A file photo of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi. (HT file photo)
The advice of Shazia Ilmi, AAP’s candidate from Ghaziabad, to Muslims that they should sometimes be “communal for their own good” sounds like an affectionate, concerned relative at best and pernicious at worst. So far it was the BJP and the SP that were guilty of slathering their election campaigns with spiced-up communalism. On the contrary, AAP was sober and stuck to the role the party had assigned itself: Exposing the supposed collusion between political parties and big capital and the corruption that arises out of that. By making this statement, Ms Ilmi has not only besmirched her party's record in this respect, she has also contributed to the communally volatile electoral atmosphere. Her clarification of her statement by redefining communalism is even worse and can raise questions as to how conversant she is with basic political issues.
Her second suggestion that Muslims should not be the “slave” of any political party can only further roil the waters. Even to suggest that there is any hint of slavery is retrograde. Yes, there are poverty, indebtedness, child labour, disease, etc. Indebtedness sometimes can land a farmer in bonded labour, in which conditions are akin to slavery. But these things fall in the economic sphere and involve many communities, not just the Muslims. And if Ms Ilmi thinks there is slavery embedded in our political system, she should get her party to write it in its constitution and fight it. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has condemned her statement, but that is not enough. The party should pin her down on the point she is wrong and have its stand clear to the public. Only then can its defence have acceptability in the eyes of the public.
Democracy is all about empowering the people. And political discourse goes a long way in promoting it. It is commonly seen that the language of communication often translates into a programme of political action and a tool of moblisation. Consequently if such language degenerates, the level of politics sinks to lower depths, which can mean many steps backward for the people. What suffers in the process is what every party is promising: Development and governance. A young member of a young party would do well to remember that.