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AAP and Muslims: Attraction to traction for party

The community's preference for the party in election--after being initially cagey about it--was rounded and robust.

delhi Updated: Feb 10, 2015 13:03 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Delhi vote counting,Delhi vote counting live,Delhi Election 2015

Did voters from religious minorities help swing it for the Aam Aadmi Party?

The short answer is Muslims' preference for AAP in this election--after being initially cagey about it--was rounded and robust. This will only have helped cement the extraordinary landslide, not possible without full-bodied support from all quarters.

All these have showed up in the 2015 votes, still being counted.

According to the 2011 census, Muslim voters account for 12% of the electorate. A CSDS survey says 53% of them voted for the Congress in the 2013 assembly polls.

Now, in about eight seats, where Muslims make up 30%-35% of the vote, AAP is headed for decisive wins, such as Matia Mahal, Ballimaran, Chandi Chowk, Okhla, Seelampur and Mustafabad.

Congress candidates--such as Matia Mahal's five-time MLA Shoaib Iqbal and Haroon Yusuf--are all set to lose (subject to final results).

Certain reference points in the AAP-minorities relationship will help put the turnaround in perspective. When it was still a protest movement, Muslims--about 11% of Delhi's population--were noticeably aloof from it. The main reason for this aloofness was that the movement appeared to Muslims as a proxy propped up by the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

In its earlier avatar, the Arvind Kejriwal movement was primarily anti-Congress, so it must be pro-BJP, Muslims assumed. So, the Anna-Kejriwal movement did manage to alienate minorities and Dalits, who saw this as an upper caste mobilisation against a secular establishment. The strategy then was to a wait and watch.

What helped unfreeze the situation? A clearer personal stand against right-wing Hindutva political organisations by Kejriwal helped. In his door-to-door engagements with ordinary Muslims and undertaking a series of visits to Muslim religious places, Kejriwal took pains to explain his stand and talk to Muslims in terms of "real empowerment" as opposed to mere "symbolism" of secularism.

For Muslims, who now widely consider Congress's secularism a hollow slogan that failed to empower them, Kejriwal made sense.

Once Kejriwal came out strongly against the BJP, the last of the barriers had fallen.

At one event, Kejriwal said he did not believe in "appeasement" and managed to engage Muslims on new terms--who by now seemed all too aware of empty cajoling as much of right-wing politics of religious intolerance.

Many Muslims with some social reputation started joining in.

?Irfanullah Khan, chairman of the Jamia Nagar Coordination Committee and a social activist, now leads the AAP's minority wing. He is also a former Aligarh Muslim University student leader.

Others who had joined AAP include Mashkur Ahmed, a former Jamia Millia students' union president, Arif Jamal, Shakil Malik, Shahid Azad and Rais Ahmed.

Along with them, more than 100 alumni of AMU and Jamia Millia joined the party at a public meeting held at Constitutional Club.

However, Kejriwal applied steadfastly to Muslims his overall model of political engagement. This was to sidestep community elites and patrons, such as village heads and elites, and engage directly with the masses in an unmediated way.

At the political crossroads, the path was clear for Muslims looking for a political anchor.

First Published: Feb 10, 2015 12:55 IST