Friday, January 30, 2009

Can Ulema Express Derail Congress’s Poll Prospects?

Events prior to any election change peoples’ opinions. Opinions influence peoples’ minds. Minds control the fingers that press the buttons in an Electronic Voting Machine. A slight change in these opinions gives governments sleepless nights.

The Thursday’s protest at Jantar Matar can not be termed as an ordinary event. Muslim youth who had arrived by Ulema Express from Uttar Pradesh were gathered at Jantar Mantar. They were dismayed with the Congress and its policies towards Muslims.

The harassment of Muslim youth from Azamgarh at the hands of security agencies occupied the central place at the protest. Though the Congress does not rule the state, it has done very little at the Centre to do away with the problems that the community faces.

Muslims have always looked forward to the Congress leadership to get their demands met. The ongoing campaign that stereotypes Muslims also came under strict criticism of Ulema Council.

The Ulema Council which had organized the protest has announced to field its own candidates from Azamgarh and Lalganj in the upcoming general elections. One doesn’t know how it is going to change the equations. The reasons for singling out these places were obvious. Most of the Muslim youth were picked up in large numbers for questioning from these places.

The Council also hinted to support the Third Front, which still has to make its presence felt. The Third Front has failed to make in roads. To make things worse, the Third Front has seen a division among its own cadre. Such splits have always benefited the Congress and prevented the emergence of a strong replacement of Congress on the horizon of national politics.

It can hardly be believed that the two Ulema Council candidates, even if elected to Lok Sabha, can change the equations. But in the time of horse trading and floor crossing nothing seems to be impossible. Coalition politics also makes that easier.

The Council also indicated that the Congress is fooling Muslims to achieve political supremacy over its rivals, which somewhat turns out to be true. Many in the embattled community think the only thing the Congress has given Muslims in abundance is the enquiry commissions.

The party also plays the fear card. “The Congress has been making a fool of the Muslim community by constantly raising the bogey of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other communal forces," said Maulana Amir Rashadi, the chairman of the Ulema Council.

The Congress’s so called ‘minority appeasement’ policy neither goes down well with the communal forces nor produces any results.

The decision taken by the Ulema Council may not be productive in short term. But in long terms it can affect the Congress’s poll prospects. The land slide victory of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has already reduced Congress’s numbers in the state.

The coming together of Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav will eat into both the Congress’s and the BSP’s vote bank.

The Jantar Mantar could be the destination of the Ulema Express but the message that it carries does not have one particular destination. It will change peoples’ perceptions and change itself brings a change with it.