’If no party, including the BJP, comes to seek support, PMM may field 30-40 candidates.’
By Abhay Kumar for TwoCircles.net,
Patna: Held in the shadow of the mega rally of the ‘grand-alliance’ JDU, RJD and the Congress on August 30 in Patna, the convention (Mahapanchayat) of the Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (PMM) turned out to be a low-key event.
August 29, convention of Pasmanda Muslims in Patna.
The venue of Saturday’s convention, Patna’s Ravindra Bhawan, which has a capacity of 1000 seats, remained mostly empty. However, the organisers claimed that the number of participants were just below one thousand.
The PMM, an association of Pasmanda Muslims (backward and Dalit Muslims), had recently drawn the attention of media by issuing a statement that it may consider supporting the BJP if it accepts its demands that include proportionate share in power.
The convention was organised on Saturday to deliberate on PMM’s future course of action, including lending support to the BJP in the upcoming Bihar Assembly election.
When asked to give reasons behind low turnout of the participants, Mohammad Husnain, organising secretary of the PMM, alleged that the leaders of the ruling JDU and the RJD stopped people from attending the meet.
“The leaders of RJD and the JDU stopped our people from attending the convention and even some of them were threatened. Further, dhoti, lungi, sari [clothes], and foods are being distributed by the state government and ruling parties to mobilise people for Sunday rally. In this whole process, our people did not turn up as we had expected,” Husnain told TwoCircles.net.
Yet, the organisers called the convention a success in which a large number of participants deliberated on how to address the political marginalisation of Pasmanda Muslims.
Detailing the decisions taken in the meeting, Hesamuddin Ansari, president of the PMM, said that no decision has so far been taken about whom to support but we are keeping our options open. “Whosoever addresses our issues and gives us 30-40 seats in the upcoming assembly election, we would support them,” he said.
According to the PMM leaders, no party has so far approached them. However, Mohammad Husnain hinted that the ball is in the BJP’s court. “Now the BJP has to respond. We have openly said that our support would go to any party that gives us a proportionate share in power. Now the BJP should come forward to take our support,” he said.
Critics of the PMM say that they have “no base” among people and they have “mushroomed” on the eve of election to serve their own interests.
To a question about their future course of actions if no political parties seek their support, Ansari said that they would not hesitate from fielding at least 30-40 candidates in the election with the support of the backwards, Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised groups.
In its strategy to further pressurize the political parties to take note of them, the PMM is going to hold a Jan Sansand (People’s Parliament) from August 30 onwards in areas which have more than one lakh-Pasmanda Muslim voters.
According to the PMM, the population of Pasmanda Muslims is 15 per cent out of the total Muslim population (16.5 per cent) in Bihar. Further, it has been claimed that Pasmanda Muslims are in majority in as many as 30-40 assembly constituencies.
Unlike the claims of the PMM, it would not be easy for them to contest elections as they lack resources, well-placed strong organisation as well as mass contact with people, a reason which explains why the political parties, including the BJP, have not so far approached them.
(Abhay Kumar is pursing Ph.D at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)