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Saturday, May 30, 2009 08:38:26 PM, Aleem Faizee


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It is now certain. The new cabinet led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having 79 ministers will have 5 Muslims in the Union Cabinet — one less than in the previous UPA government. Nonetheless the issue that has created much of a storm vis-ŕ-vis the representation of Muslims first in the elections and till yesterday in the Union Cabinet is declining to cool down. Ever since the Election 2009 results were declared, guns were out in the media demanding the proportionate representation of Muslims in the new cabinet. Recalling the observations made by the Sacchar Committee that suggested ministerial berths for Muslims and other downtrodden classes on the basis of their population, it was being demanded from Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other UPA leaders through press releases almost on daily basis that 11 Muslim MPs should be included in the new cabinet as ministers. They also went on to demand that if the ruling alliance does not find suitable candidates from the existing list of the Muslim MPs in the ruling alliance — 19 if we include Asaduddin Owaisee of MIM (Hyderabad) who won the election as Congress ally, it should nominate someone else as Minister and should make it sure that he or she is elected from Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament. Notwithstanding the fact that after losing the election former Minority Affairs Minister Abdur Rehman Antulay had removed the obstacle if there was any to pay the price for the question he had raised over the 26/11 Mumbai attack in the parliament, few organisations in Maharashtra were in fact carrying a campaign for his inclusion in the new cabinet.


Interestingly in a first of its kind, the leaders of few leading Muslim NGOs released advertisements in mainstream English media to press their demands. The advertisements that appeared in The Hindu, Indian Express and Financial Express, reminding the Congress High Command and UPA leaders of the support extended by the Muslims to them in the election, urged them to include proportionate number of Muslims in the cabinet as ministers.


We certainly have no idea if these efforts had any impact on the leaders of the Ruling Alliance specially Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they decided to induct 5 Muslims in the cabinet. Also, we are not of the view that these efforts were waste of time and money as the names mentioned in the advertisements and appeals published in the newspapers included the likes of Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan and PA Inamdar among others whose credential as the well-wisher of the community is beyond any doubt.


However we must ask one question. How long would we indulge in such demands that are not backed by the unanimity among ourselves and hence do not get the attention and hearing that certainly they deserve. For, while we were issuing the appeals and advertisements in the media demanding fair Muslim representation, a prominent Mumbai based Urdu daily carried an editorial that suggested merely having Muslims as ministers was useless in the past and in the present circumstances will remain so in the future as well. As the intentions of the people who wanted to have fair number of Muslims as ministers is unquestionable, the intention of the Urdu daily is also beyond any question. Its intentions become clearer when we look at the serious questions it has raised while expressing its opinion.


On top in the list of these questions are below satisfaction level performance of the Muslim ministers who held the office in the past. That our own leaders have failed us is not a secret anymore. Time and again it came to fore that they miserably failed in reaching to the community whenever it needed them the most. Sometimes due to the lack of necessary confidence and courage to abide by their responsibilities towards their community – as admitted by Sultan Ahmad, the Trinamul Congress MP who took the oath as Minister of State yesterday and most of the time owing to their allegiance to their party line. What can be more ironic than the fact that when post 2006 Malegaon blast, a local delegation was in Delhi knocking the doors of the Muslim leaders one after the other to get their help in seeking an appointment with the Prime Minister, it was the BJP MP of the town who came to its rescue.


The performance of the Minority Affairs Ministry, introduced by the previous government for socio-economic development of the minorities was even worse. Abdur Rehman Antulay who headed the ministry was accused of sitting on the huge amount of funds that was meant for the upliftment of the community and its institutions. Somewhat similar is the case with the leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmad Patel and E. Ahmad who are representing the community in the Government and the Congress inner circle since more than a decade. Of what good the likes of these leaders have been for the Muslim community is up for an open debate. This has resulted in loss of faith and then they complain that the community doesn’t stand behind them the way people from other communities do.


However the question that arises from these facts is, for how long would we continue to rely on these leaders despite their persistent failures in delivering to safeguard the interests of the community. The answer to this question is hidden in a painful reality. At the time when various communities in the political parties are trying to build up a second line of leadership, we are crying for a frontline courageous leadership. Why it is so can be explained from MJ Akbar’s recent article. Reasoning why Mamata Banerjee didn’t demand for additional cabinet rank ministries for her colleagues, he writes, because she would not want more power centers in Calcutta. That, we have good number of such people among us in every state, district, town and even streets is the reason why we are going through the leadership crisis, require no further elaboration.




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