PM Modi, Stop Worrying About Wayanad & Learn From Chicago Instead

PM Modi, Stop Worrying About Wayanad & Learn From Chicago Instead

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Prime Minister Modi’s political mood was brutal on that fateful April Fool’s Day in Wardha.

“He is bearing the brunt of linking Hindus to terrorism, that is why Rahul Gandhi has run away to a constituency where majority is in a minority and forced to stay there.”
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

The naked implication of his speech was that Rahul Gandhi had somehow demeaned himself, committed blasphemy, by espousing the cause of minorities. Worse, you were not a “good Hindu politician” if you won with Muslim support.

I had to pinch myself to wake up; was this 1909? Because with one angry speech, Prime Minister Modi had resurrected the binary of “separate electorates” – that Hindus should elect only Hindus, while Muslims do the same for Muslims – that ultimately led to the bloody partition of India in 1947.

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The Birth of the Muslim League

Let’s rewind a bit. The year was 1909. A rather genteel, pre-Mahatma Gandhi “movement” for independence was in vogue. In stepped Prince Aga Khan with a dangerous thought, incited, no doubt, by the divide-and-rule philosophy of the British masters.

Along with Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, they petitioned the then-viceroy, Lord Minto, at Shimla: Muslims must be given a separate and exclusive representation at all levels of government. The Muslim League was born, virtually created by both gentlemen. And the Indian Councils Act, 1909 was passed. The principle of communal elections was accepted, with Muslims voting to elect only Muslims in specially demarcated constituencies.

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The Unbridgeable Chasm of “Separate Electorates”

A couple of decades later, “separate electorates” became the unbridgeable chasm between Gandhi and Jinnah that led to the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah’s famous “Fourteen Points of 1929” included the following:

  • *In the Central Legislature, Mussulman representation shall not be less than one third.
  • *That, in the present circumstances, representation of Mussulman in the different Legislatures of the country and other elected bodies through separate electorates is inevitable … till such time as the Mussulman chose to abandon it, the Mussulman will not consent to joint electorates

The Congress was implacably opposed to Jinnah’s demands, as articulated in the Nehru Report of 1928:

Everybody knows that separate electorates are bad for the growth of a national spirit, but everybody perhaps does not realize equally well that separate electorates are still worse for a minority community. They make the majority wholly independent of the minority and its votes and usually hostile to it. Separate electorates must therefore be discarded completely as a condition precedent to any rational system of representation. We can only have joint or mixed electorates.

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Here is another historical nugget that is a double-edged lesson for Prime Minister Modi. When India’s first general election was to be held in 1952, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked his iconic education minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, to contest from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Maulana curiously asked “Why?”. Nehru candidly replied that Rampur was a Muslim-majority area, so a victory was assured. The inimitable Maulana cut his Prime Minister short: “I am a leader of India, not of Muslims”.

If only one cabinet peer of Modi had the courage to ask him to “lay off Wayanad, which shall elect an Indian parliamentarian, not a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or Christian one”.

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Take Cues From Chicago

Perhaps I am barking up the wrong tree by digging into Congress’s history to try and impress Narendra Modi. It’s an utterly futile exercise. But what about Chicago? It’s today’s story from a country that treats Modi like a Rockstar; and he too loves to give it bear hugs.

Chicago is the classical “majority constituency” in Modi-speak. Over 40 percent of its population is white. But its mayoral election last week created epic history. Running against each other were two black women – not a single white man or woman was in the fray! Toni Preckwinkle was up against Lori Lightfoot, who was a minority within a minority within a minority – an openly gay black woman. Let me re-emphasise her triple minority status – gay, black and woman. But guess who won? Lori Lightfoot! And guess by how much? Nearly two-thirds of the vote!!

Oh how I wish that our Prime Minister also takes the Chicago cue, and chooses to get elected from Kishanganj in Bihar, that has India’s biggest Muslim electorate. That would be a stirring celebration of India’s Constitution.

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