The hustle and bustle of this 16th Lok Sabha election has seen communal rhetorics from the likes of Azam Khan and Imran Masood. Even Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM has vowed to do everything he can to stop the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate from becoming India’s prime minister. After the Congress president Sonia Gandhi shopped for the secular votes by striking a closed door deal with Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, the Muslim voter looked confused and came under increasing scrutiny.
The voting pattern of the Muslim constituents became the hot topic of discussion amongst the chattering classes. The million dollar question was will Muslims heed Shahi Imam’s call to vote for the secular forces? Will the Congress gain electronically out of such a deal? Why are the secular parties raising the bogey of secularism versus communalism and using Narendra Modi to instill fear in the hearts of Muslims? Will these ploys work? Will this public pro Muslim preening and posturing from so-called secular parties be able to halt the Modi juggernaut?
The poling has begun and the latest opinion polls predict the BJP-led NDA with Narendra Modi as prime minister at the Centre next month. The Congress appears to be out of reckoning. Its last ditch efforts to rope in Shahi Imam and communalise the 16th Lok Sabha elections seem to have come to a naught. But the question what will happen to Muslims if Narendra Modi becomes India’s prime minister has not lost its political relevance as yet.
The reason for this is the voting is still underway and there are many seats where Muslims can make a difference. The history suggests that Muslims vote to keep the BJP out of power because they are scared that the BJP in power will not be able to take care of their interests. This Muslim mindset is the result of a sustained campaign of decades on the part of the Congress and other like minded parties. The Muslims vote out of fear though they know that the secular forces too have failed to do anything remarkable for them.
But this Lok Sabha election is going to change all this. There is a remarkable change in the Muslim mindset towards the BJP in particular and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in general. Some educated Muslim youths want development to improve their conditions and for this they want to go with Narendra Modi. However the percentage of such forward looking Muslims is minuscule but such a minority within minority does exist.
With Saiyad Zainul Abedin Ali Khan - the religious head of the famous Dargah Khwaja Garib-e-Nawaz in Ajmer – asking the Muslims to vote as Indians and not out of fear, the Muslims who want to support the BJP but are unable to come out of closets due to peer pressure will get the courage to do so. That said, Saiyad Zainul Abedin Ali Khan’s call to vote as Indians has come as breath of fresh air amidst the jarring cries of hotheads vowing to up the communal ante in this election. Such a call to vote as Indians is the need of the hour.
The political parties like the Congress and the SP must learn to treat Muslims as Indians first and not seek their votes by using fear mongering tactics for their short term electoral gains. More saner voices like Saiyad Zainul Abedin Ali Khan are required to alter the status quo. The reality is that the fear is imaginary and created in the minds of Muslims by vested interests. If the community shows the courage to reject this politics of scaremongering in this election, it will indeed strengthen the democracy of India and the real issues will come into focus instead of the faux ones.