INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
It is my personal experience and observation that if the political leadership is not apprised of the correct situation at the relevant time, there always remains a possibility of a miscalculated move and there is every apprehension of irreparable loss in future. I also believe that a political organization provides representation to all the sections of the society. Its decisions are two fold. Firstly, decisions are taken in national interest and secondly in the interest of various groups of the society. If a right decision is taken at the right time the concerned party may never loose its foothold. Every political party and its leadership must make formal contacts with the segments that have remained unattended so far and take necessary measures so that no segment of society is deprived.
In this background, I considered it necessary to present positive and negative aspects of the problem. Firstly, all positive steps taken by congress would be a source of inspiration for other parties and secondly a reference to the mistakes will be a lesson to them and thirdly it will ensure that past mistakes are not be repeated .It is, undoubtedly, a positive approach.
The country became independent in 1947 on the basis of partial application of two nation theory, a theory which clearly indicates that Hindus and Muslims are two separate communities and nothing is common between them and that all Muslims will migrate to Muslim state and Hindus to Hindu state and the remaining minorities will be under these two communities. Had it been so problem of Hindu Muslim unity would not have come up.
In fact, Hindus as well as a good number of Muslims did not want partition. It was the shrewdness of the British that they wanted these two big communities apart. Now India and Pakistan are two sovereign states but the bitterness caused by partition between Hindus and Muslims still persists. It might have been disappeared with the passage of time but the communal and fascist elements continue to exploit and arouse these feelings at the first available opportunity. The continuance of communal riots or anti-Muslim riots is its physical proof.
The two-nation theory was also not implemented honestly. Had this philosophy been accepted and acted upon all Muslims and Hindus would have migrated to Pakistan and India respectively, particularly Muslim league would have been instrumental in getting all Muslims migrated to Pakistan. Congress advocated for unity but agreed to partition. Besides, a strange formula was adopted for partition Muslim dominated provinces will be included in Pakistan and Hindu dominated provinces will become part of India. It was also not acted upon completely. Sindh, Frontier and Blochistan were completely included in Pakistan but a different yardstick was applied in case of Punjab and Bengal and both of these provinces were divided. Kashmir, being a Muslim majority state did not go to Pakistan and as such became a permanent disputed area and is still neither fish nor flesh. We say it is our integral part however they say it is part of the unfinished agenda of partition whereas the international community considers it a disputed territory. Punjab was divided in the manner that almost entire Muslim population migrated to Pakistan but the division of Bengal was effected in such a manner that West Bengal has 28 percent Muslims whereas East Bengal which is now Bangladesh has substantial population of Hindus. Here the transfer of population was disproportionate. Two-nation theory was not applied to the Muslims living in all other provinces nor was they affected by this division as they were permanently considered a minority and are being considered so from the very first day. On the contrary, the Hindus who were the residents of Muslim dominated provinces like Punjab and Bengal always participated in discussions on partition in the manner as if they were in majority. Hindus living in Muslim dominated provinces were in minority numerically but they always behaved like a majority community. Moreover, they were so strong, educationally, socially, economically and politically that the Muslims, though in majority, were no match to them. Why are Muslims who were in minority prior to the independence of India in these provinces and continued to be so and were never a party to the partition, victims of partition? We are centuries old Indians and no one has the right to question our loyalty and patriotism. We have to be treated at par in all walks of life. India National Congress always considered Indian Muslims as its partner in united India and in freedom struggle (which our leaders acknowledged before and after the independence) and its direct outcome was that the claim of Muslim league, being sole representative of Muslims was never accepted by the British. On the other hand, Congress succeeded in convincing the British that though Muslims of Muslim dominated provinces may support Muslim league for local considerations but Congress has the right to represent the Muslims living in Hindu dominated provinces, population of which is hardly a bit less than that of Muslim dominated provinces.
Whole hearted support of our religious scholars and leaders belonging to Deoband school of thought like Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, Hakeem Ajmal Khan, Moulana Syed Ahmad Madani, Moulana Hifzur Rehman, Mufti Kifayatullah and persons like Hafiz Ibrahim, Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Abdul Majeed Khwaja, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and many other leaders led to the division of Punjab and Bengal and we got Kashmir because of its geographical situation. With the inclusion of Gurdaspur in East Punjab we got an approach to Kashmir otherwise situation would have been unimaginable. Congress succeeded on many fronts but it failed miserably to handle just one person, that is, Jinnah. Even questions about his health and age were raised. Had he been won over British would have never been succeeded in their mission and the Indian Muslims would not have faced such a miserable situation.
After independence, the political power of the country was handed over to congress and Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister and Dr. Rajendra Prasad first President of Independent India. Both of them were great freedom fighters. They always believed in the principle of unity in diversity and also acted upon it. Our first Lok Sabha gave thumping majority to congress and like minded people. Even in the process of framing the constitution religious neutrality was maintained and a constitution granting equal rights to all and freedom in all areas including religious, cultural and educational freedom was adopted. Indian Muslims appreciated these positive aspects but complained of non application of these provisions so far as they were concerned as they felt that they did not get their due during the last five decades. Anti-Muslim riots continued, lakhs of Muslims were killed. In 1949 Hindu extremist elements forcibly entered four hundred years old Babri Masjid and put idols there and Babri Masjid was demolished and converted into Ram Janam Bhumi, claims and counter claims were made and a bad show of religious intolerance and impartiality was in the offing and the concept of Hindutva got strengthened and the secular foundation of our polity received a big jolt.
