IOS Discussion on “Voting Patterns in India with Reference to Tactical Voting by Muslims”
February 27, 2014 at IOS Conference Hall, New Delhi
New Delhi, Feb. 27: Participants at the discussion on “Voting Patterns in India with Reference to Tactical Voting by Muslims”, endorsed the resolutions moved by the Chairman of the Institute of Objective Studies, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, at the conference hall of the IOS here today.
The participants unequivocally supported Dr. Alam’s proposal to forestall the march of communal forces, free Muslims of Modi-phobia, defeat the affiliates of the RSS, like the BJP and Shiv Sena, and such parties as have leanings towards the BJP. His proposal to strike a chord among secular forces, Dalits and other deprived and depressed sections found wide support among the participants who represented academia, political parties, NGOs, social activists, human rights activists, social thinkers, researchers, psephologists and opinion makers.
The participants agreed to vote for candidate’s with a clean image among the people, and he or she had a clear stand against communalism, was free from corruption charges and he or she no criminal background or anti-Muslim mindset. It was resolved to ensure success of such candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. It was decided to take stock of the situation at the state level by identifying the best prospective candidate among the candidates belonging to secular parties. The one who stood a fair chance of winning must be backed in the elections. Emphasis was also laid on sending the maximum number of Muslim members to Parliament this time. The proposal to float a milli political forum to co-ordinate efforts was accepted in principle. It was also agreed upon to actively associate Dalits and other depressed sections with the activities of the said forum.
The discussion opened with the recitation of Quran by Maulana Abdullah Tariq. The Chairman in his address, explained the gameplan of the RSS to review the Indian Constitution by abrogating its Preamble that was founded on the basic principles of liberty, justice, equality, fraternity and secularism. These were the pillars on which the Constitution rested and the RSS had been aiming to destroy it for a long time. He observed that its earlier avatar in 1997, the BJP as a minority government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, attempted to re-write the Constitution by appointing a review commission headed by Justice Venkatachalaiah. Had the Vajpayee government not fallen, the RSS agenda to alter the basic character of the Constitution would have reached-to its logical conclusion, he said.
On the suggestion to expose the misdemeanours of the Modi government in Gujarat and to puncture his balloon of false claims of good governance and the delivery system, he said a lot of work had been accomplished by the IOS on the subject. He informed that the IOS had already undertaken a study of Gujarat government’s performance in various fields, including its rating on basic human development indices. He, however, favoured a short book on Narendra Modi to keep the people abreast of his real intentions.
Dr. Alam called for constituency-wise profile of secular candidates; their winnability, their communal background and possible support to some post-poll alliance. Since the time for the elections was only six weeks away, “we have to gear up of our wisdom and the information gathering machinery”, he said. Citing the case of Kerala where Muslims always used tactical voting as an option, he said that the same tactics could be employed elsewhere.
He suggested that a region and party-wise analysis be made before arriving at a decision to vote a candidate or a party. While expressing satisfaction that the Muslim electorate was growing wiser, he said that the trend should continue in future as well. This would increase the voter turnout as had been witnessed in Assam and West Bengal earlier. He underlined the need for channelising information about the constituency through Muslim organisations and this flow of information should also include others like Dalits, deprived and weaker sections. Calling for unveiling of Vision 2029 for the world and the place for Muslims and Dalits in it, he said the IOS was engaged in this stupendous job.
Initiating the discussion, the Secretary-General of the IOS Prof. Z.M. Khan, outlined the lead that had been taken by the Institute in the field of research and analysis of the issues facing the country in general and Muslims and other oppressed sections in particular. He said that the study of about 150 million Muslims of India merited attention. Against this background, elections assumed significance as they offered an opportunity to assert our rights.
