There was a mixed reaction to the Supreme Court’s verdict against using caste, religion and language to garner votes. While everyone welcomed the verdict, some sought clarity and some others stated that all religions should be included. The verdict comes a day after All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Jain community members sought votes in the city from their community on the basis of religion for the BMC polls.
“As far as I know, this has been in existence. It is about interpretation now. But the verdict as such was not one sided. It was split 4:3 is what I have understood. Unless and until entire judgement comes out, it will be difficult to comment. It is a welcome move but the thing is that as a party if I am representing a community, I will ask votes. So, if I say development in Muslims areas and girls need to get education, will it tantamount to breach of law? Will Muslims should be given reservation or Marathas asking for reservation be breach. In India caste, religion and politics is so deeply involved that we need to know what the judges meant to say. If you are asking votes it may be, but if you are raising issues in election rally, will it also mean that speaking out against the SC verdict,” said Imtiaz Jaleel, member of legislative assembly of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen. His party president on Sunday night sought votes for from Muslim community stating that he will get Rs 7,700 crores to their area.
The Jain community which too is seeking votes said that welcome the order but representation and seeking votes on religion should be looked at differently. “IF SC has said something, we have to respect it. If they have given such a verdict, they must have thought of it deeply. However, we are seeking representation based on the community’s strength in a respective ward. If the community is in majority in a constituency, we feel that the person from the community should be representing it. Democracy is about majority,” said Girish Shah, member of Jain community that is looking to have Jains being given tickets in the wards where they are in large numbers.
Some, however, felt that the verdict was good for a secular country. “Earlier also there was an order that Hindu is not a religion. Hindutva is also used as a religion. If Hindutva is also taken in the definition of religion, I think for a secular nation it is a good thing. Hindutva should also be incorporated into definition of religion,” said Maulana Hakim Mehmood Dariyabadi, general secretary of All India Ulema Council.
Raj Thackeray, chief of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which has sought votes on basis of linguistic identity said that the SC should not forget that states were formed on the basis of religion. Shiv Sena which has lately taken up issue of “Hindutva” on the other hand said that its party chief, Uddhav Thackeray will break silence on the issue on Wednesday.
Welcoming the decision of the Supreme Court, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain said politics based on caste, community and religion has harmed the country a lot.
He also said that national integration has also been damaged by this practice.
“Vote bank politics would be curbed by this decision and the judgement will prove to be a landmark in nation-building,” he said. Jain said it is now the duty of the Election Commission to get it implemented in its letter and spirit. “We appeal to the Election Commission to de-recognize the political parties and debar the candidates who violates any provision of this verdict,” he said.
In a majority verdict, the Supreme Court held that any appeal for votes on the ground of “religion, race, caste, community or language” amounted to “corrupt practice” under the election laws.
“Justice J S Verma, in the Manohar Joshi case, defined Hindutva as a way of life in 1995. This point has not been considered here and as such parties contesting polls on Hindutva plank can take a stand that they are seeking votes on the basis of (concept of) way of life and not on religion,” Owaisi told reporters when asked to react on today’s verdict.
“The Supreme Court has added a few things under Section 123 of The Representation of People Act but this judgement may clash with the Hindutva verdict as saffron parties can contend they are not seeking votes on the basis of religion,” said the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad.
The AIMIM leader, however, clarified he had not yet gone through the entire apex court judgement.
Replying to a question, Owaisi said he is not disappointed by the judgement but was expecting the bench to review Justice Verma’s verdict.
To another query, the 47-year-old MP said, “Ours is a participatory form of democracy and it is seen that minority representation is not sufficient. For 14 per cent Muslims, there are only 23 MPs whereas the number should be 60.” “Representation should be given to minorities at all levels, including local bodies, Assembly and Parliament,” said Owaisi.
With inputs from agencies