New Delhi: With just 15 days left in the Judgment of Tamil Nadu assembly elections and amid various poll predictions, the political temperature of the state seems high. All election surveys point towards the possibility of a coalition government or a fractured mandate or a hung assembly.
Like general voters, no body exactly knows who the Muslim electorate favored on 13 of this month, although each alliance, led by DMK and AIDMK, claims to have got their votes.
What has become the talk of the town is the question: Who among Amma and Kalaignar, as Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi are popularly known, will be “good” for Muslims who constitute around seven percent of the state population.
There are many who think that the DMK-led alliance will be better for the Muslim electorate of the state. Historically and traditionally Muslims are seen as a DMK vote bank. Credit goes to its alliance with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) since the days of its founder Mohammed Ismael. This time IUML fought on 3 assembly seats but on the DMK symbol, the rising sun.
Shafi Ahmad Ko, Chennai-based senior journalist, says that Karunanidhi-led DMK is largely seen as a Muslim-friendly political party. Explaining the basis for this kind of image, Shafi says that the DMK government started 3.5% reservation for Muslims in the state and during the campaign trail, Karunandhi promised to raise the percentage to 5% if voted back to power. The DMK government also constituted an Urdu academy in the state for the propagation of the language which is spoken in some Muslim pockets of the state. Moreover, when it comes to the religious freedom of the minorities, people feel much more comfortable during the regime of DMK, adds Ahmad.
As opposed to the DMK, Shafi explains that the media image of Amma is of a pro-Brahmanical force. The reason behind this kind of image is that Jayalalitha had supported the Karsevaks’ demolition of the Babri Masjid. Another instance of her anti-Minority image was the Anti Conversion Law which Amma brought in 2002 but she had to scrap it due to its widespread criticism.
But there are people who regard both the regional parties as “evil” and call for choosing the lesser of the two. In this regard, a section of the intellectuals in the state looks at the welfare measures announced by the DMK government for the minorities, with a strong sense of skepticism and calls for the evaluation of these schemes as they are being implemented on the ground.
Dr. Sattar, president of the state chapter, All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat, cautions against the simplistic way of blindly considering DMK as the messiah of the Muslims in the state. Sattar points towards the state sponsored structural prejudices against Muslims because of which their representation at various governmental sectors is quite low. He also highlights the low accessibility and skewed implementation of the schemes for the welfare of the minorities in the state, “Just by allowing the minority community to pray according to its religion doesn’t mean that you are secular and their friend.”
On the issue of Urdu for instance, S.M. Pasha of Urdu Lovers Forum is very angry against the DMK government, “the state government pretends acting in the interests of Urdu but actually it couldn’t have done more harm to the language when it made the language optional for the students.”
Consequently, a section of the Muslim community calls for revaluation of their approach towards Jayalalitha. They look forward to Amma as the possible sincere benefactor of Muslims in the state. It’s on the support of this constituency that Prof. Jawahirullah, chief of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham (TMMK), withdrew his support to DMK and went with the AIADMK alliance in this election.
“Only AIADMK can provide the real empowerment to the Muslims because only this party had the courage to let the only Muslim party have its identity as opposed to the DMK which treats IUML as its minority wing,” says the TMMK chief.
Highlighting the failures of the DMK government in the past, Jawahirullah shows the “sincerity” of the AIADMK when it promised the Muslims reservation not just 5% but a proportionate one. Alleging that the largest number of communal riots happened in the state during the DMK regime and not during the AIADMK government, Jawahirullah says that, “It’s a myth that the DMK government has protected the minorities.”
“Jayalalitha means business as opposed to Karunanidhi who only talks and most of his announcements are just propaganda which doesn’t get implemented at the ground level,” says Jawahirullah who has also fought assembly elections from Ramanathapuram.
Accusing the DMK government of insincerity, the TMMK chief also highlights the failure of the DMK government in implementing the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report in the state.
But what about the anti-minority stands of the AIADMK in the past? “Every body learns from their experiences from the past and so has Jayalalitha. We just need to give her another chance,” defends the TMMK chief who avoids being called a “professional politician.”
What will be very interesting to see is: who is voted to power and how the Muslim political groups respond to that political dispensation because ultimately it will influence the way Muslim politics is being done in the state