'Cong setback result of Muslim anger'
MR Narayan Swamy (IANS), New Delhi, May 9, 2006
Muslim leaders said on Tuesday that the community's disaffection with the Congress party was a key reason for its anticipated setbacks in elections in Kerala and Assam.
They said in interviews that among the many domestic and other issues, one that had caused the community immense pain was India's growing relationship with the US, evident in the warm reception President George W Bush got in New Delhi in March.
Exit polls at the end of staggered assembly elections on Monday forecast a rout for the Congress in Kerala, where Muslims and Christians make up almost half the population, and a possible defeat in Assam, where Muslims live in large numbers.
"There is no doubt that Muslims are angry and upset with the Congress," said Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari of Jama Masjid in New Delhi.
Bukhari, who had campaigned against the Congress in Assam, said a string of domestic and other issues had combined to push Muslims away from the Congress. He identified one of this as New Delhi's growing strategic ties with the US.
Far away in Mumbai, Intezar Naeem, editor of the Radiance weekly, agreed.
"The problem with the Congress is that it keeps making promises but does not deliver," Naeem said over the telephone. "Why will anyone vote for a party like that?"
He said Muslims had put away a decade of visible anger towards the Congress, sparked by the 1992 razing of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, to vote for it in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections that surprisingly brought the party to power.
"But the expectations generated by the Congress victory have not been fulfilled," he added.
"Muslims are the greatest sufferers in our society. They had expected practical steps from a Congress government. It never happened.
"Be it Assam, be it Gujarat, be it Maharashtra, be it nationally, everywhere Muslims feel disappointed. Even recommendations of official committees that have probed communal riots are not implemented. How can the Congress expect Muslims to vote for it?
"On top of everything, Western companies are killing our small enterprises. The US is acting like the (British) East India Company. No Indian likes this. Muslims too don't like this."
Moulvi Mohammed Mouzzam Ahmed, the Naib Imam of the historic Fatehpuri mosque here and a member of the Delhi Waqf Board, echoed their views, highlighting the various complaints of his community.
"There is a feeling that the Congress is not worth the Muslim vote," he said.
"Muslims have justifiable demands related to education, welfare and security. They are not making these demands just as Muslims but as Indian citizens. But these demands are not being met."
All three leaders said the community's main grouse related to employment and education.
Besides, they said, the Congress needed to ensure a riot-free society irrespective of which party ruled which Indian state.
"When (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi led the party to power (in 2004), we did feel that she needed to be given a chance and that she was sincere. But she has done nothing for Muslims as a whole.
"The government seems to be simply trying to put a carpet over legitimate Muslim grievances by appointing so-called high-power committees. What is the use?"
Both Naeem and Moulvi Ahmed argued that India's vote against Iran in Vienna on the nuclear issue and New Delhi's tilt towards the US amid the Iraq bloodshed had also caused acute bitterness.
Imam Bukhari said Muslims were, however, fully behind the Left in both Kerala and West Bengal because of the communists' commitment to secular values.
In the former, several Muslim groups that in the past have supported the Congress called upon their supporters to vote for the Left this time.
Naeem said the Congress should realize its errors.
"They still have time," said Naeem, recalling the meetings Muslims leaders have had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"They need to talk less and do more. All Muslim problems are the creation of the Congress. So they need to resolve them."
Muslims make cong pay for pro-US stand
Subodh Ghildiyal [ Friday, May 12, 2006 02:10:00 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
Congress has paid a heavy price for its pro-US tilt. The emergence of the fledgling Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) as a factor in Assam and the open support of fundamentalist outfits like Jamaat-e-Islami and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the Left are pointers to the winds of change.
Worried Congress sources conceded that the party lost substantial Muslim votes to adversaries in the two states because of UPA government’s support to US at a time when the superpower is seen as engaged in a crusade against Islam.
The explanation looks credible, considering the affiliation of Badruddin Ajmal to Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, the conglomerate of Deobandi clerics who were the vanguard of anti-Bush protests in the Capital when the US president was here early this year. In Kerala, the Left, having been at the forefront of the resistance to the India-US strategic partnership, was the natural beneficiary. Besides reflecting hostility of the community towards US, Muslim sullenness towards Congress also marks a new-found assertiveness as well as radicalism.
In Kerala, the debacle of its UDF partner, Indian Union Muslim League, in the minority-dominated pockets of Malappuram and parts of northern Kerala underlines the growing appeal of the radical rhetoric of Jamaat and PDP. Ironically, it was Congress which made the first move to appease PDP. It led the Kerala assembly to adopt a resolution seeking the release on health grounds of PDP’s jailed head, Abdul Naser Mahdani, the main accused in the Coimbatore blasts case.
