NEWS ANALYSIS – Lesson for Indian Muslims from Bihar: Learn to distinguish between friends and foes


BJP and AIMIM are two sides of the same coin—one playing on Hindu passions and the other polarising Muslims. They feed on each other and help each other grow.

By Zafar Aga

Communities in decline often fail to distinguish between friends and foes, ending up paying a heavy price for their folly. It would appear after the Bihar election results that Indian Muslims are yet to learn from past mistakes and are continuing to commit political blunders that hurt their own interests.

It appears that a large enough section of Bihari Muslims voted in Bihar for Assaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) over others. It undoubtedly helped the party win five seats and enable polarisation of votes on communal lines in others in the Seemanchal region. Whether Owaisi stood in the way of victory and defeat of either side is for psephologists to analyze. But by disrupting an essentially direct fight between the BJP and the opposition alliance, and by turning 20 crucial constituencies into three or four-cornered contests, Owaisi achieved a result that worked in favor of the BJP.

By becoming the single largest party in the ruling alliance, BJP finds itself in a position to dictate terms to a lame-duck chief minister and much weakened Nitish Kumar. Political interests of the community have neither been served by the defeat of the Maha Gathbandhan or by clipping the wings of Nitish Kumar against an openly hostile BJP.

The number of Muslim MLAs in the newly constituted Bihar Assembly has come down from 24 to 19. And for the first time, there is not a single Muslim MLA in the ruling alliance. Muslims in Bihar, if not Owaisi, must share part of the responsibility for this decline.

Bihar is one of the few states in the country where major communal riots have not taken place in the last three decades. In 1992, when the Babri Masjid (mosque) was pulled down and half the country witnessed violence, rioting, and arson, and later in 2002 following the train set on fire in Godhra, Bihar remained riot free.

When mob lynching became a norm in many BJP ruled states after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, Bihar reported no such barbarity. Besides, communal peace continuously for three decades was conducive for the Muslims in the state to progress in many ways. Will the peace last is a question that only Time will answer.

While obviously, Owaisi’s communal politics must be held partly responsible for placing Bihari Muslims at the mercy of the BJP, there are still many Muslims in and outside Bihar who defend Owaisi and his brand of politics. Their argument is that Owaisi is the only political leader who frankly and forthrightly stands up for the “Muslim cause’’ both inside and outside Parliament. He does not shy away even publicly stating that he would never say ‘’Bharat mata ki jai”. For many Muslims, it is gratifying to see that he ‘exposes vote bank politics of the ‘secular parties’.

Indeed, Assaduddin Owaisi is one of the few politicians who boldly and publicly stand up for Muslim causes. But that is what his politics is all about. He consciously and cleverly plays up Muslims’ victimhood to win their sympathy. It is the same politics that the BJP under Narendra Modi plays to cash in on the Hindu victimhood. Basically, both are the two sides of the same coin, helping each other to thrive.

Bihar election results are a classic example of BJP and AIMIM helping each other to grow in the state. The BJP is the single largest party in Bihar while Owaisi has managed to win five assembly seats in the state where his party had none till now. While one polarizes Muslims, the other polarize Hindus.

But how far does the new Muslim messiah’s politics really help the ‘Muslim cause’ really! Who — Muslims or Owaisi — is the gainer of AIMIM’s brand of politics? Look at the status of Hyderabadi Muslims who have been the backbone of the AIMIM for many decades now and you get a clue about it. The AIMIM shares power at the Hyderabad municipal level as well as represented in the Telangana assembly. But the AIMIM, which is almost as old as the Republic, has not made much significant difference to Hyderabadi Muslims or Muslims living in other parts of the country.

Densely populated Muslim localities in Hyderabad are as squalid as they are in other cities. But one does get to hear allegations about the Owaisis-dominated Trusts growing from strength to strength with educational institutions like medical college, engineering college, and many other educational institutions spread across Hyderabad. Owaisi’s critics say that they might be having the tag of minority educational bodies but they charge fees like other private institutions.

Besides, Owaisi’s much-acclaimed politics of ‘Muslim cause’ is not a new phenomenon at all. It is an old strategy of Indian Muslim leaders to play up the emotional Muslim card to garner the minority community’s sympathy to succeed as a Muslim spokesman. Ambitious Muslim leaders have often played up Muslim passions without bothering for its consequences for the community or the country.

I still remember the stubborn stand of the Babri Masjid Action Committee during the long period of mosque-temple tussle in Ayodhya. ‘Babri masjid nahi hataey ga’ (Babri mosque will not be moved at all). ‘Once a mosque, always a mosque’. It used to be the rhetoric of the committee with Allah ho Akbar slogans in public rallies. Similarly, Muslim Personal Law Board took up the cause of Triple Talaaq for over three decades with ‘no-compromise-on-personal-law’ stand.

Indian Muslims paid a heavy price for the emotional rhetoric in both cases! The babri mosque is history now. Instead, a grand Ram temple is coming up on its site. The country’s Parliament has already passed a law banning Triple Talaq. Playing up the Muslim card helped the BJP to openly play up the Hindu card to build up majoritarian politics that now overwhelms Indian Muslims so much so that they are virtually reduced to second class status.

