Aam Aadmi Party just razed Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) to the ground on its way to a staggering Delhi polls victory. Only a few paltry months have gone by since the BJP had gained a majority in the Lok Sabha election. And it has already lost out to a brand new political outfit. Many experts already have numerous theories explaining the BJP’s humiliating defeat. Very few of the promises that Modi had made to the people actually got fulfilled. And there is, of course, the infamous case of the Rs 10-lakh suit, which caused quite an outrage. That brought down his popularity quotient by a few notches, indeed. At times, a few false steps can become colossal issues of public debate and resentment.
I was under the impression that Kejriwal’s popularity had also considerably waned after he resigned his position as chief minister. In fact, it would have been quite logical to have that happen. Many leaders of the AAP also left the party out of disappointment over Kejriwal’s juvenile behaviour. It’s true that he had committed a grave error. But he had it in him to accept the error of his ways, apologise, and promise that he would never again repeat this kind of gimmick ever again. The public appreciates an open, honest confession and apology. Moreover, this time, possibly, people who would have otherwise voted for the Congress, voted for AAP because it had seemed to stand a far better chance at defeating the common enemy — the BJP.
I congratulated Arvind Kejriwal on his unwavering principles a few days before the elections when he had firmly rejected the pledge of political support from Delhi’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, saying “We don’t need their support.” Not one Indian politicians has ever displayed such bravado. Not even the ones belonging to the hindu right-wing. Most Indian politicians suffer under the belief that minority votes in India need to be won by placating muslim religious leaders. Most Indian muslims have not yet become self-reliant as far as deciding on their own ideology is concerned. Their imams or gurus usually decide for them, and dictate the community’s choice of a political affiliation.
To appease the Shahi Imam of Delhi to ensure his share of minority votes is a practice started by none other than Nehru, right after India became independent. This practice has continued unabated till date. The fact that Kejriwal has won almost all minority votes even after publicly rejecting the Imam’s offer proves that muslim votes can indeed be won without the aid of their imams. Experienced political analysts need to take a few lessons from Kejriwal. Foremost among them is the fact that it is absolutely unnecessary to appease any leader from any religion. Just as the religious leaders are manipulated by the politicians for their own vote-bank strategies, the leaders themselves also exploit these politicians for their own gains. In a country that is ostensibly secular, it is indeed a great tragedy that no politics is devoid of a religious angle, and no religion is complete without its own variety of insidious political game. That, henceforth, Indian politicians would walk the path that Kejriwal has dared to show them is perhaps too much to hope for. All orthodox leaders, whether muslim, hindu or christian, would always take the society a few steps backwards as long as they are allowed to exist. Imams, purohits, peers, babas, mataas — to mollycoddle these elements is to patently provide more energy and encouragement to render our society more ignorant, and more riddled with superstitions and stigmas. These uneducated, misogynistic powers have already learnt how to manouever Indian politicians to serve their less-than-honourable purposes.
Kejriwal had committed this same mistake right before the elections last year. He had visited Tauqueer Raza Khan, a UP-based muslim cleric. A visit of this sort can only mean one thing — the hope that the religious leader shall, out of pity, ensure that his uneducated and politically illiterate followers voted for AAP. I had unequivocally criticised Kejriwal for this move. This Tauqueer Raza Khan is the same man who, in his capacity of a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, had announced a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on my head. The fact that even Kejriwal had to resort to seeking support from this idiotic fatwabaaz, was quite shameful. At the end of the day, he was little more than a mafia-man who promised to pay people money in lieu of having someone murdered. I hope the criticism has stood Kejriwal in good stead. This time, he had rejected the support from orthodox muslim leaders.
The problem usually is that Indian politicians are exceedingly averse to taking such lessons from their past. They find it impossible to take a step outside of the knowledge bequeathed to them by their ancestors. The CPM is another example: they hounded me out of West Bengal in the hope of garnering minority votes in 2007, but unfortunately, they didn’t get what they wanted. If only unjustly harassing an artist could ensure a political party all the minority votes, then it would have made their lives a lot easier. The same applies for Mamata Banerjee. The fact that she doesn’t allow me to set foot in West Bengal has never really ensured that she has minority support in her state. She suffers from the perpetual fear that letting in someone who speaks against religious fundamentalism shall make her lose muslim votes.
I hope the fact that Kejriwal has achieved this hitherto-unthinkable feat of bypassing religious leaders in his bid to sweep an election shall prove to these politicians how unfounded their fears are. He has successfully earned the love and trust of ordinary muslims by proudly relinquishing the help of the fatwa-touting fundamentalist lot. What the minority of this nation need are education, healthcare services, employment opportunities and an increase in their standard of living. The imams are radically opposed to all of these; they’d much rather have them lead a life suffused with superstition, orthodoxy and divisiveness.