wooed [like Brahmins were once] but there was need for some acknowledgement for their support.

It was never done. This stand has cost her in other states also. Muslims earlier considered BSP an alternative but they don't seem enthusiastic about it anywhere. It is not a question of inherent biases. It is simply a thing about losing a big opportunity. Call it her whims or whatever. Mayawati is, after all, Mayawati.