Are Muslims losing faith in secular parties?

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The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's (AIMIM) winning two seats in the Maharashtra assembly election has reiterated a significant point: The Muslims of this country are no more willing to remain a vote-bank to cater to the interests of the so-called secular parties. With the right-wing voices getting stronger and the secular camps fading out, the minorities have perhaps decided to make their own arrangements during elections by choosing a party of their own.

The Congress's fall in Indian politics and the weakening of its powerhouse, the Gandhis, is just not an electoral phenomenon. Its collapse has, in fact, marked a new shift in Indian politics. The grand-old party, if we observe closely, has had two collapses. The first was in the 1980s after Indira Gandhi's political style eroded its grassroots organisation.

Congress's double collapse: Once for majorities, second for minorities

The party, under the guise of secularism, kept on appeasing the Muslim vote-bank but in the process, allowed the majoritarian political forces to make a mark in Indian politics. After the death of two Gandhis in a span of seven years when the party was rattled, the right-wing camp gained a space to make a powerful appearance.

The Congress, to tackle with the right-wing BJP, then started depending more on the minority votes to stay competitive in the elections. It was though easier said than done for a number of regional parties also challenged the Congress in grabbing share of the minority vote share.

It was important for the Congress to cater to this constituency seriously after the multipolarisation of Indian politics began but its leadership proved far too short-sighted and inefficient in delivering what the doctor had ordered.

The second collapse hence was inevitable and the AIMIM's result in Maharashtra makes it evident. In fact, Muslim outfits have been appearing in many parts of the country, throwing a direct challenge to the so-called secular parties who have actually treated them as electoral objects and paying back nothing once the ballotting got over.

Both majorities and minorities have started looking away from Congress now

If the rise of the BJP could be attributed to the Congress party's minority appeasement, the rise of the Muslim parties has taken place because the Congress and the like-minded parties have failed the minorities. The double debacle is certainly going to hit the so-called secular parties, who use all their 'secular credentials' to defeat the BJP in elections, where it hurts the most.

India's electoral politics has also seen a liberalising effect

Indian politics, like its economy, has also witnessed a kind of liberalisation and the so-called secular parties' act of protectionism in lieu of electoral benefits is not going to pay off any more.

The Muslims have clearly understood that with the Congress and its like-minded parties running out of steam, especially in this era of Narendra Modi, a better option for them is to back a Muslim party, which could fight for them more effectively.

The fall of the centrist force in Indian politics has intensified the race for further polarisation. A dangerous game could be unfolding. Let's watch.

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