Blame him for the riots of 2002
Patna: There has perhaps never been such a polarisation of Muslim voters in Bihar as this time. From fruit vendors and taxi drivers to writers, thinkers and businessmen, Bihar’s Muslims seem united in one sentiment: “Not a single vote from our families will go to (Narendra) Modi.”
The octogenarian founder-secretary of the Gandhi Sangrahalaya (Museum) in Patna, Razi Ahmed, displays both anguish and anger against Narendra Modi, when he fumes about political parties coming for Muslim votes only during elections. “Right from Independence, every political party, most of all the Congress, has done injustice and beimani (cheating). Now even the BJP wants Muslim votes, since it is a solid 17 per cent,” he says.
He is convinced that the population of Muslims in Bihar, and across India, is much more than that estimated by the Census. “They deliberately keep our numbers low; I estimate the Muslim population in both Bihar and across India to be 20-22 per cent.”
This isn’t the first time a Muslim leader has said this.
Ahmed is angry at Modi’s rise and categorically rules out “any Muslim votes” for him.
“I think by naming Modi, the BJP has harmed itself, because no Muslim will forgive Modi for 2002. And the ‘Modi wave’ is created by the 24-odd TV channels and publications owned by the industrialist (names him) close to Modi,” he said.
Pulling all plugs
To “stop Modi”, Muslims are pulling out all the plugs. Afzhal Husain, General Secretary of the Bihar Rabita (contact) Committee, says several Muslim organisations have jointly distributed 1 lakh pamphlets in Urdu and Hindi across the State urging Muslims to only vote for those candidates, “irrespective of the party, who can defeat communal and fascist forces. We are afraid that Modi, who is not secular, will destroy the ganga-jamuni tehzib (culture) of our country.”
Shaibal Gupta, Member Secretary of ADRI (Asian Development Research Institute), says: “Theoretically Muslim vote should have gone to Nitish Kumar who has done much for them and even while in NDA never allowed the BJP’s agenda to get a foothold in Bihar’s governance. But a substantial portion of the Muslim vote will go to the Lalu-Congress combine also.” He is incredulous that the latest CSDS poll, “in which I have some belief”, says BJP will get 22 per cent Muslim vote in Bihar, “which is absurd.”
A chat with Muslims on Patna’s streets and outskirts confirms the deep polarisation happening in this election along communal lines. Not a single Muslim says he/she will vote for the BJP. It’s either Lalu’s lantern or Nitish. “Only those are safe for us,” says Altaf Ali, a tailor.
But aren’t Gujarat’s Muslims voting for Modi in the last couple of elections? Raising his voice, Ahmed says: “Will he get his shop burned? For long decades you’ve marginalised Muslims in Gujarat, and he is constantly fearful for his life and livelihood.”
Lamenting the “poverty and marginalisation” of Muslims, Ahmed says a country where there is no food in 20 crore homes and where so many crores live below the poverty line has surely failed its entire population.
But isn’t that exactly what Modi is saying… about development and economic growth?
“What development model… that of 2002? If Modi has developed Gujarat then over the last 70 years what has been the contribution of Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Balwant Rai Mehta and others?
“It is a pity that what was once known as Gandhi’s Gujarat is today being projected as ‘Modi’s Gujarat’ by you media people”, he fumes.
Courtesy: The Hindu Business Line