India had Muslim rule for about eight hundred years which ended with the defeat of first war of independence in 1857. During these years lands, properties and buildings were converted into WakfAlallah which means that the said lands, properties and buildings could be used only in accordance with desire, intention and will or advice of Wakif (the man creating Wakf ). Congress also took a positive step by enacting a central Wakf Act under which Wakf Boards were constituted and Wakf properties were entrusted to them. These properties valuing thousands of crores of rupees are the assets of Indian Muslims, endowed for the welfare of community so that in future the community may not face any financial difficulty in carrying out welfare activities. It includes maintenance of graveyards, Dargahs, Mazars, Mosques, Khanqahs and Wakfs. These properties are spread throughout the country but some of them are at primary commercial locations. If they are properly managed Indian Muslims may be well off and self reliant. The congress leadership had done the best job by enacting Wakf Act and making necessary amendments from time to time including enactment of the new Wakf Act in 1995. However, there are some negative aspects of this problem and the same have been dealt with in detail in chapter on Wakf earlier.
Another great achievement of Congress, which is appreciated by one and all, is that it gave due respect to religious feelings of Muslims and never interfered in their religious activities, such as, construction of mosques, establishment of Madarsas (religious schools), religious movements, formation of Jamaats and organizations and their functioning, rather it provided such a secular and open atmosphere in the country that all religions flourished in its regime Whether it was Tableegh-e-Islam or lakhs of Madarsas all over India. Melodious Azan was never taken as a source of nuisance or described as noise pollution. There was no hindrance in performing Islamic duties like Namaaz, Roza, Zakat and other obligations. In this sequence an important fundamental of Islam is the performance of Haj, which requires the establishment of a system at government level. It was again congress, which had formally enacted central Haj committee Act under which Haj committees were constituted at both central as well as state levels. They have played a positive role in managing such affairs. They have also been successful in getting certain privileges and economic concessions for Haj pilgrims from Government of India. It is the result of such an atmosphere that lakhs of believers perform Haj and visit holy cities of Mecca and Medina every year to discharge their religious duty. Further, in the same sequence, congress has been strictly following the principle of non intervention in Muslim personal law from the very beginning. It includes the affairs relating to marriages such as divorce, maintenance etc. and the implementation of rights of inheritance on the basis of Quranic criteria. During Late Rajiv Gandhi's regime complications arose due to the decision of the Supreme Court of India in Shah Bano's case. Congress once again proved its credibility through legislative weapon. Again it was congress which banned Salman Rushdi's "Satanic verses" which was an eye opener to the Islamic world. Tasleema Nasreen also met the same fate and she was refused visa by respecting the sentiments and feelings of Indian Muslims. All these positive steps deserve acknowledgement and appreciation. Sometimes, mistakes may be committed but if the intention is clear the situation can be set right through corrective measures as can be done in case of Babri Masjid. For us, it is also a religious matter. There is a long list of negative steps taken by congress in this respect. Though Babri Masjid was demolished during Narsimha Rao's Government but keeping in view the public apology and assurance and guarantee of not repeating such incidents in future by the present congress leadership, the Indian Muslims, displaying their Islamic tolerance, should return to the fold of congress. They have given such clear indications in General elections, 2004 which is a healthy sign. The reality is that Rajiv Gandhi's decision for doing Shilanniyas on the land, quite separate from the compound of Babri Masjid was the only way to protect the mosque but the congress could not explain to Muslims and the Muslims also could not read the writing on the wall. Intention may be bonafide but the message must also reach the common men. Hindu extremist element took benefit of it and congress suffered heavy losses. After demolition of Babri Masjid Muslims are not sure of foolproof protection to mosques. It was again congress, which having visualized the situation in Ayodhya took precautionary steps before the demolition of mosque and the Places of Worship[special provisions] Act was enacted in October, 1991 according to which all the places of worship as on 15th August, 1947 will be protected. Babri Masjid was not included in it. But Kashi, Mathura and thousands of other mosques falling under the department of archeology got protected after the said enactment. Though the Hindu extremist elements made their claim over three thousand mosques but now one may be convinced that congress is not now ready to be further cowed down by communal elements. The negative aspect in this regard is that the said Act has not been included in the IXTh schedule and under article 31B of the Constitution and provided immunity. Hindu extremist elements are least bothered about this Act and continue to make undesirable statements, speeches, and commit all acts of commission and omission. Similarly, the Dargah Khwaja Sahib Act was passed which provided a base to the management of Mazars and Dargahs. Congress has also taken care of the shrines of holy men, which are considered as pillars of our pluralistic society. Wakf Act also contains some provisions relating to them. Like Trupati Trust if some corresponding mechanism is created under the Dargah Act, it will be a boon for Muslim community and their welfare.
The issue of educational right is also very important for us. In this regard, the constitution has provided special privileges to the minorities to establish and run their educational institutions independently. It is because of the constitution framed under the leadership of congress that today thousands of minority institutions are working. The Indian Muslims have taken the advantage of these privileges particularly in South India. However, the Muslims in North India paid less attention to educational activities and remained abreast with sentimental issues. This is the reason that the Muslims of this region are educationally backward. However, Muslims of Maharashtra made full use of it. The role of Anjuman-e-Islam Taleemi society Mumbai, Alameen Taleemi Trust Bangalore and a number of similar societies who had provided invaluable services in the field of education is very much appreciable and commendable. A number of medical and engineering colleges are running successfully in South India. However, the Muslims in North India are now getting awakened. But a personality whom I consider Sir Syed of present century is Late Hakeem Abdul Hameed to whom I have paid well deserved tributes in earlier part of this book and I am short of terminology to pay further tributes to him. I also want him to award the title of pride of Millat and pride of India as he, by establishing Hamdard, has left such an asset for the Muslims of Independent India which will perpetuate his memory. I salute this great man. He was an iron man with a tender heart. It was again congress which encouraged the efforts of Hakeem Abdul Hameed and got another feather in its secular cap. Similarly, Jamia Millia Islamia, another Milli Educational Institution came into existence at the time of Non-cooperation movement. It was also made a central university by the congress and it grew with leaps and bounds during its regime. The congress has also played a decisive role to promote and develop Aligarh Muslim University with whom Indian Muslims are associated sentimentally and lakhs of students who completed their studies in this educational institution are in them an institution recognized as such all over the globe. All these things prove secular character of this party. The congress, however, committed a mistake by abrogating the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University but later corrective measures were also taken by the same congress. Jamia and AMU have yet to play a positive role as viable minority institutions. The establishment of Moulana Azad Educattional Foundation is also a positive step taken in this direction. Today it has funds to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees and it is playing a special role to remove the educational backwardness of Muslim society. This laudable step was also taken during congress regime. Let us hope that the congress will play a more effective role to remove our educational backwardness.
