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Did the ‘secular’ parties fail to meet the expectations of Muslims in the India election results?

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In the aftermath of India’s recent election results, which saw a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposition leader Rahul Gandhi addressed journalists, emphasizing the importance of saving the constitution. While thanking various groups for their support, including workers, farmers, Dalits, and adivasis, one notable omission from his list was India’s 200 million Muslims. Despite their overwhelming support for Gandhi’s INDIA alliance, many Muslims felt let down by the country’s secular opposition parties, who seemed reluctant to even mention their concerns.

The election campaign itself was marked by vitriolic rhetoric against Muslims, with Modi facing backlash for his divisive speeches, portraying Muslims as “infiltrators” and spreaders of hate. Muslims, who have been victims of violence and discrimination, felt marginalized throughout the campaign, with little mention of their issues by opposition parties. The lack of representation of Muslim voices in parliament, with only 22 Muslim MPs out of 543 seats, further highlights the disconnect between politicians and the Muslim community.

Despite opposition parties criticizing Modi for his divisive tactics, they themselves seemed hesitant to address Muslim concerns in their campaigns. The reluctance to use the word “Muslim” can be attributed to the fear of alienating Hindu voters, who have been radicalized by the BJP’s Hindu majoritarian ideology. By staying silent on Muslim issues, opposition parties may be trying to avoid further polarization along religious lines, but this approach has left many Muslims feeling neglected and disillusioned with the political process.

While some parties like the DMK and CPM have mentioned Muslims in their manifestos, others, including the Congress party and Samajwadi Party, have avoided the topic altogether. This lack of acknowledgment of Muslim issues by so-called secular parties demonstrates a broader trend of treating Muslims as mere voters, rather than as leaders with legitimate concerns. The BJP’s Hindu majoritarian push has further marginalized Muslim voices, leading to a decrease in Muslim representation in parliament despite their significant population in several states.

In the face of growing discrimination and violence against Muslims in India, the silence of opposition parties on Muslim issues is disappointing but not surprising. Many Muslims feel that they have no choice but to vote for secular parties despite their marginalization, as the alternative presented by the BJP is even more alarming. As the country grapples with deepening religious polarization, the need for inclusive and representative leadership that truly reflects the diversity of Indian society becomes ever more pressing. It remains to be seen whether political parties will rise to the challenge of addressing the concerns of all communities, including the marginalized Muslim population.

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