“In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.”
--- Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970)
“Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects."
--- Lester B. Pearson (1897 - 1972)
[Disclaimer: The contents of, and opinions expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the present website.]
A shrewd politician has many colors. Manipulation of voters for seizing power in democracy is an art. Politicians hunt for votes from various parties, often with conflicting interests. Thus, they need to appease various factions, sounding sweet enough to win the votes. A vote bank is a loyal bloc of voters from a single community, who consistently back a certain candidate or political party in democratic elections. Such behavior is the result of an expectation of real or imagined benefits from that candidate or the party, often at the cost of other communities. Vote bank policy is a divisive politics. It is detrimental to democracy because this brand of politics encourages voters to vote on the basis of narrow communal considerations, often against their better judgment.
In India, the practice of vote bank politics is rampant. The term vote bank was first used by noted Indian sociologist, M. N. Srinivas which has now become a part of vocabulary of Indian politics (Atal, 2009, p. 189). By seeing its success, other Asian countries have adopted it. Though the term originally referred to voting along caste lines, it was soon expanded to describe vote banks based on other community characteristics, such as religion and particularly the religious sentiment of the Indian Muslims.
Since the establishment of democratic and secular polity in India, the Muslim population was bracketed in a vote bank group initially by the Congress party and subsequently by all the political parties in the country. None of them however, offered any remedial solution to resolve the educational and economic miseries of the Muslim masses and allowed their communal conflict with the Hindus and Christians to grow day by day. There are many very distinctive qualities in the political behavior of the Indian Muslims.
- A Muslim is not born in a family. He is born in the religion of Islam. He does not belong to Indian civilization; rather he belongs to the Arab culture. He has no appreciation for the ancient Vedic traditions. An Indian Muslim family is a poor imitation of an Arab family within the principled confines of Islam. Therefore it is very easy to isolate them as a religion-centric society and exploit in the name of Islam.
- It is easy to boost up the Indian Muslims on Kashmir issue or Israeli-Palestinian issue.
- Most of the Indian Muslims have immense hate for their progressive Hindu and Christian communities because of the illiteracy, poverty and backwardness of their own community. This makes the Indian Muslims suffer from strong inferiority complex.
- Muslims cannot de-link religion and politics. They vote in large numbers and participate more in politics, much more than the rest of the electorate. They vote ‘en bloc’ for one candidate or party.
- Muslim voters are more ‘strategic’ in their voting and tend to hold back their decisions until the last moment.
- They are more dependent on others in their decision making and more likely to be influenced by clerics or community leaders and guided more by narrow community issues rather than by broader interests. In many Muslim dominated areas they do not have individual opinion and cast their votes as per the fatwa dictated by their religious leaders.
- Criminal-politician nexus: Crime rate amongst Muslims is very high in India. Politicians need muscle power support for political work, parties and elections and the criminals need the politicians’ protection against the processes of law. Most of the Indian mafia lords are Muslims.
- They are less supportive to Indian democracy than the rest of the population. They have more loyalty for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, whom they see as their Guardian angels.
The above characteristics make the Muslims an extraordinary political community easy to maneuver in elections. Political parties know these “Achilles Heels” of Muslims, and in order to exploit this psyche, they play very smartly. As a result; democracy steps into Indian Muslim household before thead battle of the ballot starts. Ironically, the Muslim clerics often help the political parties to use Muslims as a vote bank by continuously keeping the Muslim masses linked with their religious identity and allow the situation to continue because of their self-seeking interest. As a result many Indian Muslims across all sections of the Nation have refused to sing Indian national Song Vande Mataram (Raghavan, 1996, p. 84). These clerics will never make the Muslims realize that they face absolutely no danger from the cultural ethos of Indian civilization. Muslims are encouraged to be isolated, kept backward, encouraged to study all sorts of theology in Madrasa etc. The Muslim clerics do it purposefully to promote fear of religious absorption of the Muslims by Hindu majority, so that they, as uneducated, not vote on merit but due to fear psychosis vote in concert as block to whomever they are directed by corrupt politicians, who can provide all kinds of corrupt cover in exchange of directed block vote.
The efforts of many honest Hindu nationalists to bring the Muslims into the socio-political mainstream of the country lost its credence in its vote bank competition with the "secular" parties. Though most of the Indian Muslims strongly hate their Hindu and Christian counterparts, there are few honorable one who have full faith in democracy but their voice is so feeble and weak that they are unable to bring out their community from their religion-centric identity.
