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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Indian lessons; Every Vote Counts

No one knows the importance of one vote than Rajasthan Congress president C P Joshi who lost the election in Nathdwara constituency by a single vote, defeated by BJP rival Kalyan Singh Chouhan. C P Joshi not only missed the chance to become an MLA but also lost his chance to become chief minister as he was the main contender for the post.


In India, voting percentage has been on decline and this has worried politicians and intellectuals alike. Rural India has larger share in total percentage of votes. Educated, urban middle class only likes to give opinions about sad state of country, corruption and immoral politics. But when it comes to act even in form of voting, they fail miserably. Worst terrorist attack, water logging and numerous other problems failed to move residents of Mumbai. Mumbai recorded only 45.98% in 2009 assembly election despite the fact that film stars and celebrities campaigned hard to promote voting and came out to vote in large numbers. Colaba area that witnessed terror at Taj Mahal Hotel, Nariman House and Cafe Leopold during the 26/11 attacks recorded dismal 36 percent voting. Nearly 11 months after the attack in and around Nariman House, the turnout was dismal.
Muslim backwardness is now well known and documented fact. In spite of all the problems and issues Muslim participation in election is always below the average. Low turnout of Muslim voters is one of the reasons for drop in Muslim representation in Lok Sabha and in assemblies. The last general election saw Muslim representation dropping from 37 to 30, whereas there are around 80 constituencies with sizeable Muslim population.
More or less similar situation is present in state assemblies. Bihar, which is going to poll in few days time, has only 15 Muslim MLAs. Out total 243 seats, 54 seats have sizeable Muslim population. Thirty seats of them have Muslim population between 20 to 30 percent and remaining seats have more than 30 percent.
The seats with 20-30 percent Muslim population have 16 BJP MLAs in the outgoing Assembly and in the 30 to 40 percent range, BJP has managed to win 5 seats. In seats having 40 percent and above Muslim population BJP has 2 MLAs. Araria with 59 percent Muslim population is represented by Pradeep Kumar Singh of BJP and Kasba seat with 45 percent Muslim population is represented by Pradip Kumar Das of BJP. Muslim apathy toward BJP is well know but still BJP comfortably winning Muslim dominated seats is something to ponder on.
BJP candidates defeated Afaque Alam of RJD in Kasba and Moidure Rahman of Congress in Araria by 6009 and 3151 votes respectively in the October 2005 Assembly poll.
BJP win from Muslim dominated seats is often attributed to the fact that many Muslim candidates jump in fray and this leads to division of votes. Parties will give tickets to Muslims in these seats either to attract Muslim votes or to spoil chances of other Muslim candidates. It will be Muslims duty to understand the motive of parties and choose the right candidate. Muslims are themselves to blame if BJP is able to snatch these seats from Muslims.
This time too, Shahnawaz Alam of LJP and Md. Afaque Alam of Congress are in fray from Kasba. In Araria, Zakir Hussain Khan of LJP and Moidure Rahman of Congress are in the fray. To take the advantage of division of votes, BJP has fielded Narayan Jha from Araria and sitting MLA Pradip Das from Kasba.
Effect of division of votes can be minimised by voting sensibly and heavily. It should be every Muslim priority to increase Muslim representation. Muslim representation has reached alarming level. Common man’s anger against elected representative is justified due to fact that majority of them just disappear after winning and lack of constructive work in their area. It is possible that Muslim MLAs will not do much for community after getting elected but their mere presence does make difference at local level administration.
Muslims should vote in large number not only to increase representation but also to keep the importance of their vote intact. BJP star campaigner Narendra Modi was refused entry in Bihar by Nitish Kumar as this could have polarised Muslim votes. Another star campaigner and hero of Ram Mandir movement L K Advani is not campaigning in the first phase where majority of seats are having large Muslim population. During campaigning leaders like Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan are accompanied by person sporting beard and skull cap like Abu Talib Rahmani and Ghulam Rasool Baliavi, just to show their pro Muslim image. It is different matter that many Muslims will not consider them as their leader. In this battle for survival, RJD-LJP alliance has realized the importance of Muslim votes and offered Deputy Chief Ministership and 15 percent reservation to Muslims. Even BJP has joined this race for Muslim votes when its state president C P Thakur appealed to Muslims.
It is unfortunate that everyone except Muslims realizes the importance of votes. In democracy*, number only matters and counts. If Muslims, even with number on their side, are failing then they are themselves to be blamed. Right to complain comes with right to vote. One act of voting has affect on everyone’s life for next five years. It is too important to miss. Every vote counts and if you do not believe it, ask Mr. C P Joshi. (By M. Zajam)


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