Kairana poll episode gives a lesson to all parties: Be inclusive

Camil Parkhe
Monday, 4 June 2018

The RLD leaders,  Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary, instead of nominating either of them for the seat, took the risk of giving the party ticket to a Muslim women. It was indeed a gamble as the BJP, the main poll rival, was bound  to take full advantage of it by ensuring a communal poll divide to walk away with the parliamentary seat. The majority Jat and Muslim electorate in the constituency, however, cast their votes prudently and the Muslim candidate Tabassum Hasan Begum was elected with a huge margin.

 

The bold decision of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to field a Muslim candidate in Kairana Lok Sabha by-poll was unprecedented in the recent past. The RLD, founded by former prime minister Charan Singh and now led by his son Ajit Singh, has the main support base among the Jats, who decide the poll outcome in western Uttar Pradesh. This region incidentally also has sizeable population of the Muslim community. The RLD leaders,  Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary, instead of nominating either of them for the seat, took the risk of giving the party ticket to a Muslim women. It was indeed a gamble as the BJP, the main poll rival, was bound to take full advantage of it by ensuring a communal poll divide to walk away with the parliamentary seat. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath did exactly the same when he brought up  the issue of Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s portrait in  Aligarh Muslim University.

The majority Jat and Muslim electorate in the constituency, however, cast their votes prudently and the Muslim candidate Tabassum Hasan Begum was elected with a huge margin. Tabassum Begum has become the lone Muslim Lok Sabha member in the country among the 80 MPs from Uttar Pradesh. Although Muslims are 19 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population, BJP president Amit Shah who chalked out the election strategy for this state in 2014 Lok Sabha election had shrewdly decided not to give nomination to any Muslim candidate. The 2014 election which elected 71 BJP nominees in the total  80 seats in  the state proved  that the party can easily ignore the minority community and yet get elected even in those seats where Muslims have a sizeable population.

Amit Shah’s election strategy of ensuring majority community candidate’s win even in  those seats where the minorities have a dominant presence has been successfully implemented  by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra since last few decades. Aurangabad was the only region outside the Mumbai-Thane belt where the Shiv Sena had spread its influence in the late 1980s. Aurangabad has a sizeable Muslim population and one of the two MLAs elected from the city used to belong to this minority community. After coming to power in the local municipal corporation, the Shiv Sena successfully played the communal card to ensure that the majority votes do not go the minority candidate. Thus, even a powerful Muslim leader like former chief minister AR Antulay from Raigad district who was fielded from  the city had  to face a humiliating poll defeat. Since then parties like the Congress have been avoiding nominating a Muslim candidate in the city for fear of vote division on communal lines and the subsequent poll defeat. This jinx was broken only in 2014 when Imtiyaz Jaleel of the  All India  Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) was elected to the assembly from Aurangabad. The BJP has also been consistent in not giving its tickets to Muslims  or Christians in elections in Maharashtra and also in the recently concluded Karnataka polls.

The RLD’s decision to nominate a minority candidate and also persuade the majority community voters to vote for this candidates is therefore a welcome departure on the part of the political party as well the general electorates. This would certainly ensure proportionate rightful increase in minority representation at the state and national levels. What is most important is that it would force the BJP to reconsider its present policy of rejecting representation to the minority communities and to be all-inclusive in keeping with the country’s intrinsic diverse identities and the Constitution’s secular principle.

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