Muslim’s constitute 13.4% of the country’s population and have a major say in the poll prospects in 110 Lok Sabha constituencies. Little wonder then that every time there is an election round the corner, the big question on most people’s minds is, which way will India’s largest minority vote. This year the question has an added significance, given the fact that Narendra Modi is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. The jury is still out on which way the Muslims will tilt.
There are many claimants for their vote, ranging from the Congress, to the SP, BSP, RJD, JD( U), but if the likes of senior Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leader Mahmood Madani are to be believed, the Muslims are unlikely to vote in a uniform manner throughout the country. “In some places like Assam, Bengal etc they will vote for candidates, in other places like UP and Bihar, they may vote to defeat a particular party”. Madani, one of the most influential and saner voices within the community in an exclusive interview to Headlines Today did not shy away from the fact that Modi’s past would to a large extent determine the Muslim community’s voting preference in the current elections . ” There is no denying the fact that because Modi is a candidate, both his supporters as well as his opponents is charged up”, says Madani. He does not believe that the induction of the likes of M J Akbar in the BJP suggest a shift in the community’s attitude towards the Gujarat Chief Minister. ” It’s an individual decision and does in no way reflect the popular opinion amongst Muslims.” Nothing has happened that will lead one to believe that Narendra Modi has changed or that the opinion of those opposed to him has changed ” says Madani.
The Jamiat leader also does not buy into the BJP’s argument that Modi’s acquittal by the lower court has absolved him of responsibility for the 2002 riots. ” That pertains to just one case. He may not have, for arguments sake, been directly involved, but who can deny that not only did he do nothing to prevent what was happening. There are many who believe that he actually gave the rioters three days to do what they did.” Madani admits that riots have also taken place in UP, Assam and Rajasthan , but in his view the reason why they are viewed slightly differently is because the Chief Ministers and the governments have sought to make amends. ” In the case of Gujarat, there has been no effort to heal wounds or reach out to the Muslims. In the three assembly campaigns , he always tried to directly or indirectly gloat over what had happened “, says Madani.
Reacting to suggestions made by some of the Muslim leaders who have recently joined the BJP, that it was time to forget the 2002 riots, Madani said ” its easy to forget stories but far more difficult if you have lost a near and dear one. Individuals cannot decide on forgiveness , society at large must do so.” He also came down heavily on the Congress. Madani said the party has repeatedly let the community down for the last 63 years.” They have nothing for us , and now the SP too has become a party to it. He lamented the fact that in the given circumstances the community had very limited options available to it.
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