IIPM Admission

Friday, October 26, 2012

In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which account for 120 Lok Sabha seats, Narendra Modi might loom large in 2014. so the Muslim vote could, as always, decisively tilt the balance

The question has the ring of a national pastime: who will the Muslims go with in 2014? Before and after every major election in this country, political analysts and pollsters go into overdrive with their prognostications or post-mortems on the voting patterns of the minority community. But do Muslims really vote en masse as part of a tactical approach to keep forces inimical to their interests out of power?

Independent Rajya Sabha member Mohammad Adeeb says: “Muslims do resort to tactical voting. They do so out of compulsion. Hindus and Muslims were together in the freedom struggle but after Independence the minority community developed a sense of fear. They felt that their identity was in danger. So they voted for secular parties. Muslims have generally gone with the Congress. They are in futile search of another Gandhi.”

Khalid Ashraf, lecturer in Delhi's Kirori Mal College, echoes Adeeb: “Tactical voting by Muslims is a compulsion. The issue of security is top priority for them.” He laments that “communalism and casteism are ingrained in this country’s DNA”. He adds: “Only a small segment of the population is non-communal.

Otherwise it's only a matter of degrees. Some are very communal, others are less so. This is true of every community.”

Former Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui dismisses the theory regarding tactical voting by Muslims: “It is a myth. Muslims do not vote only for Muslim candidates either. They vote for anybody who they find suitable whereas that is not true with Gujjars, Brahmins or Yadavs. If anything, Muslims vote sensibly. They do not vote for one party or one community. They vote for the Muslim League in Kerala, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in Andhra Pradesh, JD(U) in Bihar, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party or the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the Left or Trinamool Congress in Bengal and the Congress in Karnataka.”

Siddiqui elaborates: “The Congress fielded the largest number of Muslim candidates in the last UP Assembly elections, but the community didn’t vote for them. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however, Muslims had supported the Congress.” He adds: “The media treats Muslims as a herd. The impression is sought to be created that Muslim vote en masse. That is absolutely wrong. In the last UP Assembly elections, 60 per cent Muslims voted for SP while the rest voted for other political parties. By and large, the Muslim community votes like the Hindu community. Both vote differently in different states”.

Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, says: “Post-1986 elections, Muslims started exploring the strategy of tactical voting. The Shah Bano agitation and the hype of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement created serious reservations among Muslims regarding the Congress and obviously BJP. The new situation forced them to think about a new political alignment. The Bhagalpur riots, the Nellie massacre, and a sequence of communal riots led to disillusionment with the ruling Congress party. So wherever there was an alternative to the Congress Muslims voted for that alternative. But where there was no alternative, Muslims stayed with the Congress like in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.”

He believes that as of today, the Congress would get the Muslim vote because there is no third front. “Unfortunately, issues like corruption get a secondary place because security and discrimination come to the fore as they are directly linked to Muslims. The corruption issue gets sidelined also because the principal opposition party, BJP, is itself involved in large-scale corruption,” adds Hamid.

President of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi, MP, stresses the need for Muslims to develop their own political entity because even tactical voting has failed to serve its purpose. “In Assembly elections, regional considerations come into play. Wherever there is an alternative other than the Congress Muslims do vote for them. However, in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi or Maharashtra there is no choice, so Muslims by default vote for Congress. It is time Muslims develop their own political space. We are not the sole torch-bearers of secularism.”

“It is a tragedy that a large section of the population does not accord importance to national issues like corruption and misgovernance and votes just to keep one political entity out of power. This approach can neither serve the interest of the nation nor of any particular community. People may call it tactical voting but for me it is insensitive voting,” says Rajesh Kumar, special correspondent of The Pioneer and resident of Bihar’s Sitabdiara (the birthplace of Jayaprakash Narayan).

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have significant Muslim populations. The two states account for 120 Lok Sabha seats. So how the Muslims vote in these two states does impact the final outcome of the general elections. Senior journalist Zafar Agha visualises three possible scenarios for UP in the 2014 elections.