Linguistic rights have their own importance. Though Urdu has been a defacto national language as it played a very significant role during freedom struggle through its well crafted poetry as well as prose but after partition majority community almost disowned it, the successive governments ignored it, the film industry patronized it but felt shy of describing it as Urdu for example films like Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeeza, Mere Huzoor, Taj Mahal and Razia Sultan are termed and described as, "Hindi movies". What a pity and what a shame? Committees to consider its poor state were formed but their reports did not see the light of the day. Most of religious, cultural and historical literature of Indian Muslims is in Urdu. We have lakhs of educational institutions and traditional schools of learning countrywide where medium of instruction is Urdu. Today Urdu is the language of 20 crores of Muslims. Congress always acknowledged it but its actions fell short of our expectations. A number of Urdu Academies have been established but there has been financial crunch throughout. At the national level we have Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu and National council for promotion of Urdu language, Mniistry of Human resource development gives substantial grant to it. Bihar has granted Urdu the status of second official language. In Uttar Pradesh N.D. Tiwari introduced a bill to the same effect, which could be passed during the tenure of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Similarly, a number of districts in Andhra Pradesh have granted Urdu the status of second official language. Congress Government in Delhi has also made Urdu its second official language. Initiative to establish Moulana Azad National Urdu University was also taken by congress Government for which the cabinet had approved the target of funds to the tune of two hundreds and fifty crores but after the Elections Devi Gowda Government implemented it but with the fund of just seven crore rupees the said university was established. Moreover, Ministry of Human resource Development also has a scheme to impart teaching of computer and science subjects in religious institutions (Madarsas) where medium of instruction is Urdu but our religious institutions are reluctant to take its full advantage. Congress has also taken some other steps to promote Urdu because of which Urdu has attained some dignified status.
The constitution has also given this language the status of one of the official languages as contained in schedule VIII. It is the acknowledgement at government level which satisfies Urdu lovers but still more is to come. Similarly, All India Radio has been broadcasting various Urdu programmes. Doordarshan has also been telecasting a number of such programmes. Thousands of Urdu journals, magazines and hundreds of Urdu newspapers and periodicals with their declining readership are still an integral part of our fourth estate. In order to promote it, government advertisements are also published in Urdu. It all goes to the credit of this very party but Urdu is yet to be linked with employment. Now let us expect that after regaining the power in 2004 at the center congress will make further headway in this direction. Mere use of Urdu in government run buses, offices and other important places will not grant it official status. Urdu knowing people or Urdu translators may be given employment in government Departments and Banks etc. otherwise this official exercise shall prove to be an exercise in futility.
In economic field, the Indian Muslims have always lagged behind and are engaged in petty jobs and have not been able to derive full benefits of government schemes, the matter already dealt with in detail in earlier part of the book and they have suffered in all regimes and it is really shocking that Muslims have been labourers, artisans and mechanics for the last fifty years and could not become big industrialists. However, things are changing and the graph is moving upward gradually but the government is yet to come to our rescue. Congress does provide us opportunities but not up to the desired level. After all better late then never. It was again congress which established National Minority Financial Development Corporation with initial investment of rupees five hundred crores which provides a solid base for our economic development. The corporation provides loans to Muslims along with other minorities. Such corporations will be set up in all the states and their jurisdiction shall also be extended by providing them additional funds. Besides, special financial assistance to encourage the household handicrafts will have to be provided. Similarly, the Indian Muslims are taking the benefits of Prime Minister's Employment scheme, Jawahar Rozgar Yojna and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. In order to increase the representation of Muslims Mandal commission included economically backward Muslim classes in it. It would be better if out of 27% only 9% is separately reserved for Indian Muslims It requires cabinet approval and the issue of a notification only.
