Manipur Muslims and Modi

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According to a senior Congress leader, only two Muslims will vote in Narendra Modi`s favour at the coming Parliamentary elections – Shahnawaj Hussain in Bihar and Mukhtar Naqvi in Allahabad. The comment was passed during a war of words over Modi`s popularity with the Muslim voter following the Gujarat chief minister`s insistence that 25 percent of Muslims voted for the BJP at the last Gujarat Assembly elections. The Muslims community has been labelled as `vote banks` time and again and the debate is hot whether it will resort to tactical voting to defeat the BJP during the national elections rather than allow individuals to vote for candidates on their full volition. At the same time, the possible voting pattern of the Muslim community in Manipur has attracted attention for the first time after the hype surrounding the NaMo wave overwhelming the next Parliamentary elections and the winning prospects of the BJP deemed as high in both parliamentary constituencies. Some Muslim organisations in Manipur were compelled to react in an unprecedented fashion and pass out directions to the community to boycott the impending visit of the BJP`s prime ministerial candidate to Manipur. The extreme stance of the Muslim groups has been castigated not only by the state unit of the BJP but by leaders belonging to the Muslim community. Whether Narendra Modi`s boycott is justified on the contention that he is guilty of inciting communal riots and failing to protect the minority community during the attacks of Muslims in his home state (even though he had been cleared by the court) in the aftermath of 2002 Godhra riot or the Muslim organisations are behaving with narrow-mindedness will be a debate that can continue long after even the elections are over. Meantime, it will be preposterous and a grave injustice to our secular principles to held the presumption that the Muslims in the state will be held responsible and face harassment from security personnel should a blast or attack take place during his meeting.
Modi will be in Manipur to sway the voters in the state and that does not mean just the consolidation of the Hindu voters only. A politician like Modi who is staking a claim to the top office of the largest democracy in the world will have to protect all communities as he needs their help too to win the elections. It lights up the mood to hear that some sections of the Muslim community do regard it acceptable that Modi campaign in Manipur. Let us hope Modi will rely on his anti-Congress tirade and self-promotion as a pro-development and decisive leader to woo the Manipuri voters. Modi should extend his hands to the Muslim and Christian communities in the state and douse the extreme sentiments against the Muslim and Christian communities prevalent in other political affiliates of the BJP like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.
Does Modi have prejudices against the Muslims? The question is futile as it will provoke several replies from different quarters and Modi himself is unlikely to admit it. But like many politicians his main motivation in 2002 and at the present is on winning the elections. On the other hand, if the Muslim community is looking to vote en-bloc for a party that had been looking after their welfare in the past, then they have to dig deep to find the answer. Remember, many Muslim leaders in India were miffed that the Congress-led UPA failed to ensure reservation of the community in educational institutes and jobs, and also act for improvement of their conditions even after the community was declared as a neglected social groups by a panel headed by a former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. Will the appointment of Abdul Salam as Rajya Sabha MP and fear over Narendra Modi do the trick for the Congress party with the state Muslim voters?  

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