'Cong, BJP doing what the English did to this country'
Dr Mohamed Ayub Ansari, the founder-president of the Peace Party, hopes to make waves in the Uttar Pradesh elections. Having fielded 240 candidates, and with a wide spectrum of allies in all the remaining seats, Dr Ayub expects to be the new kingmaker in Lucknow. In the first of a two-part interview with Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow, he elaborates on his views.
What made a successful surgeon like you to start a political party, fight elections? Was there any provocation or inspiration behind your decision four years ago?
Being a surgeon and professionally involved in the human services, I was interacting with the poor and marginalised communities, and I felt that in addition to the disease they need other kind of help. Being a surgeon I can help a small part of the community, but the whole political system is so corrupt and so insensitive towards the common people, basically the poor.
So unless the system is changed there is no hope that service to the poor and deserving people can be delivered. And the delivery system means the large government and their machineries.
I have always thought that governance was being absolutely corrupt due to the involvement of corrupt people. And the persons who are earning their livelihood, should invest a part of their time, a part of their energy for society and the country and for serving the poor and marginalised people. That is the social responsibility of any citizen of this country.
And so after discussing this with many educated, intellectual and honest persons I felt that nobody dares because they think that politics is the abode of bad elements. A common man, the honest citizen, cannot face the ruthless misdeeds of such elements. So far what I have understood that merely criticising this state of affairs is not going to solve the problems.
If I am sincere towards my thoughts and commitments I should offer my services, I should run, I should take the risk.
I have always thought that corruption and misrule and bad governance are not from the lower side but it goes from the top to the bottom. So only becoming a representative in the form of MLA or minister would not solve this basic issue.
If we have to solve it, we have to solve it from the top. That is the reason I thought I should start a political party, to get involved with the common persons as well as honest and intellectual persons who want good governance.
Governance free of caste- and religious discrimination, and who are determined to work for the poorest of the poor. So these are my fundamental thoughts and fundamental approach, that is why we have started our party, started on our journey.
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Image: Dr Mohamed Ayub Ansari, founder-president of the Peace Party
Photographs: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com
'I have invested everything I had in this party'
But starting a party, fighting elections is not a joke. You need a lot of funding, for one. For another, you need dedicated persons who share your vision, and who will not deviate from it once they taste power. How are you tackling these problems?
Obviously, funds are very very important. And whatever earning of mine, as a very successful surgeon, and I think I have earned more than what an average surgeon in Uttar Pradesh earns, I have practised for about 28 years, a long duration.
Whatever liquid funds and assets I had, I have invested all in this party. I am not left with a single penny for the rest of my life. I have invested everything.
But is that still enough to fight elections in 200+ constituencies?
Yes, it was enough for two years. And slowly, slowly, through the small amount of support we are getting from people. Now, because I am so much involved in this, my earnings have also reduced, so I am not able to put in as much money as I was doing earlier, it is slightly compromised.
But I am happy that many people have started contributing for the last two years. A small amount, and that is supporting the party.
We are a single party, and we have not been able to invest a single penny because we don't have the funds. We are suffering due to lack of funds. We are not able to give any advertisements, we are not able to provide for the free movement of our workers, so there are many deficiencies due to shortage of funds.
But yes, whatever we are having, we are struggling to put up people. The fund side problem is there, yes.
What about finding like-minded people?
And finding like-minded people is also very difficult. Many people have got different intentions in joining a political party, but once they enter our party, I feel the dishonest people, after some time, used to automatically quit because they don't get the support they thought, they do not get that type of facility, that type of promotion.
So what I understand is that if 100 people come to us claiming we are honest and we are going to support the same mission, but if they have really come for some other reason, slowly they go out.
These two movements are there, people are coming and people are going at the same time, we are happy and we understand that slowly, slowly the image will build up and people will be able to understand and believe in what the Peace Party says and what I do commit as a party president, we mean that.
And we are not in alliance with other people, other political parties, who say something but they don't mean it and neither do they have the intention to do it.