On political platform it was only congress which before and after the independence provided substantial representation to Indian Muslims in the party and organization. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan became the Presidents of Congress prior to the independence and later there remained the tradition of party President and Prime Ministership in one person but still we have substantial representation in the party. Even today Mr. Ahmad Patel is the political advisor to the president of congress and the chairperson of U.P.A. Mr. Salman Khursheed is General Secretary. The U.P.A. government led by congress has considerable number of Muslim Ministers. Sh. K Rehman Khan has been made Dy. Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Congress has played a decisive role in making Abdul Kalam as the President by consensus. Congress has Muslim leaders of high stature in ABA Ghani Khan Chaudhary, Abdul Rehman Antulay, Jaffar Sharif, Mohsina Kidwai, Ghulam Nabi Azad. Mr. P.M. Saeed who recently expired was also an eminent congress leader. Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad has now taken over as their chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Even in the past, congress made Dr. Zakir Husain and Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad President of India. Dr. Zakir Husain and Justice Hidayatullah have also been vice Presidents. A number of persons were made Governors which includes Shri. Nurul Hasan, Shafi Qureshi, Khursheed Alam, MOH Farooq, Usman Arif, A.R. Qidwai; Mr. Barkatullah, Abdul-Rehman Antulay, Ms. Anwara Taimur and Mr. Abdul Ghafoor have been chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Assam and Bihar respectively. At one time there were five cabinet rank Muslim Ministers at the centre. Muslim leaders were nominated in Rajya Sabha. Maximum number of Muslim members of Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies and the ministers had been there only during congress regimes. Supreme Court of India had two Muslim chief Justices. Post of Cabinet secretary was also held by a Muslim. Air chief Marshall had been a Muslim. Similarly U.P.S.C. and other government institutions had Muslim chairmen and members. In the diplomatic field also Muslim ambassadors represented India in developed countries like America, U.K. and Russia etc. In other words, the representation and share provided to the Muslims in politics and the fields directly related to it has by and large been satisfactory and it should be acknowledged. Even today if a comparison is made between the congress and other secular parties with reference to Muslim representation, one will find that the Muslim representation in congress as compared to other parties is much higher. It has, however, not been proportionate to our population, which has been our demand throughout. Congress has also the tradition of obliging heirs and successors of Muslim leaders who contributed in freedom struggle like Najma Heptullah, the grand daughter of Moulana Azad, Mohsina Kidwai, the political successor of Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and Moulana Asad Madani the heir of Moulana Syed Hussain Ahmed Madani president of Jamiat-ul-ulma-i-Hind. Salman Khursheed is also a part of this chain. It is only congress that has been adhering to this tradition and maintaining its secular character and passing it on to coming generation or generations.
As regards societal obligations, congress has been the torch bearer of secularism and has always fought communal forces with tooth and nail. It is because of these efforts that Muslims never felt alienated rather they maintained best relations with other classes of the societies and maintained goodwill and harmony. And it is the result of this policy that wherever Indian Muslims became victim of Hindu fundamentalism, a decisive majority of country's population came to their support and condemned extremist elements. When decisions were taken to forcibly impose Saraswati Vandana and Vande Matram upon Indian Muslims, congress came forward to oppose it strongly.L.K. Advani's Rath Yatra was strongly opposed by it. Similarly when Babri Masjid was demolished by communal forces, it was again congress, which dismissed four BJP state governments and imposed President Rule and maintained its secular character. It, however, failed on Babri Masjid front, the matter discussed at length in various chapters and even otherwise known to all of us. Narsimha Rao paid its price individually and the congress collectively as a party. In spite of that two third majority of members of parliament consisting of more then five hundred non-Muslim members opposed and condemned the demolition of Babri Masjid openly and in the Parliament. Today, it is again the congress which is taking corrective measures and presents such leadership in whose hands future of secular India is safe and they are strong enough to face communal forces and bring back the communal harmony in the country. They look determined to throw out communalism and extremism out of the country and not to allow the repetition of Ayodhya in future. However, on social front, one-sided atrocities against the Muslims during the communal riots are such complaints which the Indian Muslims have been making the congress. Let us hope that the proposed law on the subject may bring some relief to them. The congress is generally accused for not providing protection to the lives and properties of Indian Muslims but at the same time it should also be kept in mind in lakhs of villages, thousands of towns and hundreds of cities only about 100 places are such where communal riots took place repeatedly but in rest of the country communal harmony was maintained for which congress should definitely be commended and appreciated in the same manner as it is made the target of our criticism. It was again Congress which took steps to constitute Rapid Action Force to control communal riots because this force has better representation of minority personnel in comparison to other forces. Besides, different non-governmental voluntary organizations, institutions and agencies, which are running a number of schemes for providing coaching in competitive examinations, imparting education to adults, promoting education amongst women, particularly computer education and encouraging and promoting small scale and cottage industries have been receiving financial aid from the government.. If these institutions want recognition the government can accord it. They may be provided up to 95 percent aid subject to certain rules and regulations. In this way the management has to arrange only 5 percent of expenditure. The employees of these institutions enjoy all those facilities which are available to the teachers and employees of government educational institutions. If our Muslim brothers engaged in age old ancestral occupations and want to promote their occupational skills, the government has schemes to provide them financial assistance. All these steps have been taken during congress regimes only. Besides, some progress has also been made in last few years in the implementation of Indira Gandhi Programme for the welfare of Minorities in which certain targets were fixed to provide proportionate representation and share in various national institutions. It requires a zealous approach. Letters were written repeatedly to the state Governments but follow up action was not up to the mark.
Lastly, I would like to make a special mention about two institutions, the importance of which most of Muslims have not yet realized. These are National Human Rights commission and National and State Minority commissions. Both of these commissions have legal status. These commissions entertain complaints of gross human rights violations and vulnerable sections of the society should make full use of them. The commissions may conduct necessary inquiry and grant relief as provisions of the Act. Earlier such facilities were not available but the congress established such commissions and granted them legal status. It is because of these commissions that anti-Muslim Gujarat riots during Modi Government got proper direction and compelled the state government to clarify its position repeatedly. Atrocities by communal and Hindu extremist elements against the Christian community in Gujarat came to light and the Gujarat Government came into defensive position and it was compelled to constitute minority commission.These commissions also exposed Gujarat Government both at National and International level. Even Supreme Court of India took a note of it and the cases relating to Bilquis and Best Bakery were transferred for their trial to State of Maharshtra. What may be more humiliating for any elected government?
Who should be commended for all these positive actions? Naturally the Indian National Congress and its leadership. No other experiment has proved to be so satisfactory. However, at state or regional level a number of secular parties have come into existence that have done good work for Indian Muslims and other minorities. Among them are, Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, Communists in Kerala and Bengal, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj party in Uttar Pradesh, DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Telgu Desum in Andhra Pradesh and Janata Dal in Karnataka are such instances where no question mark can be put. All these parties are not only maintaining communal harmony but are also maintaining the supremacy of law in their respective states.
