New Delhi: One year on, the Muslim community that voted overwhelmingly for Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in the Assembly polls, appears disillusioned. The AAP, they feel, is no different from other parties; it used Muslims as a vote bank and then “trashed them like used tissue paper”.
Several well-known Muslim scholars and social activists, including office-bearers of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), and alumni and student leaders of these universities had joined Kejriwal’s party with great expectations. A majority of them have left accusing the AAP of being no different from the Congress and the BJP.
According to the 2011 census, Muslim voters accounted for 12 percent of the city’s total electorate. A CSDS survey says that 53 percent of them voted for the Congress in the 2013 Assembly polls. There was a Muslim consolidation in the party’s favour and four out of the eight seats the party won went to the community. This happened, political analysts say, not because of the community’s affection for the Grand Old Party, but because it was unsure whether the AAP was capable of defeating the BJP.
But things changed in the next election when the community threw its entire weight behind the new party.
It secured an unprecedented 77 percent votes of the community. Four of the five candidates registered victory with impressive margins. In addition, the AAP won nine of the 10 constituencies where Muslim population stands at around 30 percent.
Members of the community say that despite their massive support to the party, they were neither given due representation in the party, nor in the government.
“Though judging a government on the basis of its performance in one year is premature, it is also a reality that Muslims have not been given their due share in the party as well as the government. Of the 20 AAP spokespersons, I am the only representative from the community. Why is this? Do we have dearth of talent? No, it is nothing but a bias against us,” Iliyas Azmi, member of AAP’s national executive and political affairs committee, told Firstpost.
Among the volunteers who have been rewarded with plum postings, handsome salaries, accommodation and other perks, there is no Muslim. No Muslim AAP MLA has been appointed as parliamentary secretary to the ministers. There is also not a single Muslim face among those appointed as consultants to the chief minister, deputy chief minister and cabinet ministers.
Of the total 170 standing counsel and additional standing counsel, only one advocate was appointed as additional standing counsel. Of the total 29,444 posts of teachers in the city, only 262 are reserved for Urdu teachers. Appointments have been made for 70 seats, the remaining 192 (73 percent) reserved seats are still vacant.
The party, he alleged, was never serious about the upliftment of minorities. “It (AAP) has played with the sentiments of Muslims. It used them to secure their votes and after coming to power, dumped them,” said Azmi, one of AAP’s founding members.
Similar allegations were levelled by noted educationist Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who had joined AAP but later left it accusing it of having “no internal democracy”. “Arvind Kejriwal is a very undependable person. His policy is to use people like a tissue paper and throw them away once their job is done. Muslims supported the AAP to strengthen its mission of honesty. The AAP securing a majority of Muslim-dominated constituencies was a kind of backlash against the Congress and the BJP. But the party’s leadership does not trust Muslims and therefore, only two Muslim MLAs were given ministerial berths,” he said.
He said he found “intellectual dishonesty” in the party. “I supported the party thinking that if it comes to power, it would focus on government schools — especially Urdu-medium schools that are in extremely pathetic conditions — the facilities of which would be improved to be better than the best of public schools. But nothing happened in the past year,” he added.
Asked whether it was not premature to jump to a conclusion, he said “Morning shows the day.”
Pervez Ahmad, an old time associate of the party, raised concerns over the government’s negligence towards educational backwardness in the community and sanitary condition of Muslim localities.
“There are only three government schools in Okhla where 9,000 students are enrolled in two shifts. Over 65,000 children of the community are deprived of their basic right to education because of the absence of government schools. I shot off several letters to the Delhi government, but it was of no use. The proposal to increase seats in such schools have not even been implemented so far, forget about setting up new schools,” said Ahmad, who runs a software development firm and had played a key role in AAP’s social media campaign in favour of Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan.
Belal Ahmad, a resident of Seelampur, said health, access to clean water, sanitation and regularisation of unauthorised colonies were common woes of the community. "Kejriwal had promised us that these basic facilities would be available to us soon after his party came to power. But after one year, things stand where they were," he complained.
Defending his party, AAP’s minority wing president Firoz Ahmad said Muslims should not lose patience. "Our party is committed to fulfilling the promises it has made. People have given us the mandate for five years. Therefore, jumping to conclusions after only one year is not fair," he said.
Asked about people's complaints regarding representation, he said, "We do not do appeasement politics like other parties. We believe in social justice for every section of the society."