Indian Muslims must learn from these experiences. If Muslim bodies engage in raising rhetorical slogans like Allah ho Akbar (God is Great), RSS outfits will go for slogans like Jai Sri Ram rhetoric. Its consequences can never be good for the minority community. Instead, the BJP will benefit from a Hindu backlash to consolidate its majoritarian politics as it has been doing since Muslim outfits like Babri Masjid Action Committee began taking up Muslim causes.

It is simple political logic; one brand of communalism will generate another brand of communal politics. And in this game of competitive communalism, the minorities will surely end up paying a very heavy price— something that they ought to have realized by now.

Bihar is not just a blunder. It is political hara-kiri on the part of those Muslims who opted for the blunt ‘Muslim-cause-politics’ of Assaduddin Owaisi. He loves to play with fire to bargain for a few seats without bothering for consequences.

If Indian Muslims do not learn from their mistakes now, Allah bhi unhey nahi maaf kare gaa (even Allah will not forgive them) — as they themselves often love to say. It is high time for the community to learn to distinguish between friends and foes.

Source- nationalheral.com, 21 November 2020.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Power shifts from OBCs to upper castes in Bihar after three decades


By Zafar Aga

Upper Caste control of power in Bihar is the political message of the NDA victory in the Assembly election. It has ended the 30-year old dominance by OBCs in the state

NEW DELHI, 11 November: Defying exit polls and the popular mood on the ground, the NDA has managed to win the Bihar assembly elections. The final tally as announced by the Election Commission late last night is 125 seats for the NDA and 110 seats for the Mahagathbandhan in a House of 243.

Despite losing the election by a whisker, Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD has emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats compared to the BJP’s 74 seats in the Bihar assembly. The Congress and the Left parties won 19 and 16 assembly segments respectively.

There are many issues that the Bihar assembly results have thrown up. But three major political currents sum up this election.

First, upper castes finally managed to take back control over state power after over three decades in Bihar from OBCs. Secondly, Nitish Kumar has been reduced to a puppet in Bihar politics even if he is made the chief minister of the state for the fourth time in a row. And finally, Lalu Yadav’s legacy of social justice is not yet over as Tejashwi Yadav emerged as the tallest opposition leader to fill his father’s vacuum on the ground.

Narendra Modi-led BJP had cut out two-game plans to wrest Bihar from the backward castes’ control to deliver it to the upper castes. Plan A was to somehow stop Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan from coming to power as it primarily represented OBC political aspirations through social justice plank. The BJP’s plan B was to cut Nitish down to size to push non-Yadav backwards to a secondary partnership in power with the primary goal of making upper castes the key players in post-Lalu Yadav Bihar.

BJP strategists put up two proxies to facilitate their job. Owaisi-led All India Muslim Ittehad ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was pitched into the minority-dominated Seemanchal region of Bihar. The AIMIM’s task was to dent the Muslim vote bank that has been a solid base of the RJD since 1989 and made a winning Yadav-Muslim (M-Y) combine for Lalu’s social justice politics.

The second BJP proxy in this round of Bihar assembly election was the Lok Jan Shakti Party’s (LJP) new boss Chirag Paswan, whose assignment was to cut Nitish Kumar to the status of being the secondary partner so that non-Yadav backward castes too lose their bargaining strength in the new power dispensation.

Both AIMIM and the LJP seem to have delivered on their assigned tasks well. The AIMIM has won only five seats. But it has damaged the Mahagathbandhan’s prospects in at least 10 seats in the Seemanchal region where it polled second. Every vote polled by the AIMM basically divided the anti-BJP vote, helping the BJP win those seats where the Mahagathbandhan could have easily won without the AIMIM’s presence.

The LJP itself won only one seat out of the 137 seats it contested. Bihar analysts, however, point out that it heavily hit JD (U) nominees in about 75 seats, reducing Nitish Kumar’s strength to 43 seats in the assembly.

Nitish, the second pole of non-Yadav OBC politics in Bihar, was thus cut down to size, paving the way for the upper castes to call the shots in Bihar’s power structure. Modi and his team thus managed to stop the OBCs’ dominance in Bihar politics for the last three decades.

But Tejashwi-led RJD still managed to emerge as the single largest party, signaling that the OBCs may be down but they are still not out of Bihar’s political game. Being young with a tremendous mass appeal cutting across castes, Tejashwi remains a thorn in the flesh of upper castes in post-Lalu Bihar politics.

Upper castes in Bihar have been struggling for three decades to roll back the politics of social justice. It is, indeed, another feather in Narendra Modi’s cap who can claim that he restored Bihar to the upper caste Hindus after capturing Uttar Pradesh from the OBCs.

It is no minor victory personally either for Modi who has emerged as the sole leader of Sangh politics of upper caste domination in the country. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two key power centers in the country, are now firmly under the control of upper castes, courtesy Narendra Modi. And, it makes him the darling of the Indian power players who sustain him despite his blunders like demonetization and the sudden and harsh COVID-19 lockdown which hit a sledgehammer blow to the economy.

Source- National Herald