As far as negative aspects are concerned, there is a long listdelayed implementation of govt. schemes, non-publication of data relating to them, reports of committees having enquired into communal rights never made public and no follow up action taken, inadequate participation of Muslims in national affairs up to desired level etc. It would be better if congress issues a white paper regarding such issues so that the exact position may be known to all.
I would also like to express my views on certain international issues with reference to congress,. For example, India always maintained special relations with Arab and Muslim countries and has always been their well-wisher. It has always supported Palestinian cause. India had always supported judicious stand of Arabs. The congress leadership while formulating its foreign policy, religious links of Indian Muslims with Islamic world were always kept in mind and there has always been soft corner for them. Most of the Muslim countries are members of non-aligned movement, founder of which was Nehru, Nasser and Tito. Similarly Islamic world also gives special priority to India and has been maintaining cordial relations with her in which population of 20 crores of Muslims directly plays a positive role.
Similarly it is not difficult to have an idea of the importance of foreign exchange being contributed by lakhs of Indians working in Gulf and other Muslim countries. Our country is having the economic interest to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars of rupees in these countries. In this way, congress has been maintaining its secular character in diplomatic relations too.
Best efforts have been made to present positive and negative picture of congress rule with reference to Indian Muslims in the manner that there may not be any conflict between Milli and National interests as both of them are interlinked and interwoven.
While presenting the positive and negative aspects I have kept in mind that how a person having sympathy with congress will think in this situation. However, certain observations made by me in the concluding Para refelect my personal feelings as also of Indian Muslims. I have avoided unnecessary criticism of Congress. With reference to Indian Muslims, the basic difference between Indian National congress and other political parties is that we have been its founders and we feel that it belongs to us and we belong to it. Congress took birth from the womb of Khilafat movement and as such the necessity of good relations with it has always been felt in Muslim circles. Probably, it is because of this reason that we get annoyed with it so soon and expect some patting. At the same emergence of a secular political alternative at the national level is the need of the hour. It may be done by joining hands with regional parties or through consensus. This process be continued and strengthened because after some time, a party, particularly the ruling party starts behaving like a dictator or gets personalized. This is my firm conviction..
I opposed strongly when congress became instrumental in bringing down governments of Devi Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral at the center for no cogent reason because a secular alternative could emerge with the help of these parties and BJP could be kept out of power.
1996, A YEAR OF NON-TRADITIONAL
This year brought basic changes in our national politics. Bhartiya Janata Party which is considered as a Hindu Fundamentalist political party by a substantial majority of Indian population emerged as a single largest party in 1996 General Elections and as such it was invited by the president to form the Government. Within two weeks of its formation, the government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to face a defeat in a confidence motion before the house. In this way BJP's government lasted for 13 days in all at the center. I consider it necessary to discuss the issues raised in the debate, held in Lok Sabha on this occasion which is as under:
1. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, being the leader of the house initiated debate on confidence motion and as such the debate, instead of being confined to the government, proved to be a debate in which personality of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP were considered as two things quite apart..
2. Except Shiv Sena, every political party called BJP a communal and Hindu Fundamentalist Party and to prove it, direct involvement of BJP, Sangh Parivar and other organizations and movements in the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December was put forward and BJP failed to prove its innocence and it was on the defensive.
3. BJP was termed as communal, Hindu Fundamentalist and fascist party but at the same time everybody praised Vajpayee and appreciated his secular credentials. With due reverence, he was dislodged on the ground that a right man belonged to a wrong party.
4. After Nehru it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was showered so much praise for his secular outlook.
5. In this confidence motion, BJP was completely isolated and could not get even a single ally in its support.
6. Vajpayee's strategy paid him dividends subsequently.. At the time of moving confidence motion an appeal was made to all the non-congress secular parties to support the motion and join the government on the basis of a secular agenda that meant giving up BJP Hindu Agenda of Ram Mandir, uniform civil code and Article 370.
7. Though at that time no body believed it and it found to be lacking in mustering required majority but it was a clear indication that BJP and Sangh Parivar could go even to that extent in order to grab power, particularly to those secular regional parties who were part of Janta Party in 1977 and a history of their relationship with BJP was already on record.
1996: HISTORICAL ROLE OF NARSIMHA RAO in OPPOSing
THE CONFIDENCE MOTION
After the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, Indian Muslims had distanced themselves from the congress and Narsimha Rao because of certain misunderstandings. Mr. Rao and his close associates tried their best to narrow down the gulf between them but could not succeed. Probably this was the reason that wherever Indian Muslims found an alternative secular candidate in comparison to congress candidate, they supported him but if no such candidate was available they openly supported congress. It is just a presumption based on mere conjecture that Indian Muslims had maintained complete distance from congress in 1996 General Elections. We may also appreciate that after the demolition of Babri Masjid, four elected governments were dismissed, the center was appointed as receiver of 66 acres of land by Supreme Court, and assurance of constructing the mosque in case of favourable decision by the court was given by Mr. Rao during the tour of Bareilly. I had all praise for him at that time and I do maintain it.
Congress by vehemently opposing BJP in its confidence motion, clarifying statements regarding their secular image, admitting some of their mistakes committed in past helped congress to regain its temporarily lost goodwill. It was the time, when P.A. Sangma, Sharad Pawar and Mamta Banerjee had not left the congress. Congress was fully united and there was no question mark on the leadership of Mr. Rao. He had full control over the party. Not only was this but he also seen guiding other secular parties to oppose confidence motion.