The sentiment was not quite reciprocated by PDP, which opted to sail along with the community sentiment. The rise of AUDF in Assam represents a new boldness by community leaders in a state where Muslims make up for about 30 per cent of electorate.
Ajmal, a traditional Congress supporter, branched out on his own when the party, which had been indulgent, refused to acquiesce to his diktat to dump Tarun Gogoi.
Congress, which had taken many measures in deferment to the community’s concerns — accepting the demand to a Muslim as home minister and successfully lobbying with the Centre to enact a law to get around the SC order scrapping the Illegal Migrant (Detection by Tribunal) Act — drew the line on the issue of chief ministership.
Within two months of his rebellion, AUDF has secured eight seats, besides damaging Congress’s prospects in many others. More than the numbers, the performance of AUDF is significant in that it marks a departure from the trend where Muslims stayed away from exclusivist formations, preferring mainstream political parties. In successive elections, Muslims have defied fatwas and exhortations from prayer pulpits to rely on "secular" formations.
The ability of Jamaat and PDP to shape the voting pattern in Kerala can also be seen as a deviation from the norm, considering that IUML, despite its nomenclature, was never as radical as its new challengers.
Are they portents? Answers differ. Noted historian Imtiaz Ahmad, disagrees, seeing AUDF as a limited localised phenomenon. "Assam has certain special features like Muslims are decisive in a few seats. Also, the problem of Bangladeshi immigration and AASU’s stance over the years
. I don’t see it happening in any other state," he said. For the Imam of Jama Masjid in the Capital, Syed Ahmad Bukhari, who has long nursed political ambitions, Assam results are a morale booster. Reacting to the results, the cleric, who campaigned for AUDF, said: "The results are encouraging for us, we will now move to UP."
Jaleel humbles mighty Kunhalikutty
Thursday, May 11th, 2006
Malappuram (Kerala) – Firebrand orator K.T. Jaleel, once an aide to former state minister and Indian Union Muslim League strongman P.K Kunhalikutty, emerged a giant killer Thursday when he humbled the latter in the Kerala assembly poll in Kuttipuram constituency in Malappuram district by a margin of 8,171 votes.
This is the first electoral reverse for the League leader. Kunhalikutty has been representing Kuttipuram for the past 15 years and prior to that he represented the Malappuram seat for 10 years.
Jaleel, in his late thirties, had taken up cudgels with his former mentor last year after being ousted from the League.
His candidature was supported by the opposition Left Democratic Front.
Malabar Muslims shift en masse
Thiruvananthapuram: The most significant factor of the 2006 assembly election verdict in Kerala is neither the big margin of victory for the Left Democratic Front (LDF), nor the emergence of a number of new faces on the scene nor even the downfall of many a stalwart from the United Democratic Front.
According to leading political observers in the state, the defining political message in the verdict is that the Muslim community in the Malabar region has for the first time changed its traditional stand of voting for the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) purely on religious grounds.
This time, the Muslim vote is perceived to have shifted en masse to the LDF, leading to the downfall of several IUML stalwarts. The most shocking of these have been the defeats of IUML general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty and that of minister M.K. Muneer, but the bigger picture is that the IUML fortresses in Malabar have been taken by the LDF.
Constituencies like Tirur, Mankada, Perinthalmanna and Koduvally have all fallen to the LDF.
So, for the first time, the IUML has less than 10 MLAs in the state assembly, and this despite the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance giving a ministerial berth to E. Ahamad of the IUML when all the Congress candidates in Kerala were defeated in the 2004 parliamentary election.
CPM to decide on Chief Minister candidate
Kozhikode, UNI :
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), heading the Left Democratic Front in Kerala, will decide on the chief ministerial candidate of the coalition, the Indian National League (INL) today said.
''It is the sole responsibility of the CPI(M),'' under whose stewardship, the coalition was able to win a landslide victory in the Assembly elections, results of which were declared today, INL secretary Sulaiman Khalid told reporters here.
''We will wholeheartedly welcome their decision on the issue,'' he added.
Expressing gratitude for the victory of its candidate P M A Salaam from Calicut II, enabling the party to open its account in the state Assembly, he said the election results had shown that people had rejected the policies purused by the UDF, particularly, the IUML, which received a severe drubbing at the hustings.
He attributed the victory to the relentless campaign undertaken by the LDF during the last six months in the state.