In 2018, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi addressed a media conclave and outlined the reasons behind the party’s drubbing in the 2014 elections. Among other factors, she emphasised the ability of the Bharatiya Janata Party “to convince people, to persuade people that the Congress party is a Muslim party”. The speech reflected the Congress leadership’s acceptance of the diagnosis of the AK Antony report, which had first espoused the view that perceived minority appeasement was behind the Congress’ electoral decline.
The Congress has certainly not been the only party grappling with this apparent need to correct for a “Muslim bias”. Many other secular parties, particularly in northern India, have internalised the notion that any visible presence of Muslims or “Muslimness” in their political platforms has become a toxic commodity in the prevailing political culture.
However, secular parties still imagine the Muslims as a homogenous community with clear political interests, and do not forswear their claim on this Muslim “vote-bank”. Nevertheless, the rise of the BJP dominant system has destabilised the pattern of relationships of these parties with their Muslim constituents.
Politics of Muslim issues
Secular parties have moved away from mobilising Muslims on the traditional package of Muslim issues. As Hilal Ahmed has argued in his book Siyasi Muslims, the imagination of…