The confidence motion was defeated. All Indian Muslim Majlis-e-Shoora, announced in a national convention to support congress in General Elections of 1996 in all such states and constituencies where it was directly pitted against BJP, the fundamental Hindu organization. Its delegation led by me (in the capacity of founder and President of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Shoora) met Mr. Rao in the office of congress party. The delegation had, except me eleven other members who were either office bearers or the members of Shoora. Rao Sahib held the meeting in the room in which generally the meetings of congress working committee are organized. All members of the working committee were present there. By this one can visualize my proximity as that of my organization with him. Whatever I had stated there is reproduced as under:
"I do admit that congress has been defeated and it has come down from 209 to 142 but still no other secular party is nowhere in proximity. I fail to understand that if the government is to be formed in the name of secularism why can't it be under the leadership of Mr. Rao? Even today you are the largest group. I am unable to digest as to how Janata Dal with hardly 50 members in Lok Sabha can be allowed to form the government. You should take initiative to form the government. It is correct that congress has lost but victory has eluded everyone and as such congress is the first claimant to form the government in the name of secularism".
However, congress did not take any initiative to form this government by defeating the confidence motion of BJP. It however got an opportunity to rebut all the charges made against its secular image for which Mr. Rao and the congress under his leadership definitely deserved appreciation.
WRONG DECISIONS OF CONGRESS TO DETHRONE DEVI GOWDA
The government led by BJP could run for only thirteen days as it lost the confidence motion. Thereafter, a secular government led by Mr. Devi Gowda was formed with the support of congress which was doing good work and there was no reason to dislodge it but support to it was withdrawn by congress and Shri Inder Kumar Gujral was made the Prime Minister of India. In this way secular government continued to work with change in leadership. Mr. Gujral, who is known for his secular image was very well in harness but congress played the same card. Now the command of congress goes into the hands of Shri Sita Ram Kesri from a much matured Mr. Rao. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had now a better say in congress and entire politics concentrates at the Janpath residence of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Mr. Rao was implicated in a number of cases and his grip over the congress was getting loose. Sita Ram Kesri whom Mr. Rao considered his faithful had become Sonia Gandhi's man. DMK was an ally in Gujral Government. Questions were being raised on the relationship between LTTE and DMK with reference to the accidental death of Rajiv Gandhi. The matter became so serious that on this basis congress withdrew support from Gujral Government for no valid reason. This decision adversely affected credibility of the party particularly vis-à-vis Non-Congress Secular Parties. In this way BJP, which had already assured Non-Congress secular parties to run the government on secular agenda in the 1996 confidence motion found an opportunity to get sufficient number of allies in 1998 though it had failed to muster the support of even a single political secular ally in 1996? This time BJP not only emerged as the single largest party but also found sufficient number of allies to form the government. Congress which had 142 seats in 1996 was confined to 112 seats only and the allegation that Narsimha Rao was responsible for its decline proved wrong.
1998: FORMATION OF FIRST CENTRAL GOVERNMENT LED BY BJP
The Manner in which the congress withdrew the support from properly running Devi Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral Governments and did not allow them to work hurt the feelings of Non-congress secular parties and reduced their degree of reliance on congress and the offer made by BJP to run the government on secular agenda influenced the results of General elections of 1998. Consequently BJP emerged as a single largest party and succeeded to muster the support of sufficient number of allies to run the government for 13 months. This government worked on secular agenda. Nothing happened during this regime which might have put the secularism of the country in danger. Now our national political scenario had changed. Secular politics was completely divided. Congress was getting weaker and could get only 112 seats in comparison to 142 in last elections. In other words BJP and its secular allies had a strong grip on central politics.
However, in the year 1999 a no confidence motion was moved against BJP led government. It was the time when the performance of BJP and its secular allies was before the people. Ayodhya, uniform civil code, Hindutva and Article 370 were no where in the agenda of the Government but the number game went against them. Because of the withdrawal of support by only one Saifuddin Soz from the government it fell in 1999. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi met the president desperately staking claim for the formation of the government but to no avail. Lok Sabha was dissolved and General elections of 1999 were announced.
It was the time when congress and all non-congress secular parties were fighting with each other. Majority of secular parties were the allies of BJP. BJP along with them had formed National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It had consensus on secular agenda with its allies prior to elections and on the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The atmosphere was quite favourable for the alliance led by Atal Behari Vajpayee and the people had soft corner for it as the earlier government had fallen just by one vote and the congress failed to form the government. At the same time there was awakening throughout the country in favour of Vajpayee and the alliance led by him which election results proved to be correct.
1999: POPULARITY OF NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE INCREASED AND IT RECEIVED MAJORITY IN GENERAL ELECTIONS
I consider it a lapse on the part of Indian National congress and its leader Mrs. Sonia Gandhi that they announced open war against BJP without proper home work and therefore, faced humiliation. However, National Democratic Alliance people become martyrs in the eyes of the common man.
There is a long history of the Indian electorate that it is unduely influenced by the sympathy factor or for being victimized or a too negative happening. This drastically affects the general voting pattern. For example;
In 1977 when it was a negative vote against the atrocities committed during emergency, even the former Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi and her son sanjay Gandhi were defeated and the congress party had to retreat badly. It was the Janata party that won the elections.
In 1980 the same congress under the leadership of Mrs Gandhi defeated the Janata party because it could not deliver. This time it was a positive vote.
In 1984 Mrs Gandhi was assassinated by her own security guards and this time it was the sympathy vote which makes the congress win with a record number of seats and that too in favor of a person who was still trying to build a case of his own.