Scenario 1: If the present phase of economic reforms works out, fetches results, money starts flowing, everything improves and no Assam-like riots erupt in the Congress-ruled states, then Muslims could go with the Congress.

Scenario 2: If Modi wins in Gujarat and BJP projects him as its prime ministerial candidate and the fight narrows down Rahul versus Modi, Muslims will go with the Congress. In this scenario, the decision of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar would also be a deciding factor.

Scenario 3: In case the decline of the Congress continues and BJP projects Modi as its candidate then Muslims may go with the regional parties. In that situation the chances of a third front emerging brightens as Muslims will do tactical voting to keep both the Congress and BJP out and facilitate the formation of a third front government with the outside support of either BJP or Congress.

Shahid Siddiqui says: “SP would be the biggest loser in western UP in the next Lok Sabha elections as the number of Yadavs is not significant in this area. Here, Muslims would vote for the main force at the Centre and Congress could gain. In eastern UP, however, all the key parties will have a chance. In 2014, Muslims would certainly not vote the way they did in the Assembly elections. The Lok Sabha election is a different kettle of fish.”

Predicting a poor show by the Congress, Mohd Adeeb says: “In 2009, Muslims voted for the Congress thinking that the party would carry forward the work of UPA-1. They believed that it would fulfil its promise of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations. These recommendations have remained on paper for the last seven years. Though the Congress would suffer setbacks in the 2014 elections and regional parties would gain, the possibility of any third front coming to power is rather remote.”

In Bihar, too, Muslims appear to be losing faith in regional parties. They are beginning to look towards the Congress. Therefore, if the Congress goes in for a pre-poll alliance with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) then the BJP-led NDA could face the music in the next parliamentary elections. Another factor that looms large over the minds of Bihari Muslims is the possibility of BJP projecting Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Though the minority community appears to be happy with Nitish Kumar for now, the Modi factor could undermine the chief minister’s chances in 2014. Patna native Arif Siddiqui, who works in Delhi, says: “There has been overall development in the state, and the law and order situation has improved appreciably. So Muslims in Bihar will vote for Nitish.”

However, there are those that club Nitish and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav together and allege that both are opportunists who have only exploited the community. The Bihar state president of the International Human Rights Security Council Arif Hussain says: “In the last 22 years, the ruling parties have sown the seeds of casteism among Muslims. Muslims are now sub-divided into several castes and this has been done by the regional parties. This factor could also tilt voters towards the Congress. What is the harm in projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate? He has a clean and secular image”.

At present, JD(U) has 22 members in Parliament whereas BJP has 13 MPs from Bihar. If this alliance breaks then the present tally could change and Nitish's tally could go up. Muslims constitute 14 per cent of Bihar’s population. In 12 of the 40 LS seats in the state, the Muslim vote is decisive. These seats include Kishanganj, Araria, West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Katihar, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj, Munger and Patna Sahib.

Social worker Ashfaq Husain says: “Lalu used to say he would not allow Praveen Togadia to enter the state. Nitish targets Modi in a similar manner. But Muslims here are leaning towards the Congress.” Hussain believes that Nitish will back BJP at the Centre no matter how the alliance fares in Bihar. Muslims are unlikely to ignore that eventuality when they go out to cast their vote in the 2014 general elections.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Partymen feel Priyanka has a magic wand. sadly, it doesn't work when the chips are down

Every election (and increasingly in between), Congress workers work themselves into a frenzy asking for greater participation by Priyanka Gandhi in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. That apart, on half a dozen online fan clubs devoted to her, admirers write in with heartfelt pleas set to variations of “it is the need of the hour and only you can do it”. While there is no denying Priyanka’s charisma and her people skills, it is equally true that her presence does not translate into votes. In UP’s elections this year the party was handed a stunning defeat in the family strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi where it netted only two of the 10 seats. This, after an intensive 17-day campaign where even her children made a brief appearance.

