The recent municipal elections in Hyderabad attracted a lot of attention
The recent municipal elections in Hyderabad attracted a lot of attention

In ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, Karl Marx writes, “Men make their history, but they don’t make it as they please, they don’t make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past.“ Marx’s words are an assault on the egos of big men who fantasise in their make-believe world that they can make history at will. They forget that history is never linear but layered and multidimensional. Men believe that they can control the forces of history, streamline the process, navigate its path and reach the end but most of the time, it’s the other way around.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a brilliant man. He desired to become the sole spokesperson of undivided India. Before Gandhi touched the shores of India, he was amongst the top leaders of the Congress Party, and whom his friend Sarojini Naidu called the apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity. By 1920, Gandhi became Mahatma and the dictator of the party and Jinnah had to leave politics and move to London. The same Jinnah came back to India in 1930s to change the course of history and created Pakistan, which he had not intended initially.

Hyderabad civic polls

After 73 years of Independence, another Muslim leader has a grand ambition. His name is Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of AIMIM, a small party. But his oversized projection in the national media makes him out to be no ordinary leader. At a time when Muslims are feeling aggrieved and living in fear, Owaisi aspires to be the sole spokesperson of the community, one who speaks for their issues and fights for their causes and therein lies the danger. Nothing highlights this danger more than the municipal elections in Hyderabad.

In the first place, a municipal election should not have attracted so much attention but it did. The BJP, which has negligible presence, suddenly decided to jump into a small pond. The top leaders of the party, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and party president J P Nadda etc. were seen campaigning vigorously. The BJP’s politics of ‘shock and awe’ pulverised the electorate in the area. Though the Telangana Rashtra Party (TRS) was the main opponent, the BJP incessantly targeted Owaisi, with the sole objective of demonising him as a fanatic Muslim leader like Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Communal polarisation brought dividends to BJP. Its vote share multiplied tenfold and seats jumped from 4 to 48.

Religious polarisation

The BJP is known for religious polarisation. That is its tried and time-tested tactic to win over Hindu voters. Demonisation of the Muslim electorate in the backdrop of the Partition is their main plank. But what is more problematic in the Hyderabad elections is the dwindling support for the TRS and the consolidation of Muslim votes around the AIMIM. The result establishes the disturbing fact that a large chunk of Hindu voters found the BJP campaign appealing and they switched sides. The AIMIM was not affected but the TRS lost a substantial number of seats to the BJP.

The BJP’s aggressive campaign has made Muslims more determined to votefor a party which is seen to fight for them at a time when othersecular parties don’t want to openly side with them, fearing that itmight benefit the BJP. So, if Muslims voted for a Muslim party and a section of Hindus deserted the TRS and voted as Hindus for a party which claims to fight for Hindus then does it not lead us to believe that the ‘two-nation theory’ of the pre-Partition days is still alive, i.e.,Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and can’t live together as one unit?

Owaisi for change

Owaisi talks about constitutionalism. He claims to fight for the constitutional rights of Muslims. He denies that he only fights for Muslims. But facts speak otherwise. He is seen as a Muslim leader, who wants to emerge as a leader of all the Muslims of the country. Recently, he contested in the Muslim majority areas of Bihar and won five seats and has declared he will contest in Bengal, where almost 26 per cent of the population is Muslim. Since Independence, Muslims were not led by a Muslim party or a Muslim leader but by Hindu leaders and secular parties. Owaisi wants to change that.

Owaisi does not realise that India was not divided in a day. Both the communities have carried religious prejudices for centuries. Much before V D Savarkar propounded the two-nation theory, concurred with by Jinnah, an eminent politician like Gopal Krishna Gokhale had said, “ ...over the greater part of India, the two communities had inherited a tradition of antagonism which though it might ordinarily lie dormant, broke forth into activity at the smallest provocation.”

Gokhale can’t be called communal. Another stalwart of that era, Lala Lajpat Rai said, “Indian Muslims are more pan-Islamic and exclusive than the Muslims of any other country of the globe and that fact alone makes the creation of a unified India more difficult ...” From the Muslim side, Sir Syed Ahmed was vocal. In his opinion, “... two nations - the Mahomeddans and the Hindus - could sit on the throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down.”

Social fault lines

Gandhi was aware of the social fault lines. He tried in vain to convince both the communities “We (India) were one nation before British came.” His support for the Khilafat movement was an attempt to bring both the communities into one mainstream. But the story of the Partition is proof that he failed miserably. Jinnah, championing the cause of Muslims, deepened the wound of the past which finally led to Partition.

After Partition, India adopted a secular and modern Constitution, which wasnot based on religious identities, whose basic unit was a citizen, treated equal irrespective of their religion but the politics of last seven decades has undone the intent of the Constitution and its makers.
If the BJP is to be blamed for its brazen majority communal politics, then other so-called secular parties also shamelessly indulged in minority-communalism. The society which we witness today was not created in a moment. Rome was not built in a day. Every party is to be blamed for the mess.

Therefore, the Hyderabad results are horrifying and hint at darker days in the future. Owaisi might rejoice today but in the long run, he will do more damage to Muslims than any other secular party. Because I believe that if he thinks today that he will shape history in future as a saviour of Muslims vis a vis the politics of Hindutva, he might end up as a villain for his own community in the long run.

The writer is an author and Editor,

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