Examples like Lalu Prasad Yadav, opposition for the sake of opposition (like BJP and its allies), unnecessary harassment (like that of J. Lalita), association with a particular issue like that of Mr. Vishwanath Pratap Singh's with Mandal and BJP's with Temple can be some other examples at the regional and national level. Such a tendency gets repeated in 1999 and 2004 General Elections. Congress must keep all these things in mind while evolving future strategy. The latest assembly results in Bihar again proves the point.
The results of General Elections of 1999 gave thumping majority to National Democratic Alliance and congress in spite of contesting elections under the leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi took its graph further downward in comparison to Sita Ram Kesri. The party which registered a historical victory in 1984 by winning 409 seats could win only 112 seats. Indian voters did not support the heir of Nehru-Gandhi family and widow of Rajiv Gandhi and provided an opportunity to Vajpayee by reposing faith in him for the next five years. The Government completed its term and decided to hold elections early. Vajpayee government functioned on secular agenda from 1999 to 2004 but during this period Indian Muslims had to bear the trauma of Anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. The Christians were also targeted on the pretext of their role in conversion and atrocities were committed on Nuns. Churches were demolished and damaged in Gujarat. In Orissa an Australian missionary was burnt alive along with his children and the humanity was at its lowest ebb. Gujarat Government was criticized by National Human Rights Commission, National Minorities commission, other institutions connected with the protection of International human rights and above all by the Supreme Court of India but in spite of all this Narender Modi was not removed from the post of chief Minister, elections were contested under his leadership and was again made the chief Minister of the state. All these developments exposed the secular agenda of Vajpayee Government. It is correct to say that it was a state matter but BJP was in power at both places i.e. state and the center. In this way, national democratic alliance was weakened and the secular allies of BJP lost the ground. They lost their Muslim votes and these votes shifted to secular parties like Congress, Communists, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj etc. The results are before you.
2004: CLEAR DEFEAT TO BJP AND ITS ALLIES
By the end of 2003, assembly elections were held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. By the victory in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh BJP was so much overwhelmed that it wrongly assessed the situation presuming that India was shining and there was a writing on the wall `feel good' everywhere. Congress, being an old and seasoned political party, which had won almost all the assembly elections contested during the regime of BJP and had ruled the country for more then four decades kept watching the situation strategically. With the arrival of 2004 Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who had reemerged on the political scene of India and occupied number 2 position also started thinking about the figure of 409. All the calculations in assembly elections had gone in favour of congress. BJP was said to have been on equal footing in Madhya Pradesh but even in Madhya Pradesh its position was not decisive. The results of elections unexpectedly went against congress and BJP heaved a badly needed sigh of relief.
From here BJP became over confident and congress became conscious and both of them shared negative and positive results. BJP and the allies were so over confident that BJP started talking that it will be in a position to form the government on its own but at the same time it assured the allies that it will carry them with it and will also contest the elections jointly and the alliance will win at least 350 seats. The congress leadership also visualized the situation and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi nodded in favour of an alliance of secular forces to give the opposite alliance a tough fight. It was the first occasion when congress talked of coalition government which I had suggested it to Mr. Rao eight years ago.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi personally met Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Karunanidhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Comrade Surjeet and succeeded in forming United Progressive Alliance to oppose NDA. This was the time when Muslim ire against NDA, particularly against BJP was at its peak because of massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Anti-incumbency factor was working in Andhra Pradesh against Naidu. In Tamil Nadu, J. Lalita's proximity with BJP on issues like Temple and Uniform Civil Code proved to be harmful as BJP is considered in south India as Hindu fundamentalist political party of Hindi belt representing Aryans. Karunanidhi made full use of this situation and became popular among the people who believe in Dravidian culture. Besides, the general atmosphere was also not completely NDA friendly. It all led to the defeat of National Democratic Alliance and victory of United Progressive Alliance.
PRESENT POLITICAL SITUATION: POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ASPECTS (with reference to General Election, 2004)
(The positive aspects are as under) Vajpayee government paid the price for deviating from secular agenda and learned the lesson that no political party can remain in power for long by ignoring the minorities, particularly Muslims or by committing atrocities against them.
The allies of National Democratic Alliance have also realized that they will also loose ground if they join hands with communal forces.
BJP might also have understood that Indian People, in general and Indian Muslims, in particular, may accept it on secular agenda but Hindu Agenda is neither acceptable to Hindus nor to Minorities and in case they are interested in regaining power they will have to mend their ways.
Congress also needs to keep minority factor in mind otherwise they may once again face the doomsday. They have to be rational and practical.
In the formation of U.P.A. Government, Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samajwadi Party, who registered their biggest victories in Lok Sabha elections of 2004, could not play any role in government formation and they did not join hands with BJP as it was not in a position to form a govt.
Now a days Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav are the biggest claimants in Uttar Pradesh and have been dominating U.P. politics by mustering support from some specific groups, classes and castes. Muslims of U.P. are playing a pivotal role in their politics and are also getting dividends, may be temporarily. The stand of both of them is quite clear and transparent in regarding and resolving their problems. They are not prepared to provide political ground to congress in Uttar Pradesh at any cost. It should be remembered that congress could win just nine seats in Uttar Pradesh in General Elections of 2004 and not a single Muslim candidate could win. However, it claims that Muslims are coming closer to it. In future also, there is hardly any possibility of their switching over to some other party and changing their loyalties. It is notable that congress appears to be almost away from 80 Lok Sabha Seats in U.P. which may prove damaging or even fatal in all elections. Congress must ponder and act promptly to come out of this vicious circle lest it should assume perpetuity. The above material facts may be its timely food. Let it realize that an opportunity may pass like a cloud.
