As the 2019 Lok Sabha election is gearing up, both BJP and Congress are leaving no stones unturned to appease the voters in a bid to come to the power. It is believed by the political experts that Congress always majorly had a Muslim vote bank, but with the Shia community veering increasingly towards the Bharatiya Janata Party since last few years, Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with the intellectuals of the minority voters is considered as a master plan in order to woo the Muslim vote bank!
Congress President Rahul Gandhi interacted with about 15 progressive and moderate intellectuals of the Shia community on Wednesday evening — a few prominent ones include lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress Shabana Azmi, academician Zoya Hasan, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, Syed Zafar Mahmood, who was the former OSD to ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several others. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the challenges that concern the Muslim community at the time of the current Modi-led BJP regime.
Congress spokesperson Neela Limaye expressed, “Every party has different strategies. Even BJP had met dignitaries as a part of Sampark for Samarthan. So, if Rahul Gandhi meets people, other parties raise a voice claiming it as an agenda. We have a secular stand and we respect all religions. If the allegation by BJP that Congress is doing Muslim appeasement is true, how would it be possible for the latter to remain in power for past 70 years in a Hindu majority country.”
However, experts believe that BJP has come down heavily on the Congress president’s scheduled meetings with the Muslim intellectuals. Hence, by attacking the Congress party, the BJP asked it to explain the reason behind Rahul Gandhi’s ‘secret’ meetings with the leading Muslim personalities. While contradicting to their own statements, BJP claimed the meeting to be politically driven; BJP also accused the Congress party of trying to form a ‘secret alliance’ with the Muslims ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP spokesperson Shirish Boralkar commented, “Congress has always misguided the Muslim community and had different stands at different times. Congress should explain that why they are meeting Muslim intellectuals secretly! Rahul Gandhi should talk about steps taken by Congress for the welfare of the Muslims, while we took an initiative for abandoning triple talaq for the welfare of the Muslims. Therefore, it is nothing but an election strategy where they have no agenda for the development.”
According to the analysts, it is considered that as the forming Muslim parties don’t unite, it benefits the Hindu political parties directly. Similarly, MIM’s foray benefits the BJP in the assembly elections. Hence, Gandhi has been holding meetings with different sections of the society and different parties, according to the Congress Minority Department Chairman Nadeem Javed.
AIMIM MLA Imtiaz Jaleel stated, “Everyone is preparing for the 2019 elections. Congress has realised that there is a large chunk of Muslim voters, hence, they are trying to attract Muslim votes. Instead of meeting, we would appreciate if they had done something for the welfare of Muslims in their regime. They took Muslims for granted when they were in power for 15 years in Maharashtra. During the Gujarat election, Congress had also become a part of Hindutva politics. As elections are approaching, they realised that it is high time to meet Muslim community, but by meeting intellectuals they are not going to attain the majority of Muslims.”
Looking back at the history, the conflict between Hindus and Muslims which is just a few hundred years old, ergo the fight between Shias and Sunnis is from more than 1,000 years. Shias are a minority among Muslims. India is the only country where Shias feel safe, because Hindus are a majority here. Initially, Shia Muslims were sidelined by Congress when the party was ruling the nation. Thereafter, they came in support of BJP, to gain protection from the Sunnis.
NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde said, “Congress is known as a secular party and Rahul as a political leader has to meet all sections of the society and have fruitful discussions for understanding their problems, hence it seems nothing wrong with it. According to me, it can be considered as an inclusive approach instead of calling it as a soft Hindutva. I don’t believe there is any concept of one community for one party to retain vote bank.”
The religion-based political parties that usually count on the vote bank proved to be a major drawback in the last election with BJP coming into power. As it was seen earlier, Mayawati was being voted out by Dalits, Rahul Gandhi is playing his cards safe by alluring the lost part of the minority community to secure the Muslim vote bank as well as retain the sentiments of Hindu voters by acting with a balanced secular approach ahead of the upcoming general elections.