The political mobilization of Muslims as a vote bank made disturbing progress in the last three decades. A section of Muslim clerics will never allow the common Muslims to develop their national identity. This unfair game of Muslim manipulation, which is not only a curse to Muslims but to the India as a whole, was initiated by Congress under the leadership of Nehru and Gandhi, and then followed by all the "secular" parties. Ever since independence, not a single political party did even consider it necessary to guide them properly regarding their commitment to the fundamentals of the political blueprint of the Indian polity as free and responsible citizens. Historically, the Muslim clerics, as a group, who were responsible for partition of the country while playing into the hands of the colonial power turned their community members hostile to the national aspiration of the Hindus and the Congress created the minority and majority syndrome and thereby widened the gap of mistrust between the two communities.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a party of mainly Hindu nationalists, with a view to combine the Hindu voters in its favor, criticized the Congress for pursuing Muslim appeasement policies. This attitude of BJP however helped the Congress to tighten its hold over the Muslims, who found the party as the only savior of their religious identity. Following the footsteps of the Congress, all the political parties made a mad rush to woo the Muslim community by raising hue and cry for protection of their religious identity. Following the notorious ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British, the contemporary Muslim leaders also played the same divisive game in post independence to share political power without showing any real interest for the economic and educational developments of their own people. They treated the community as a marketable commodity and continued “bargaining” with different political parties in election time for their individual benefits. Therefore, the plight of the Muslim community remained the same, as these parties hardly did anything to rescue them from their educational and economic backwardness.
The "secular" parties and the Muslims clergies have a common strategy to scare the Muslims of the danger to their religious identity due to consolidation of Hindu nationalists under the banner of the BJP. The BJP on the other hand made consistent attempt to consolidate the Hindus also as a vote bank to counter the political consolidation of the Muslims against them. Though, the party failed to achieve any major success on this issue, it made the Muslims as its permanent political enemy. This helped Congress to exploit the Muslims more artistically.
The Muslim sycophancy was started by Nehru. The practice of subsidizing Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca as appeasement for Muslim votes began as early as 1959 as a policy of appeasing Muslims, in contravention of the secular principle of the Government. This practice is still continued and the subsidy is increasing ever since. In 2007, the Hajj subsidy paid by the Indian Government was INR 5.95 billion and INR 7 billion for 2008 (INR 43 = US$ 1). Except India, no other country in the world, even the Muslim countries, offer subsidy to Hajj pilgrims. Offering such a financial assistance to a religious group goes directly against the secular spirit of the Indian Constitution. It is also to be noted that the Government does not provide any such subsidy to the Hindu pilgrims, who go to visit Kailash-mansarovar in China, or to Amarnath in Kashmir or Gangasagar in West Bengal. On the contrary, the Government imposes direct and indirect pilgrimage taxes on them (Brahmachari, 2010). This is the biggest hypocrisy that anyone had ever seen in Indian politics.
In 1982, the National Council of Educational Research and Training of India issued a directive for the rewriting of school texts. Among other things it stipulated that; “characterization of the medieval period as a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims is forbidden” (cited Knap, 2009, p. 200). Thus denial of history, or negationism, has become India's official 'educational' policy. To appease the Muslims, the Government of India will not tell Indian children about the real magnitude of the Hindu genocide by Muslim invaders. What type of distorted morality is this?
The Muslim sycophancy of the Congress reached its highest peak in mid 1980s, when the Congress leadership surrendered to the dictate of Muslim clergies in the famous Shahbano case (it was a controversial divorce lawsuit in India, in which Shahbano, a sixty-two year old Muslim woman and mother of five, was divorced by her husband in 1978 and was subsequently denied alimony) by opposing the Supreme Court verdict by a parliamentary amendment. The Shahbano case, which made a complete mockery of democratic republic India's secular image, is a glaring example of this raping of democracy and development of this sick art of vote bank politics which thoroughly exposed the self-acclaimed secular character of the party.
After Shahbano case, the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, sensing the reaction and likely consolidation of Hindu votes against the party (because of his political immaturity, he never understood that there was no Hindu vote bank as such), laid the foundation of Ram temple at Ajodhya, which has been a disputed issue between the Hindus and the Muslims. But this action angered the Muslims and they distanced themselves from the party. By seeing an opportunity, other parties took advantage of the situation and aggressively spread the story of the danger of Hindu communalism. The Muslims found in them as the savior of their religious identity and accordingly went for collective but tactical voting with a sole objective to defeat the BJP.
The consistent disappointing situation of the Indian Muslims prompted the BJP leaders to think in term of gaining their confidence. There is hardly any possibility that BJP would be able to consolidate the Hindu votes because of the diverse character of the Indian Hindu society. Therefore they considered it necessary to win over the confidence of the Muslims and accordingly the tactical shift of the party from Hindutva (Hinduness) to development was a move also to woo the Muslim voters. This is a major shift in the history of over half a century of party's electoral politics.
