Supping with the devil

Supping with the devil

Between the lines

The Bhartiya Janata Party has triumphed in its tactics. It has emerged as the real opposition. After losing in the last parliamentary election it was keen to win over the Left which could give the BJP, an image of being a liberal in economic matters.
It has finally duped the communists to believe that its agenda on India’s development was more or less what the Left is following. In fact, efforts to woo the communists began in the last session, but bore fruit only during the budget. Both found an understanding in their hurt.

This was visible in parliament when the BJP and the Left rose together in the two houses against the government on price rise, shouted in the same vein and walked out hand-in-hand on the first day of the budget session. It was more or less the same story on the subsequent days. Apparently, the two had met beforehand and consulted each other to finalise their strategy.

Inept government
No doubt, the topic was the inept handling by the inept government of price rise and abnormal inflation. The BJP also brought in the India-Pakistan secretary-level talks into the discussion. Yet the Left did not realise that making a common cause with the party which has communal credentials may rub off on the secular ideology of the communists. It is not known what advantage the communists saw in diluting their identity with the known rightists. But the BJP leaders have already gone to town to propagate that the Left has come to their side.

When the vision gets blurred and when political parties think of their immediate gain, pluralist Indian nation has every right to be worried. It has seen the communists hugging the BJP members who swore at their Indore sitting a few days ago to the party’s core agenda. The communists forgot to underscore any of these points during the debate and did not realise that their bonhomie cannot disguise the BJP’s parochialism. There is no change in the party’s agenda.

The BJP’s appeal to the Muslims to allow the building of the temple at the site of the Babri masjid may have been worded differently but the content remains the same. The party should recall that it came to power only when it put aside its three-point agenda. In doing so, the BJP got the much-needed credibility to attract secular parties under a relatively moderate Atal Behari Vajpayee.

 It looks as if the communists have let the BJP off the hook on communalism. Battering the government for its non-performance is justified but not sharing the platform with the party which has been taken over by the RSS openly. Surely, the communists, after the rout in the Lok Sabha election, have not strayed from their ideological moorings so much that they want support even from known communalists. 

Unfortunately, a Muslim gathering, the National meet of Reservation Activists at Delhi, has given a handle to the BJP and the Shiv Sena by passing a resolution for reserving 10 per cent seats to Muslims. Even the banner put up at the back wall of the meet said: National Movement for Muslim Reservation. Understandably, the backwardness can be the criterion, not religion. Some high courts have already rejected religion to be the basis for reservation.

The constitution makes it obligatory for the government to address the problem of poverty and educational backwardness. The reservation activists should have concentrated on getting reservations without translating the demand in terms of Muslims. The RSS, the BJP’s mentor, has begun propagating that reservation will lead to another partition and induce Hindus into embracing Islam and Christianity.

The Sachar committee
The Sachar committee on the plight of Muslims was correct in diagnosing the malady. It pointed out how the community had been denied its share in education, economic benefits and services on the basis of its population. However, the subsequent Ranganatha Mishra commission has recommended reservations for all minorities on the basis of religion. 

India is a pluralistic society and it cherishes diversities in the name of religion, language and customs. The community consciousness which the reservation activists are trying to arouse may deliver a serious blow to pluralism. The same old question of separate identity will come to the fore when there should be only one identity—Indian. The reservation for Muslims may open the Pandora’s Box of communal and divisive politics.

Yet the 12 to 13 per cent of Muslims in the country should reflect their number in employment in government and private sectors. The community’s share should also be tangible in the economic fields. There is no alternative to the affirmative action. The government has done little since the submission of the Sachar committee report two years ago.

However, mixing genuine aspirations of the Muslims with religion will be misdirecting the effort to find a remedy to the long-time neglect. The louder the reservation activists raise their voice, the more favourable will be the fallout for the BJP to exploit. The pluralistic India cannot afford it. Nor can the Muslims.

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