The secular claims clock starts ticking
Stand on community issues, Saamna editorial are pointers to whether the tiger has really changed his stripes, say minorities who are uneasy about Congress's new friend
In the campaign for the Lok Sabha general elections in April this year, Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray spoke to a rather well-heeled audience at the Radio Club in Colaba about why the party's Arvind Sawant was the best candidate, and aimed verbal arrows at Congress's Milind Deora. Aaditya had finished his speech with, "If the opposite for pro is con, what is the opposite of progress? Congress."
Today, potshots have turned to praise as people look on with disbelief. The Shiv Sena stitched up an alliance with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress. Many from the minority communities who have always voted for the Congress, because of its 'secular' plank, seem uneasy at best, bitter at worst about the party allying with the Shiv Sena. The Sena wore the Hindutva ideology on their sleeves.
Kalina's Crompton Texeira stated, "As a minority, I always voted for the Congress because of their secular ideology. There was a large section of the community that felt threatened by the Shiv Sena. But I say that I do not feel betrayed by the Congress, that is a very strong word. I am, however, apprehensive about the Shiv Sena as ally." Texeira said, "At least 10 years ago, some Shiv Sainiks approached the Bombay East Indian Association asking us to vote for them. At that time, I had asked them: have any of you ever spoken for us as a community? They said, vote for us first, then we will speak. I told them I will vote for a secular party as long as I live. Let me see what happens now."
For Firoze Mithiborwala, at the forefront of several Muslim movements in the city, "The alliance may be a positive step. The Shiv Sena is not ideologically anti-Muslim. Their plank was Hindutva but it was different from that of the BJP and they were for the Marathi manoos. Shivaji Maharaj was also a very progressive king." Mithiborwala claimed that Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, has lessened its anti-Muslim pieces in recent times. The activist said that the Congress has, "also practised soft Hindutva. Maybe, it is time for Sena to practise soft secularism." He said, "Muslims must hold a dialogue with Uddhav Thackeray, so that there is less space for misunderstandings."
For many though, the BJP seemed so unpalatable and the antipathy for the party, especially the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine is so strong, that they are trying to assuage any misgivings with: if what it takes to keep the BJP out, is this, then so be it. Like Herbert Barretto, a Wadala resident, who said, "The Shiv Sena will have to dilute its Hindutva agenda because now circumstances are different. It will face a two-pronged attack from the Congress and the NCP if it does not. "However, I take heart that the Shiv Sena has accepted the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) by the NCP and Congress," he said.
Javed Anand, general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, said, "How can a so-called 'secular' party like the Congress ally with a party that was part of the 1992-93 communal riots? Then again, it was a Congress government at that time, so what did the party do to control the riots?" Yet, Anand claimed, "There is a feeling that BJP is a bigger demon on the horizon, so if it has to be kept away, what other choice did the Congress have?" Anand said, "Much will depend on what happens from now on. What is this alliance's stand on reservations for Muslims? Will we see a decline in mob lynching in the state? These issues will prove the true test."
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