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The Muslim Voter Isn’t Dumb

Published on: March 20, 2012 Written By: Irena Akbar
Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/the-muslim-voter-isnt-dumb/

Muslim voter may be educationally backward, but is intelligent enough to see through political hogwash.

The curtains have fallen over the UP elections. We, the public, watched the episodes of the electoral soap opera that stretched on for over a month with much interest. But, thanks to our ridiculously short memories, we seem to have forgotten another hyped drama that preceded the campaign.

It had unfolded far away from UP,in Jaipur,but had a “lot to do with the UP elections”. Or so,television anchors and political analysts wanted us to believe. Let’s not blame them. They were only drawing their inferences from the stance of the Congress-led governments at the Centre and Rajasthan. I am talking about what happened long ago,in January,when the Congress conveniently and covertly gave in to the demands of certain Muslim groups to keep author Salman Rushdie from coming to India,in the hope that such a tactic would reap electoral gains in UP,where Muslims form 18 per cent of the population.

Rushdie didn’t come,the authors protested and wrote opinion pieces for newspapers,TV anchors came down on hapless Congress spokespersons,common folk who may have never read a Rushdie lamented “the crushing of creative freedom” on Twitter,and so on. But as the UP elections drew nearer,the issue died its own silent death.

But Congress’ hopes of drawing Muslim votes were still alive and kicking. Nothing wrong with that. Except that its hopes stood on the premise that the UP Muslim is dumb. That she’d care enough for an ageing author and his ancient tome. That her anti-Americanism,and anti-Isrealism,which is part of her DNA,will come to the fore when Rahul Gandhi asks her to choose between Bundelkhand and Israel,as according to the perpetually angry Congress scion,the BJP was planning to bring irrigation technology imported from Israel.

That she’d think Sonia Gandhi is akin to Mother Teresa just because Salman Khurshid (her co-religionist,by the way) tells her his boss shed a tear after seeing pictures of the encounter at Batla House. That she wouldn’t be able to see through the deceptive promise of a nine-per-cent quota for minorities within the larger quota for OBCs for central government jobs. That she is incapable to think beyond the realm of her religious identity. That,unlike her fellow UPites,development for her has to come at the cost of appeasement. That because she is so emotional,her vote could be the easist short-cut to victory in a state that has eluded the Congress for 22 years.

But as the election results have shown,the Muslim voter has outsmarted the strategists in Congress. She has given a clear thumbs down to the national party and its high-pitched appeasement drive. It’s a far-fetched analogy,but it did work here: if someone tries too hard to woo someone,the latter gets turned off,and begins to suspect the former’s motives. When Khurshid defied the Election Commission over the quota issue,it almost felt like,as one Muslim from UP told me,“the sop was being pushed down my throat”. Khurshid should have known in his overdoing,he was actually cementing the defeat of his wife,Louise Khurshid,a candidate for a Farrukhabad seat. She ended up fifth.

The Muslim voter even proved some analysts wrong,who predicted that,in the light of the Congress overreach to the community,the Muslim vote would get split between the Congress,the SP,and a clutch of smaller Muslim parties,thus giving BJP the advantage. That clearly didn’t happen. Even if some Muslims were willing to give a chance to Congress,they refrained from doing so,as they knew that such a choice wouldn’t count in a state where only the SP or the BSP can get a majority in current times. They chose the SP,as there was an overall anti-incumbency mood against the BSP. In Azamgarh district,where Digvijay Singh and Khurshid raised the Batla House bogey,the SP won 9 out of 10 seats. In Muslim-dominated Rohilkhand region too,the SP emerged as the largest party. Plus,of the 66 Muslim MLAs in the new UP assembly,41 belong to the SP,15 to the BSP,and just 4 to the Congress.

These numbers are lessons for the Congress: the days of appeasement are over. More importantly,the Muslim voter may be economically or educationally backward,but is intelligent enough to see through politcal hogwash.


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