Bihar, which has about 50 Lok Sabha Seats, has already been given by the Congress to Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal. Here also, Muslims combined with Yadavs are providing to Lalu Prasad Yadav an unquestionable strong base. No body can deny that after communists Lalu Prasad is the only leader who not only protected secular values but also suppressed communalism which even Mulayam Singh could not do at a time. Muslims of Bihar have been consistently expressing their solidarity in favour of Lalu and hence there is no possibility of revival of congress even in Bihar. In this way, its future is confined to only 400 seats because U.P. and Bihar are almost beyond its reach.
Congress has won just 145 and it can't be termed as its revival. In 1996 General elections, even Narsimha Rao got 142 in an unfavourable situation. She can't be compared to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. The only difference is that Mr. Rao brought congress to 142 from 209 whereas she brought it to 145 from 112, undoubtedly an upward trend. In this also two factors i.e. the annoyance of the Muslims of Andhra Pradesh with the stand taken by Chandra Babu Naidu on Gujarat riots and the grievances of the people during about one and half decade old rule of Telugu Desam Party took the congress tally from 112 to 145. In 1999 general elections Congress won total 112 Lok Sabha seats with only five seats from Andhra Pradesh out of a total of 42 and Telgu Desam, getting 29, whereas in 2004 general elections Congress got 29 and Telgu Desam only five. This difference of 24 seats in 2004 takes the tally of Congress to 145 (112+29 = 141). Factually Congress increased its tally by only four seats in which five are from Delhi with one loss somewhere. To what extent Congress has revived it is now for anybody to guess. Imagine had there been absence of strong anti incumbency factor against 15 years' rule of Telgu Desam and ire of Muslims of Andhra against the stand that Chandra Babu Naidu took on Gujarat anti Muslim riots, what would have been the fate of Congress.
Similarly, the best performance by Smt. Sheila Dixit
helped the congress to register big victories both in Assembly and
Lok Sabha elections in Delhi. State leadership as well as the leadership
of Smt. Sonia Gandhi failed in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. All these
factors should not be ignored rather kept in mind in strategic
In West Bengal, congress is on the margin and same is the situation in North- East states and Goa. In Karnataka, Janata Dal and BJP are consistently going up. In Orrisa, which was used to be a congress strong hold and when elections were held in this state along with Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh after the demolition of Babri Masjid under the national leadership of Mr. Rao, congress registered a big win in all these three states but this time congress has lost all these states except Himachal Pradesh when the conditions were considered as being too favourable. In Maharashtra, it is not possible to win elections without entering into an alliance with Sharad Pawar's Congress. In U.P. without the support of Mulayam Singh or Mayawati nothing could be achieved. In Bihar there is no future for congress without Lalu. By forming government in the center with the support of communists, it handed over Bengal and Kerala to them. In Punjab Akali Dal and in Haryana Rashtriya Lok Dal are strong claimants and even otherwise their role is not as significant at the national level as they are small states. In Assam the position of congress is very good but it has to face tough fight with regional political party. This is the real ground situation, it requires self-retrospection and any kind of over confidence may prove suicidal.
In five states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh Congress and BJP are against each other and have been changing guard. Here too congress is not too strong. This point is also note-worthy.
FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
my stand is that their growing anti-congress sentiments may be taken as indirect support to BJP. Congress should not forget that they are also not in favour of a strong congress nor shall be. Thus, Congress must stand on its feet.
Today's politics is not based on principles or ideology; it is power oriented and most of the political decisions are taken in this spirit. Let other considerations go to hell.
I am also of the view that the presence of BJP at the national political scene is inevitable so that congress and other secular parties may exploit sentiments of Muslims by terrorizing them with ghost of BJP and keep their vote bank intact. Congress is the only party which can read Muslim pulse. Congress can get itself acclimatized according to their temperament which every one can't do for want of experience. Samajwadi Party is trying to follow suit.On some issues like 33 percent reservation for women in parliament and assemblies her stand is quite clear and she is demanding separate quota for Muslim women though congress has yet to open full cards. Even otherwise congress does not take decisions in haste.
As stated above, congress has maintained distance from BJP but in 2004 it had no reservation with those parties which were with BJP earlier like Lok Jan Shakti Party, DMK and Bahujan Samaj Party etc. when question of formation of government was being discussed. Now no one is untouchable in politics and congress is not only a witness to it but it has been on its threshold. Therefore, in coalition regime only power is of paramount importance and smaller political powers fully exploit the situation. In the circumstances, congress must understand limitations of smaller regional secular political parties and run UPA government for full five years and should adopt not only a traditional approach towards Muslims but should take some concrete steps for their welfare as also for the country so that its traditional voters may rejoin it and the grip of congress becomes so strong that its traditional vote bank may not only support it but disallow any party to enter into regional or national arena as its alternative and a regional secular parties advancing towards BJP. It was deprived of the power because of its stand on Gujarat riots. Congress had to pay a similar price when it adopted double standard by permitting Shilaniyas and watching demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya as a silent spectator as if it had no regard for rule of law. It remained out of power for eight long years. Now congress has to re-establish its old position and practically prove its secular credentials by implementing its agenda for minorities in true letter and spirit and keep all communal forces at bay. Probably it is the last chance for them, situation likely to be more complicated in future.
One more noteworthy change in 2004 was the entry of Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi into politics and this Nehru Gandhi family proved its full worth in Lok Sabha Elections but the net result is 145 in a house of 543. It is another thing that the national result was not so encouraging. Congress must realize the importance of Muslim vote bank and something concrete to strengthen the viability of this bank otherwise someone else will `encash' it. Mere lip service will not do. Give them their due place and don't take their support as `for granted.'
This reality is on record that it is congress alone which kept it aloof from Jan Sangh and later BJP and no other party, except communists, refrained from sharing power with them or supporting them. However,