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'AMU not a minority institution': what's behind Modi govt affidavit in SC?

Panini Anand | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, stating that the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is not a minority institution. As such, it wants to withdraw an appeal filed by the previous UPA regime on the issue.

The affidavit has only reiterated the government's stand on AMU's minority status.

However, with the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections around the corner, the controversy is no longer confined to the courtroom. Th BJP has made public its intentions to use this issue as a political tool on the electoral battlefield.

Also read- After JNU & HCU, BJP's next target seems to be Aligarh Muslim University. Here's why

Making it a political plank

It's not as though AMU's status as a minority institution was not disputed earlier. But, it is being turned into a political plank for a variety of reasons.

The BJP, which currently has only 41 MLAs in the 403-member UP Vidhan Sabha, is already in election mode. The party cannot boast of a strong presence in the state, despite winning 73 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 general elections.

The party leadership is under pressure to repeat the resounding success of 2014, and it wants to leave no stone unturned for this purpose. Nevertheless, the emerging alliance of Dalits, minorities and other backward castes (OBCs) presents a formidable challenge to it. The coming together of these communities could effectively wipe out BJP's hopes of forming the next government in UP.

The BJP is aware that merely the support of upper castes would not suffice to make its 'Mission UP' a success. It needs to somehow penetrate among the Dalit and OBC segments to pose a serious challenge to the ruling Samajwadi Party and the primary Opposition, the Bahujan Samaj Party.

On the other hand, there are signs of increasing unity among Dalits and Muslims, especially in the wake of incidents like Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad and Mohammad Akhlaq's lynching in Dadri. This is certainly not a good news for the saffron party.

Mayawati is also hoping to capitalise on keeping intact her Dalit mass base and wooing Muslims.

Driving a wedge

This makes it all the more necessary for BJP to drive a wedge between the two vote banks.

The issue of AMU's minority status presents one such opportunity for the BJP. This is the reason the university has become the prime target for the BJP and the RSS. Both seem to be working on a strategy to divide Muslims and Dalits by questioning the rationale behind the special status enjoyed by the university.

The RSS and BJP machinery is trying to propagate the idea that the university's minority status actually violates the rights of Dalits, and contravenes the provisions of reservation. The issue also serves the purpose of polarisation along communal lines.

The affidavit filed by the Union government can only be interpreted in the light of this electoral strategy.

Wheels are in motion

The BJP is planning to hit the streets on this issue. The local party units in Agra and Aligarh have recently held several meetings in this regard.

Some days ago, a programme was organised in Delhi University on the same issue. It was attended by over two dozen BJP MPs from the state. These included controversial leaders like Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Harbans Singh.

Translated by Deepak Sharma, edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 8 July 2016, 10:12 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.