Mayawati, Live from Ali­garh

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

That Ali­garh Mus­lim Univer­sity (AMU) ha­so­ne­ofthe­coun­try’smost­beau­ti­ful­cam­puses was al­most proved by the fact that I was late for my meet­ings there. Walk­ing down those broad and clean streets with ei­ther side lined by white sun­light-bounc­ing­build­ingsand­gras­sand­flow­er­se­very­where showed me the al­ter­na­tive to those cam­puses-dressed-up-as-playschools in places like Ben­galuru and Palo Alto. But I have wasted one univer­sity life. I was not go­ing to waste univer­sity ap­point­ments.

Ali­garh had al­ready voted on Fe­bru­ary 11, with the assem­bly con­stituency of Koil (in­whichAMU­fall­sun­der)hav­ingth­e­cu­ri­ous case of the Congress can­di­date Vivek Bansal fight­ing it out with the Sa­ma­jwadi Party’s Ajju Ishak, even as Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Ya­dav con­tinue to love each other on Valen­tine’s Day. I meet the ev­ersmil­ing Enayetul­lah Khan, a re­search as­sis­tant in the depart­ment of his­tory.

I was sup­posed to meet him in­side the Maulana Azad Li­brary, but it’s in the glo­ri­ous sun­shine out­side the arts fac­ulty build­ing that I am in­tro­duced to Prof Mo­ham­mad Sa­j­jad of the Cen­tre of Ad­vanced Study in His­tory. I ask the ob­vi­ous ques­tion one can ask in Ali­garh two days be­fore Phase 2 polls: Will Mayawati get some of the Mus­lim votes that she has been mak­ing an ex­tra ef­fortt to win?

Sa­j­jad­starts­bysay­ingth­at­mostMus­lims will vote for the SP-Congress hand-cy­cle. Maya... Maya... Maya... “But had she re­ally made an ex­tra ef­fort to win over the Mus­lims, she would have spo­ken out loudly on the is­sue of Muzaf­far­na­gar. Not only the ri­ots, but also about the dis­placed peo­ple who have been liv­ing in ab­ject con­di­tions. So ex­cept for ticket dis­tri­bu­tion, how do you say that she has made an ex­tra ef­fort?.”

Sa­j­jad then pro­ceeds to talk about some­thing that has been, ac­cord­ing to him, “un­der-re­ported by the me­dia”: her style of func­tion­ing with re­gard to the BSP’s ‘Dal­itMus­limu­nity’ef­fort.“Yousee,” saysSa­j­jad,pullinguphis­black and­whitesweater­sleeves,“the his­tor­i­cal­ly­op­pressed­sec­tions of Mus­lims, the pas­manda – pas­manda ac­tivists and in­tel­lec­tu­als have been work­ing hard for Dalit Mus­lims for a while. In fact, some say the Muzaf­far­na­gar ri­ots were a cause rather than an ef­fect of the Pas­manda Kranti Abiyan­that­wasal­readyun­der­way­inJuly 2013 be­fore the Septem­ber ri­ots. And some would­haveit­thatit­wasMayawati­whowas be­hindthePas­man­daKran­tiAbiyan.Soit is odd to find her quiet now.”

Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi of the his­tory depart­ment, whom I meet next, is much more scep­ti­cal about any­thing that goes un­der the name of ‘Mus­lim vote’. “It’s a fight for haves and have-nots, and many Maya... Maya... Maya... Mus­limshap­pento­fal­lun­derth­e­cat­e­gory of have-nots along with many other havenot com­mu­ni­ties. This sud­den sup­port from maul­vis and imams for Mayawati doesn’tmeanany­thin­gany­more.Th­e­seare dis­cred­it­ed­forceswhoonlysome­une­d­u­cated Mus­lims may lis­ten to. But their stamp ofap­proval­hard­ly­mat­ter­sany­more,”says Rezavi, who seems to take sec­u­lar­ism far more­se­ri­ous­lythanUP’s‘sec­u­lar’par­ties. “What makes any­one think a Mus­lim will vote for only a Mus­lim can­di­date?” he says with ag­i­tated se­ri­ous­ness.

Talk­ing heads are usu­ally jammed in­side a tele­vi­sion screen.As­aprint­jour­nal­ist­who ab­hors stu­dios, I pre­fer hopping from one room to an­other. In a room not far from Prof Rezavi’s sits just-pro­moted-to-As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor, Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Science, Mo­ham­mad Mo­hibul Haque. He tells me about the abil­ity of the All In­dia Ma­jlis-e-It­te­had-ul-Mul­simeen (AIMIM) to play spoil­sport – for both BSP and SP-Congress – in at least 20-25 seats. “And peo­ple have al­ready asked, ‘And what ifMayawatiget­s­thenum­bers­but­fallsshort and ties up with the BJP?”

Inan­oth­er­room,with­pastAMU­wor­thies star­ing­dow­nat­mefrom­framed­black-and­white­framed­por­traits,ProfMirza­As­lam Beg, Chair­man, Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Science, thinks that Mayawati’s ‘Mus­limDalit’ strat­egy “looks good on pa­per but is too sim­plis­tic”. Be­hind his chair­man’s ta­ble, Beg says, “Her Kan­shi Ram Awaas Yo­jna for housing for the eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed­wasim­pres­sive­an­danex­am­pleof real so­cial wel­fare. But that hasn’t ben­e­fit­ed­her­po­lit­i­callya­mongMus­lim­sev­enifit should have. It is time for UP to shift from iden­tity pol­i­tics to real pol­i­tics.”

It’s for Aftab Alam, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Po­lit­i­cal Science, do give me a dose of re­alpoli­tik.“Youhave­tounder­standthatthere is a class fac­tor play­ing. Poor Dal­its and Mus­lims,who­sevoicethe­me­di­ais­not­cap­tur­ing, are grav­i­tat­ing to­wards the BSP. Bet­ter-off Mus­lims are show­cas­ing their sup­port for the SP-Congress. Mayawati is the dark horse this elec­tion.”

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