Her brother has failed more spectacularly. In Bihar, his campaign ended with the party losing five of the 9 seats it had won in 2005. In UP, his extensive criss- crossing of the state, egged on by theatrics such as tearing up an opposition party’s election manifesto, helped the party crawl up to 28, an addition of six to its previous tally. Yet, Congress netas fell over themselves to take blame for the defeat.

In all fairness though, Rahul’s failure seems bigger only because his stage is larger. Priyanka has confined herself to what the media refers to as the family boroughs. She has also stayed away from commenting on contentious issues behind a non-committal 'I will do as I am told' facade. UP’s newly anointed Congress chief Nirmal Khattri takes the familiar party stand when he says that it is not just the party but the people of the country who look up to the Nehru-Gandhi family but it is for the head of the family to decide when a member should be initiated in politics. He is however quick to admit that there are other issues that the party needs to address more urgently.

“Somewhere our contact with people is broken. We need to be with them on the ground, fighting for their causes. The morale of the rank and file needs to be built,” says Khattri. Annu Tandon, the party’s MP from Unnao believes that it is too early to pronounce Rahul a failure. “He has not been given a chance to participate in governance. When will be a good time for that is not for anyone else to decide. If we look at the Congress performance like a half-filled glass, then the filled part is Rahulji, the empty part is the party.”

She rubbishes comparisons between the siblings. “Priyanka too has not been given the chance to prove herself in governance. Comparisons are thus irrelevant.” Such logic however does not drive the action of Congressmen who during UP’s Vidhan Sabha elections went into overdrive about the ‘leadership potential’ they had spotted in Priyanka’s two children even as their amused mother told the media that she had just brought her city-bred children to “see” rural life.

Even otherwise Congressmen have displayed remarkable lack of judgement when it comes to The Family. Remember Salman Khurshid wishing that Rahul would shed his ‘cameo’ role and provide ideological direction to the party. But Khurshid, who proved himself the party’s biggest liability in the UP polls, only voiced what many in the party feel. One Congressman says, “You cannot parachute into the state and expect spectacular results. He is more missing, than in action”.

But to assume that Priyanka is more suited to a lead role is putting hope over experience. Rahul is burdened by destiny to prop the Congress. He gives the appearance of being a sincere but unwilling politician somewhat out of touch with ground realities. To hope that his sister would do better on the field is mere speculation.

Unfortunately, speculation is politics' favourite pastime.

Friday, October 12, 2012

We face the problem of 'image vs reality'

IIPM Review MBA 2012

In an interview on a wide range of topics, the BJP party president, Nitin Gadkari tells TSI that this time around the party is concentrating its energies on the rural poor, the unorganised sector and the adivasis

Nitin Gadkari
Nitin Gadkari
What is going on in the BJP?
Things are on the right track though some time we face the problem of 'image vs reality’. We are a democratic party, not a family or proprietary concern. We are a collective leadership. BJP's critics say that the party is opportunistic, changing its policies to suit the situation of the moment. This has alienated your supporters. Comment. This is not true. There has been no change in the party’s policy. After my taking over as the BJP’s national president, we have been concentrating on five segments including SCs and STs to augment our vote bank. We are mobilising the unorganised sector. The Bharatiya Shramik Mahasangh held a conference of nearly 20,000 workers in New Delhi. We have been taking the help of the ‘Friends of BJP.’

At present, the BJP has 27 cells and groups working on different projects. Our 'good governance' approach is one of the measures to reach out to the new segments of the population. Besides Manipur, we will be fighting elections in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Goa. In Punjab and Uttarakhand, the challenge is to retain power.

Are you banking on the non-performance of the Congress?
We don’t wish to get elected on a negative plank. We are according priority to villages, the rural poor, the unorganised workers, the agriculture sector and on the economic issues. For us it is important to work for removal of poverty, employment generation and transforming agricultural and rural India economy.