He explained that the IOS had been working on the method to transmit the idea of what the intelligentsia thought about the common man. Today, BJP, Modi and the RSS had spurred Muslims to think of a well-planned strategy to counter the forces of doom. The threat was not confined to Muslims alone as it extended to other weaker and depressed sections. He said that it was shocking how the so-called secular parties secured Muslim votes by deceit only to align later with rank communal political outfits. Referring to the supreme sacrifices made by Indian Muslims in the past he said that whatever they got was not a concession to them. Everything admissible to an Indian citizen legitimately was applicable to an Indian Muslim also, he remarked. He concluded by urging the Muslims and the marginalised sections to crystallise into a potent force.
Ex-M.P. and former president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Syed Shahabuddin, objected to Muslims being called merely minorities. He opined that the Muslims had always been tactically voting during the elections. They either voted for the Congress or the so-called secular parties in order to keep BJP away from power. Brushing aside the suggestion to distinguish between secular and communal, he called for the election of the maximum number of Muslims to Parliament so as to raise a voice in favour of the community.
In the absence of proportional representation system today Muslim leaders had stooped down to the level of demanding inclusion of Muslims in Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes list. Dismissing the talk of unity among Muslims as a figment of imagination, he called for concentrating on about 45 seats that could return Muslim candidates. He counselled the Muslim leaders not to serve as slaves to their parties and raise issues that mattered for the well-being of the community.
The Associate Editor of the Urdu weekly, Chauthi Duniya, Mr. A.U. Asif underlined the need for setting up a milli political forum to prevent division of Muslim votes. Another point which was often lost sight of was the delimitation of seats. This altered the configuration of Muslim population, putting the community in a disadvantageous position. He called for work on the strategy of tactical voting.
Former OSD to the Delhi Election Commissionand ex-Secretary, Delhi Wakf Board, Mr. Azim Akhtar held that the imams of masjids could play a crucial role in imparting the message of tactical voting to the Muslims. Masjid was a place where the members of the community, irrespective of their caste or association with the school of thought collected to congregate. They could be told about whom to vote. But for division of votes, several Muslim candidates could win their seats with hands down, he added.
Associate Professor at the Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, Dr. Tanweer Fazal, dished out the data to prove his point that increase in the participation of Muslims in the polls did not necessarily mean election of the candidate of their choice. He cautioned against the danger of polarisation of Muslim votes as this could lead to counter-polarisation of majority votes. He favoured the preparation of a charter of demands that included strengthening of democracy and secularism, among other things.
Since such a charter could be used by the propagandists of majoritarianism to create the bogey of so-called appeasement of the minorities, it was imperative to include the marginalised sections in it, he added.
Mr. Mohd. Yousuf from the NGO Haryali called for preparing a database of the voters through Haj pilgrims, Muslim NGOs working in different fields and parliamentary committees. These could help increase polling percentage. Advocate and human rights activist, Mr. Arun Majhi emphasised the need for unity among Muslims, Dalits and OBCs to put up resistance to the RSS.
Mr. Rahul Gautam from the Samajik Nyaya Morcha said that fascist forces had not only united against Muslims, but also against the Dalits and advasis. They could be fought against by a united front, he pointed out.
Mr. Hasib Ahmad, a retired IAS officer and now with the All India Milli Council expressed the confidence that like in the past, Muslims were vigilant about tactical voting this time also. Mirza Zaki Ahmad Baig from Tamir-e-Millat Foundation called for taking all the communities discriminated against along to pitch for elections. The General Secretary, Welfare Party of India, Mr. SQR Ilyas stressed the need for identifying those who could cross over to the BJP-led front. This could be determined by going into the past of the parties that vowed to be wedded to secularism, but jumped on the BJP bandwagon, he said.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Professor of Geography, JMI, Dr. Haseena Hashia, Mr. Nand Lal from the Samajik Insaf, Mr. M.H. Ghazali from Pasmanda Samaj Sangthan and Mr. Musharraf Husain, Secretary, All India Milli Council. While Dr. Nakhat Husain Nadvi conducted the proceedings.