Monday, April 22, 2013

WELFARE PARTY, CAN IT SURVIVE IN KARNATAKA?

By CJ Khaja Pasha in Bangalore

Near Modi Masjid at Indian Express road take a few turns and before you reach the Welfare Party of India (WPI) Karnataka state office. Located in a residential building, when one gets inside, it nothing but resemble a well-designed corporate office where state leadership in the press hall were busy in taking interviews of candidates who wish to contest election on party’s ticket.

WPI Karnataka state unit is just a year old but seem enthusiastic with the hope of making a mark in a state where corruption rule the roots of the politics.

WPI, formed as anational political party in 2011 was launched by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Delhi. It claims of striving towards alternate politics and hopes to achieve it by inculcating moral values in political system. According to WPI the criminalization, communalization, commercialization and the sectarianization of politics are the biggest evils prevailing in Indian political culture, which WPI hopes to eradicate by propagating ‘value-based politics’.


WPI is quite literally bend towards building up a utopian society, and now which better place WPI can think of testing the appeal of their moral values other than Karnataka. After its state unit formation within months WPI state leadership passionately announced that it will contest at least on 100 assembly seats.

But its dismal performance in municipal elections last month where party was unable to win even a single seat in whole state brought down the leadership to ground political reality, party resolved not to get over excited and decided to field only 16 candidates for the assembly elections.

Party leaders now believe that fielding few candidates will help them to concentrate on their strong holds and work on mass base support in targeted regions. Hyderabad-Karnataka region is where party is basing all its strength to make a debut in electoral politics of the state.

Karnataka WPI state president Akbar Ali speaking with TwoCircles.net said that selection of candidates in his party were different from any other party in the state, “In this state politics, one can easily notice that political parties allot tickets to candidates basing upon their bank balance and muscle power. Whereas in WPI, we have selected people from our grass root level, who were interviewed personally by us and after a background check we allotted them our ticket.”

When quizzed how different WPI’s politics is going to be from other parties, Sheema Mohsin WPI National Women Wing President gave immediate and most expected reply that WPI politics is ‘value- based’.

The jingle of “value-based politics” has almost become a slogan for WPI since its inception in 2011. In almost every public meeting of the party this term is used to differentiate itself from other political parties. When asked what this term stands for, Ms. Sheema Mohsin who has also been only women member in Karnataka Wakf board said, “Value base politics is an alternate to existing corrupt political system, and a step toward an ethical value base system of governance”. According to Ms. Mohsin value-based politics will be a catalyst to change the corrupt system and to provide equal opportunity to marginalized sections of the society.

The moment confronted about the relationship of WPI with Jamat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) or any political understandings between them, unease prevails with WPI leaders, who suddenly get defensive and mock the question as unwarranted and irrational. “Jamat doesn’t influence or control us in any way, they just support us openly that’s all, there is no need to mix up Jamat with WPI,” asserts Akbar Ali. Although former office bearers of JIH are found in the crucial postings of WPI, but still party vehemently oppose any attempt to link it with JIH.

Ms. B.T. Lalitha Naik former Karnataka state Minister and WPI national vice-president fits into the well-crafted secular image of the party. She to assert that basic aim behind the formation of WPI is to provide an alternate to the masses to strive for corruption free and just state. According to Ms. Lalitha Naik WPI was formed to bring changes in the Indian political system, and to work towards the interest of downtrodden sections of Indian society, irrespective of religion, caste, or creed.

WPI leadership also emphasizes that even in the allotment of party tickets people from Jamat-e-Islami background were not given any priority but importance were given to the grass root workers of the party from any religion or caste, thus religious pluralism was upheld.

WPI leadership believes that there miserable performance in the last month local municipal body polls in the state didn’t brought down the morale of its cadre and leadership. Ms. Sheema Mohsin, “It was a stumbling block for us, but we succeeded in raising ourselves from that defeat, to learn from our mistakes and got more reasons to strive for achieving success.”

WPI hopes with these assembly elections they will make a mark, and open their account in the state electoral politics by gaining legislative assembly seats, rather than from any municipal council seat.

Since the time JIH announced its plans to enter into politics in 2009 at public gathering in Calicut, it became target of criticism from many quarters, the common question to them was, is politics the only way to bring changes in the society? When same question is now asked to WPI Karnataka state leadership there unequivocal answer is ‘yes’.

According to WPI policy can be changed only through political front, politics according to them can influence state’s program and strategies to make them more socially inclusive and justice orientated.

Many political parties who start as being virtuous turn dissolute after gaining in elections, will WPI end up in same way? WPI on this query vowed that it will not turn into some other mainstream political party after gaining some electoral power, WPI assured that it will continue to fight for value base political system and will not turn its back on the promises even after gaining ballot command. WPI reaffirms that it is fighting hard on 16 assembly segments and will try to sweep all 16 of them.

Whatever claims about elections is made by WPI is not being echoed by other political pundits in the state. Many believe it is not possible for the party to open its account in this election, and its “value-based politics” rhetoric will not help them much in the present violent and corrupt politics of Karnataka. Some even believe that WPI will not be able to draw 10,000 votes even in their strong holds. Thus by far they will end up cutting votes in two or three constituencies.

Nikita Khrushchev who led Soviet Union after Stalin, once famously commented that ‘Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge, even where there is no river.’ Is WPI promising the same bridges too early to be built over imaginary rivers or will it make a mark in these elections with its value base politics and reject its critics; the riposte is just around the corner.
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