High profile ministers from a ‘backward’ community!

By Syed Zubair Ahmad,

News of induction and promotion of some Muslim ministers in the UPA II Government in recent weeks did neither impress me nor give me any hope, as I have my share of pessimism when it comes to Muslim politicians particularly those belonging to the Congress party.

History shows that Muslim politicians have always remained loyal to the grand old party and its high command, and remain indifferent to whatever calamity befalls the community they belong to and claim to champion their causes. They enjoy the privileges they get for representing their community.

For the sake of record now we have seven ‘Muslim’ ministers in central government: Four of them are from Congress and one each from NC, NCP and IUML. Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad and K Rehman Khan (cabinet rank) and Abu Hashem Khan Choudhury (state minister) are from Congress. Cabinet Minister Farooq Abdullah is from the National Conference, and state ministers Tarique Anwar and E. Ahmed are from NCP and IUML respectively.

But how much will they contribute for the betterment of the community remains to be seen.

Salman Khurshid and K Rehman Khan

K Rehman Khan, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, is the new Cabinet Minister for the Minority Affairs. Khan was till recently Deputy Chairman of the Upper House. Earlier Salman Khurshid was cabinet law minister and was holding the additional charge of ministry of minority affairs.

The latest reshuffle in the ministry may be the last reshuffle before parliamentary election due in 2014. They become ministers from the unsaid ‘Muslim’ quota and hence it becomes their moral responsibility to keep the welfare of the community in mind as well.

Undoubtedly the elevation of Khurshid and inclusion of three new Muslim ministers is a major electoral card exercised by Congress to woo Muslim voters in the next parliamentary election.

The inclusion of K. Rehman Khan as union minister for minority affairs, Tariq Anwar as minister of state for agriculture and food processing industries and A.H. Khan Choudhary as minister of state, health and family welfare are also aimed at attracting Muslim voters in the coming parliamentary elections from those regions where the ruling alliance appears to be losing ground.

One may wonder though about what these ministers will achieve in remaining two years, what so far ruling Congress alliance failed to achieve in eight years.

In fact Congress didn't learn a lesson from assembly elections held earlier this year in four states particularly in UP, where Muslim voters rejected Congress flatly and opted for Samajwadi Party.

Congress should learn to not take Muslim votes for granted. Tactical voting by Muslim voters shows that they are outsmarting the poll strategists and ‘think tank’ of the mighty Congress.

Left out of touch with ground realities, these Muslim politicians are selected for their proximity to the Congress leadership and they remain loyal only to them.

We hope that K. Rehman Khan, the new minority minister, will learn from mistakes of his predecessors and will not disappoint ‘one of the most backward communities’ of India (as Sachar Committee Report regards them) and work for their upliftment.

Learning from other community:

Muslim politicians should also learn lessons from OBC leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulaaym Singh Yadav, etc. or Dalit leader Maywati, whose rise to power, with the help of their respective communities also meant relative enhancement in their status.

The Sachar Committee report provides a legal ground to give some tonic for this long ignored and ailing community.

(Syed Zubair Ahmad is a Writer & Journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed are personal.)