As BJP breaches Muslim vote bank, secular parties lose their core constituency | analysis | Hindustan Times
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As BJP breaches Muslim vote bank, secular parties lose their core constituency

The All India Shia Personal Law Board has explicitly supported all the three controversial moves of UP chief minister Yogi Adiyanath: a negotiated settlement of the Ayodhya dispute, a ban on cow slaughter and triple talaq

analysis Updated: Jun 01, 2017 11:10 IST
Sunita Aron
BJP
What seems to have worked for the BJP is its commitment to the social problem that Muslim women are facing – triple talaq, which they could not oppose out of fear of earning the wrath of the maulanas and their men folk(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)

In a Facebook interview with the Hindustan Times, UP health minister Siddharth Nath Singh had said in a lighter vein, ‘Some Muslim women said they voted for me as they liked the dimples on my cheeks.’

But it’s more than the dimples. The reports coming in from different corners of the state indicated a softening of the Muslims stance towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, the party that had become an anathema for the community after the 1992 demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya and 2002 riots in Gujarat. Since then the community ruthlessly voted to defeat the BJP.

It could well be a judicious move by the Muslims who have now realised the political potency of the BJP, both at the state and the centre. A Muslim BJP leader, who has stuck to the party despite the anger of the community opines, “The 2017 mandate has changed their mindset. People, who till the other day avoided meeting me have started sending invitations.”

The Shias came on board first and now some Sunnis may also explore the saffron party despite its subtle thrust on the Hindutva agenda.

The All India Shia Personal Law Board has explicitly supported all the three controversial moves of UP chief minister Yogi Adiyanath – a negotiated settlement of the Ayodhya dispute, a ban on triple talaq and cow slaughter, the third literally breaking the financial backbone of the community notwithstanding. Some of them had even celebrated the BJP’s victory and Samajwadi Party’s defeat as ‘yaun-e-nijjat’ (day of riddance).

The 8% Shias have generally toed a different line from the Sunnis.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has however rejected government interference in matters of Muslim personal laws and an out -of-court settlement of the Ayodhya dispute.

Although the AIMPLB has strongly censured the social practice of triple talaq and called for social boycott of those who misused it, Muslim women are increasingly veering to the government’s stand to end the humiliating practice.

It is not a small achievement for the party that had not fielded even a single Muslim candidate, both in the Lok Sabha and the UP Assembly elections, for the simple reason that their Muslim candidate would not have been able to muster support of his own community, especially when the BSP had fielded 100 Muslims and the SP and the Congress had stitched an alliance to retain their support.

What seems to have worked for the BJP is its commitment to the social problem that Muslim women are facing – triple talaq, which they could not oppose out of fear of earning the wrath of the maulanas and their men folk.

Tamil Nadu has a unique system of jamaats, affiliated to the local moque, which settle domestic issues like dowry, divorce and domestic violence. But there was a time when most of the jamaats neither had a woman member on the board nor did they allow them to represent their own cases and thus delivered one-sided judgments that favoured men. I remember meeting women’s rights activist Sherifa Khanum in the mid-1990s. After years of demonstrations she had succeeded in forming women jamaats to deliver justice to the battered women. The maulanas relented after public pressure.

Not everywhere in the country can a Muslim woman get her petition redressed. Thus when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah decided to incorporate triple talaq in their election’s sankalp patra, Muslim women started hoping for some succour from talaqs given on phone, mail or verbally. Maulanas resisted the BJP’s promise but a fraction of women gave silent support to the party they had despised. The three other political parties – SP, BSP and Congress which are partly dependent on maulanas support in the elections – had never ever thought of touching the sensitive issue even with a barge pole.

However, public pressure is growing. Armed with government support, more and more women are challenging their husband’s unilateral decisions and taking to the streets. It’s quite likely the maulanas may also be compelled to adopt a more conciliatory approach.

Ironically, a few Muslim organisations and individuals have come out openly in support of the ban on cow-slaughter, with some even promising to invade minority dominated areas where cows are slaughtered. Interestingly, they are also getting the support from their own community.

A few months before the elections, triple talaq, yoga in school curriculum and cow slaughter were seen as polarising issues in the elections. No more, much to the consternation of the secular parties. With the BJP penetrating the minority vote bank, howsoever minuscule, and the majority community resisting minority appeasement, it’s time they change their political narrative to come back in the electoral competition.