Vajpayee, while addressing a BJP-led convention for development of minorities made an appeal to the Muslims to shed their hate BJP mindset and to judge the party on the basis of its performance during its governance. He also told the Muslims to come out of their fear psychosis and think independently. Advani appealed to them to “beware of vote bank peddlers and concentrate on education … Many problems arise today because Muslims have so far only been thought of in terms of votes” (Upadhyay, 2004). The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the parent organization of the BJP, is no more found having any obsession to the hand of friendship extended by the BJP to the Muslims.
Encouraged with the new gesture of BJP some sections of Muslims were found responding positively. Some of the Muslim leaders were either found joining the BJP or hobnobbing with the party to come closer to it. They had perhaps realized that the "secular" parties had only exploited the community for vote but were hardly serious for their educational and economic developments. The way the Muslims’ shifting attitude towards BJP seems to be an encouraging development for the party.
This is the naked truth about the vote bank politics of India. Unless the Muslims understand that they have been used as a “marketable commodity” by the politicians who do nothing for them except for shedding crocodile tears, every time during election they will come out straight from their empty kitchen to the polling booth to cast their vote. Many Indian intellectuals would strongly agree if one was to mention vote bank politics as one of the major causes for our country's troubles. Vote bank politics is obviously harmful to the country. It needs to stop and our political scene needs to be cleaned up. If not, very soon the people all over the world will think many times before choosing a political system existent in India, which is worst than the most despised of any system of governance. Why there is hardly any vote bank politics in other countries like, say USA, UK or Germany? The general opinion is, their politicians are more honest and more patriotic than the Indian politicians. Better people get into politics abroad than in India.
The hard fact is that in India most of the politicians have criminal background. Serious charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion, bribery and the likes are pending against many of them. Some had served lengthy prison term for various crimes. Some come from such families which lack cultural, educational and patriotic values, and some come from poor families which have never seen good life, sometimes not even enough to eat. So they become corrupt to grow rich quickly. When such a corrupt politician with criminal background gives public speeches about morality and values, it is ridiculous. Indian democracy is raped every day by these corrupt politicians.
Mumbai blasts, the Gujarat carnage, Varanasi blasts, attack on the Parliament … how come security forces of a vast country like India are incapable of fighting foreign inspired Mafias, criminals and Islamic terrorists, who are robbing, blackmailing and killing innocent persons? The worst part is that the journalists are controlled by these corrupt politicians. The vote bank politics is also responsible for the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh. Demographic changes are rapid, but political parties are not keen on solving the issue. Assam and Bengal will be swamped if it goes on like this by another twenty years. If the Hindus fail to handle this situation with strictness, wisdom and long-term vision; polarization of the Nation on religious grounds will become a widespread and ugly reality, for which the Hindus will pay a heavy price. There is a possibility, which the present author cannot ignore, that by the end of the present century the Hindus will find themselves in refugee camps in their own country.
The Indian Muslims must understand that nationhood is just an idea which needs to be turned to reality. To achieve this, we need to work sufficiently on inculcating the sense of citizenhood in people at all levels. Here religion hardly has any role to play. Religious absorption of the Muslims by Hindu majority is a myth which was created for purely political purpose to use Muslims as political “football”. To convince the Muslims, the politicians have even spread the fake Hindu terrorism agenda. Hindus do not place the religion above their country. The Government of India is spending in billions (mostly from the “Kafir” Hindu tax-payers money), as subsidy to Hajj pilgrims and other facilities, e.g. paying monthly salary to Imams of mosques, expanding Madrasa education, renovating mosques, providing quota for Government jobs, providing easy bank loans, scholarships for Muslim students etc. In spite of this, the Nation is failing to earn their loyalty. Rather more and more Muslims are vocal with their stanch support for Islamic terrorism and anti-Indian motives. The refusal to sing Vande Matram reveals true colors of Muslims. Muslims must realize that they are citizens of a Nation first, and their religion comes much later. Vande Mataram is not a Hindu song. It was a source of inspiration to the people of India in their struggle for freedom. It is a prayer to Mother India, homage to our motherland. It cannot be viewed through a narrow prism. Our Indian culture has a well-respected place in the world. We must preserve it. Once Muslims understand the meaning of nationhood, only then they can be agile and respond to any challenging situation. Otherwise every time, we are challenged as a Nation; people will give more priority to their narrow views instead of the Nation as a whole.
1. Atal, Yogesh (2009); Sociology and social anthropology in India. Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ltd
2. Brahmachari, Radhasyam (2010): Hajj Subsidy: An Instrument of Muslim Appeasement in Indian Politics. Published on Islam-watch on January 22 / 2010. LINK (Last assessed 23 May 2011)
3. Knap, Stephen (2009); Crimes Against India: And the Need to Protect Its Ancient Vedic Tradition. iUniverse. Bloomington