It is a very dynamic process, people are coming and going, we are happy that the honest people are staying, the people who are interested in our thought and ideas, they are staying back and other people are quitting the party.
So many unsocial people, they have tried to threaten my life, many people have tried to kill me and I am suffering it. And even the government they tried to squeeze me from all sides, from the banking system, income-tax system, the local system, they have tried to pressure, so that I should succumb, but I am thankful to my almighty, that He has given me enough courage that I should not compromise with anyone, even to threats to my life. Even as they tried to kill me I did not compromise.
In fact, one cheating incident has happened. Somebody has forged our nomination papers and filed it on Tuesday, from the Srinagar vidhan sabha seat of Lakhimpur, and the returning officer accepted not our real candidate but the forged document which we never issued!
We even submitted a letter to him, that it is a forged document, filed by the existing MLA of the Bahujan Samaj Party. And in many places different parties and different musclemen are trying to bribe the RO to serve them.
They are trying to cancel my candidate and they have done it. They even tried to cancel my own candidature. So there are the forgeries, the muscle power, money power, being used, and these type of things are going on. But yes, that is part of life and part of one's struggle and we have to face it.
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Image: A campaign poster of the Peace Party
'There is no difference between SP, BSP, Congress and the BJP'
What was the objective behind his forgery, you think?
They know the Peace Party is going to win, that's why. They are assured that whosoever gets the symbol and the party candidature but they do not understand that yes, if our candidate becomes an independent, we will stand with the independent candidate, we will not go with the forged candidate.
First he tried to give us one crore rupees for one ticket, but we refused it. He might have given money to the RO too. He found another way once he knew he was not going to get our ticket, he forged the document and became our candidate.
I am telling you what are the difficulties in being honest and to move against the current, against the flow.
I am very hopeful that we will be part of the government in 2012. And if we are a part of the government in 2012, we want to run the government as per our ideology. Good governance, corruption-free governance, and governance in which there is no distinction on religious lines, no caste discrimination, but only service to the poorest of the poor. This is our main fundamental ideology.
So what do you foresee happening in these elections, who will be the leading party? Do you have any preference?
I am not interested. We are only interested to be a part of the government. We don't have any other option. Whosoever is the leading party, we are not interested. Because we are not going to be the controller. We don't have the option to choose who should form the government. I understand that we are not in that position.
If we are in such a position, we will then decide but we understand that the probable parties are the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. We think there is no difference among all the four parties.
They are corrupt parties, they are communal parties, they are casteist parties, they are religious discriminatory parties, they are playing into the hands of the goonda-mafia. And their purpose is to earn money anyhow, to rule for their benefit.
Yes, I am also trying to be anyhow part of the government. But it is to benefit the poorest of the poor. And to show the people, yes, we want to do what we have said, and we mean what we actually profess. So that is our ideology, we don't have any options, and we don't have any choice for anybody, whosoever coming as our partner.
But we understand that part of the government, what we are going to be in the government, it is our part of the government and at least we should be able to run that part of the government according to our ideology, let the others do what they feel.
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Image: Congress supporters sit next flags of party's logo as they attend an election campaign rally
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
'There is no Muslim reservation'
Do you feel that whoever comes to power will be a weak government, and will need support, that's how you will get into government?
Yeah, it is mandatory that nobody is going to form the government, we are going to have minimum of 30-40 legislators in this new assembly, and that is such a crucial figure, that without this crucial number nobody will be able to form the government. That we are sure of.
You have broad-based your party's support base by giving tickets to people from many communities, but despite this the Peace Party is known as a Muslim party. Are you happy with this image?
Two things are very very crucial. Because when we say something, it has not been taken seriously in the media. And if you open any newspaper, they will not give us the space, so what is our ideology, what do you want to tell? And what are the lies these people are saying? But in the media and electronic media, only their lies are being propagated and being spread.
