Understanding Raut’s comments on revoking voting right for Muslims
On Sunday, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut made controversial remarks on the right to vote for the Muslims through the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Samna.
His comments have led to a widespread controversy in all the television discussions and newspaper editorials. But here is an effort to understand Raut’s comments in a critical manner.
There are various angles to what Raut had to say. Firstly, his comments were aimed at unmasking the faces of so-called secularists. Instead of just attacking each other by calling communalist and anti-minorities, and claiming to be the real secularist, Shiv Sena MP suggests a mechanism, a method of experimentation to see who is the real secular and who really cares for the development of the minorities. But here it is very important to note that if the MP believes that the Muslims are cheated against by the supposed secularists, and they are being taken advantage of for the vote-bank politics, he should also accept the fact that the vote-banks are not only of Muslims. There is SC vote-bank, OBC vote-bank; there is Maratha vote-bank in Maharashtra.
So, if Raut’s experiment has to be devised, voting rights of SCs, STs, OBCs, and of Marathas will also have to be revoked. If Shiv Sena attacks AIMIM for exploiting the Muslim vote-bank, will it also go against the vote-bank politics played by BSP and RPI (for dalit vote-bank) and BJP (for Hindutva ideology)? And if Raut has struck a discussion on vote-bank politics; the Honorable Mp should also tell the people that why should Shiv Sena and its offshoot MNS not be held responsible for exploiting the votes of the Marathi speaking people by taking advantage of the Marathi vote-bank. Secondly, what Raut suggests, it does not have constitutional backing. The Indian constitution has accepted what is called the Universal Adult Franchise, by which, every Indian citizen above the age of 18 is given right to vote regardless of his cast, religion, sex and place of birth. Therefore, even if one wants to unmask the secularist faces of the political leaders, one can’t take away voting right from anyone.
If parties like congress and NCP are reacting aggressively to Raut’s remarks, one can also get an impression that these parties are reacting strongly because they are afraid of their secularist mask getting removed, their faces uncovered. There can be another argument that though Muslims are being appeased, for their votes, if the voting right for Muslims is revoked, the condition of the Muslims will get from bad to worse. That can be a possibility, but Raut believes that at least Muslims will come to know that those who claim to be the Masiha of Muslims are doing nothing more than using the policy of appeasement for their selfish interests.
Another angle to Raut’s comments is that one can’t allege all Muslims voters by saying that they all get moved by the religious appeal made by the so-called Muslim representatives. There may be voters who vote on the bases of religion/cast. But because of them, why should all Muslims be denied the right to vote? Like any other community, there will be educated and uneducated Muslims; there will be politically aware as well as politically uninformed Muslims. So, because of some section of the community, we can’t suggest that the community as whole should not be given right to vote. If the socio-economic backwardness of the community is seen as a conducive condition to buy the votes, there are Hindus and Dalits also who live below the poverty line. There is no doubt that economically deprived sections of the society become vulnerable for the vote-bank politics; but if we revoke the voting right of these people, there will take place a drastic political change in our democracy. We do not know how drastic that change may be. It can get as drastic as changing all the dimensions of our democratic system, and ultimately it can result in throwing away of the democracy, and putting the foundation of an oligarchic system wherein voting rights will be a privilege of economically powerful individuals.