We are evolving our strategies on these issues. At present, we are preparing documents on 32 subjects under the title ‘The Difference that We Made.’ This will highlight the good work we have done in the BJP-ruled states. Like, the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Chhattisgarh that helped in rooting out corruption. In Gujarat, the 14 per cent rate of growth tells the success story in this BJP ruled state.

So far, we have held 17 conclaves on different topics. Our other priority is tourism development. It is my dream that transport in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand runs on electricity because they are a power surplus state. Another thrust area will be the BLOT (build-lease-operate-transfer) model, which can materialise projects worth Rs 5,000 crore without investing any public funds. Simultaneously, we are working in fields such as bio-fuel, organic farming and yoga. They have a huge employment potential.

What about the Ram Mandir issue?
The path for the Ram Mandir has been cleared. The verdict of the Allahabad High Court is unambiguous. At present, the matter is before the Supreme Court.

What is your position on Foreign Direct Investment?
We are not against FDI per se. In the present situation, bringing FDI in retail will result in creating unemployment in this sector. There are an estimated five crore families in small and medium enterprises. We implemented FDI in power and infrastructure when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading the nation.

Do you support the malls of Reliance, Birla and Tata?
Indian industrialists have every right to open malls in India. But it is also true that small retailers face difficulties because of big players.

Today, the shared view is that BJP is a party of leaders. That it lacks cohesion and party workers?
I do not claim that everything is all right with us. But no, this is not true. We have several prominent leaders both at the centre and in the states. Our NDA-BJP chief ministers are doing extremely well. The GDP has shown a growth of 11 percent in Bihar. Madhya Pradesh, once called a sick state, has achieved a rate of 8.5 per cent growth. There is a perception that the RSS has appointed you... No. It is not correct. The RSS never appoints anyone in the BJP.

Does the RSS give you directions?
The RSS has been an integral part of my life. Only once in the last two years, has the RSS asked me to stand firmly behind Narendra Modi. Because he was facing difficulties. No other message has come from the RSS to me. You may write about the RSS but do verify the facts. The RSS never interferes in the functioning of the BJP.

You claim to be working on a strategy of winning 200 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections. Where are you going to get these seats?
Let me ask this question the other way round. Tell me the states which are favourable to the Congress? In the last election, we had won only 7 out of 70 seats in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. This time, our tally in these states will easily go to 35-40.

Why is the BJP is called a communal party?
We may be called a communal party till we win 170 seats.

Will the BJP support the Lokayukta and Lokpal Bill?
Public sentiment demands action against the corrupt. I have told all elected representatives that politics is not a business to make money. We don’t claim that everybody in our party is honest. But it is our endeavour to provide a development oriented administration .

Do you support the agitation launched by Anna Hazare?
We support Anna’s movement. Some of the points raised by him are relevant.

Will Anna Hazare's agitation help you in the coming elections?
Anna is agitating to rid this country of corruption. We support his efforts. We will not seek his backing in elections. Your take on re-induction of Uma Bharti in the BJP. The party needs everyone who believes in BJP’s policies and programmes. Uma Bharti has her own image as a leader.

How do you rate Mayawati as a leader?
UP has suffered due to casteism. Mayawati indulged in caste politics and called it social engineering. But people are fed up with this now. They don’t want Mulayam’s goonda raj to return as well. The only options are the BJP and Congress.

Do you think the BJP will be able to put the Congress party on the back foot in the coming elections?
The Congress can’t answer questions on corruption, price rise and black money. Its credibility is lost due to 2G and Commonwealth Games scams.

During UPA-1 , there was an excuse that certain policies could not be pursued because of the Left Front. But that is not the case in the UPA-2. The Congress has finished the aam aadmi.

What is your stand on the issues like the food security bill?
The definition of the line of poverty must be revised to decide who are genuinely poor. They must be provided food at cheaper rates. It is not creditable to our country that people die of hunger.