Is AAP the new Congress?

By Zainab Ahmed,

“AAP and Kejriwal..He is going to make a change. He is neither corrupt nor tainted and a perfect option for us,” were the views of Baba Haaji, a shop owner at Pondy bazaar, who feel betrayed by Congress and furious at BJP for Modi. And he is not the only one.

After their much-hyped success and much more-hyped resignation after 49-days, AAP has attracted people from every religion, caste and region. Muslims, too, are in their lists of followers.

AAP

The community which has usually been seen as a vote bank rather than equal citizens seems to have found an alternative in AAP. Though the community could never be lured by BJP due to their saffron image, their agitation against Congress could be understood by the fact that a noted Muslim organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), since their participation in the 2002 elections, have come out strongly against the party.

The JIH endorsed the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party and appealed the Muslims to shun Congress and vote for the newly born party, a move likely to worry the party which enjoys the confidence of the minority community and hopes it to act as a catalyst to halt Modi’s march towards national centrestage.

However, these calculations can go wrong if the recent assembly results in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi and the steady decline of Congress is to be noticed. There is a fear in the party that their heavy dependence on AAP to checkmate Modi in the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections can shift the minorities’ allegiance to the debuntant party.

According to Congress party’s calculations, outsourcing its battle against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to Kejriwal’s AAP would put Modi and AAP in confrontation as both the parties appeal to the same constituencies. However, the grand old party failed to realize that such strategies would end up inflicting more damage on itself and erode their support base of minorities.

The one-year old party AAP was a new and untested party till Delhi Assembly elections. But now that it has proved itself and there is a lot of possibility that they would be taken more seriously by the minorities.

However, the views among muslims are varied. The hype that AAP has created in Delhi has been challenged only by the Muslim population of Delhi. In Delhi, despite the rout Congress managed to get a lot of muslim support which indicated that while the community is looking towards AAP, they are still voting loyaly for parties whom they have traditonally supported. Thus it has become a reason of worry for AAP and the party has formed Special Task Force to lure the Muslim votes.

In order to secure the Muslim votes, the AAP supremo visited the heads of many Islamic organizations/bodies, and also approached to Maulvi Taukir Raza Khan in Bareli. Like BJP, AAP found Muslim candidates easily enough but it could not convince the Muslim ‘voters’. This indicates that the perception of the Muslim community about politics is much different from that of the mainstream civil society in the country; the choice of their votes depends on many other factors than just on the choice of candidates.

The community would like to know about AAP’s stand on issues like economic conditions of Muslims, the Gujarat riots, Kashmir issue, arrest of Muslims in the name of anti-terror measures and reservation for the community.  If these issues are well answered, then Muslims can finalise their stand on AAP.

Though there has been dilemma among the community after the rumours of Anna Hazare’s agitation being supported by Sangh Parivar, there have been instances where Muslim community has showed interest in AAP. As Kejriwal formed government in Delhi, Jataak Foundation chief Syed Zafar Mahmood sent him a 20-point-agenda. The response from AAP is still awaited.

However, the start of a special drive to involve important muslim names in the party and the making of Special Task Force  indicates that leadership of AAP too considers the community as mere vote banks and not as equal citizens. The people who equate the success of AAP as the success of change in politics manage to hide that the fact that like other secular parties, even this party is segmenting the population in the category of religion and caste.

Like other political parties who are said to be secular, AAP while keeping a firm hold on the Hindus, wants to cast its sway over the Muslims by placing before them the fear of Narendra Modi. Now it depends upon the Muslim community whether it continues the same relationship with AAP, the sort that it had with the other secular parties and be perceived only as vote bank or stand up on their feet and think against all the agendas propogated by those pushing them in the folds of AAP.

While Muslims need to seriously examine the argument that Arvind Kejriwal has faded Modi’s glow cannot be an excuse for secularism, it cannot be denied that AAP needs to develop an ideology, and, now, go beyond more rhetoric to connect to as many people as they can.

Meanwhile it remains interesting to see if and how AAP can convince the minority community before the forthcoming elections.

The author is a student of Post-Graduation diploma in Journalism in Asian College of Journalism. She can be contacted at [email protected]