One thing is that the Congress and Samajwadi Party are trying to focus and emphasise in the media that we are somehow with the communal elements, like the BJP, Yogi Adityanath, so on and so forth, and we are getting money from them, they are spreading this all over, it is being published, but we say if you say something you must bring it to the front of the people, if I've got money from any person you must give the proof.
If I have got any link with Adityanath of the BJP, give me proof.
Another thing the Congress is spreading for the last six months, to give one example, that Muslims are being given reservations. And in November 2011 at least half of the media, the leading newspapers, and two-thirds of the electronic media, they have reported that 4.5 per cent Muslim reservation is being given.
And since then, the BJP is making a noise that reservations on the basis of religion is being done, but it is 100 per cent fraud! Neither is it given to the Muslims, and neither is the BJP telling the truth, both are saying lies! Both are doing a fraud!
And both parties want to polarise the community and the election on the basis of Hindus and Muslims. The matter of corruption is being sidelined. The message of price rise is being sidelined. The message of their ghotalas (scams) is being sidelined. The message of poor people's need is being sidelined. The mudda (issue) has become Muslim reservations.
And what is the real truth? Since 1950, when the presidential order on reservations was issued that only Hindu SC/STs should be given reservations, it has been religious discrimination (against the others). Two commissions and one committee after that -- the Mandal commission, the Sachar committee and the Ranganath Mishra commission -- which were appointed by the government, all three said that this was religious discrimination. In this secular country it is against Articles 14, 15 and 16.
It is not only unlawful, but also unconstitutional and it should be scrapped.
While Mandal commission report was accepted by Prime Minister V P Singh, the Sachar committee gave its report in 2006, Ranganath Mishra commission gave its report in June 2007, but they are being ignored. And in Mandal commission, it was told that you should divide the strata in OBCs so that no developed backward caste should take the share of the most backward caste.
That is the purpose. But that has not been done. And they have mentioned that it should be issued that on their population basis minorities should be given 8.44 per cent reservations minimum. And in that, according to the population, minimum six per cent OBCs minority Muslims should be there.
Mandal has said this; Sachar has said this, as did the Mishra commission. They have recommended that the religious discrimination in the Scheduled Castes should be removed and this minority sub quota should be divided as per their population.
But what the Congress government has done, they have mentioned 4.5 percent as minority quota, not 8.44 percent, from where have they derived this figure, on what basis, I don't know. Nobody knows. Even here they have not earmarked the backward Muslims. Do you understand the implications of this?
They have not earmarked the Muslim backwards, so how will these people compete with the Christians of the north-east and with the Sikhs from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi? How is it possible? So now they have now proclaimed it as Muslim reservation to communalise the whole thing. And they have not assured the backward Muslims of their share.
They have not given it but they have propagated Muslim reservations. And the BJP, they did not oppose the religious discrimination in 1950, but they are saying that Muslim reservations should not be given.
But there is no Muslim reservation! It is a subquota of backward Muslims which they are already enjoying. It is not new reservations. It is only a subquota of what the backward Muslim is already enjoying. What I mean is that their share in the OBC quota, what Muslims are getting at present, is 1 to 1.5 percent.
And their population in the backwards in comparison to all the backward classes is six to seven percent. So they are getting reservations in one-fifth to one-sixth of what is their share according to their population.
Just see the injustice, they are being driven out of their actual share. And the Congress government, what have they done for Dalit Muslims in 1950, they have done the same wrong to the OBC Muslims in 2011. They have even deviated from the issues, and strangely, neither the SP is saying anything nor is the BSP.
Do they understand this? I don't think they have been able to understand the tricks of the trade being played.
The same way they are saying about the Rs 6,000 crore Bunker (weaver community) package. The Congress is spreading lies all over about the Bunker package -- that they have exempted the loans of the Bunkers in Uttar Pradesh.
But this is not even passed and not a single penny has been released. This is a fraud! But the leading party is saying this, society is being communalised. Religion is practised as a private affair, not a social affair, that is our Constitution. How can this figure in the decision-making of the government?
I believe and I have got evidence that the Congress and the BJP want to polarise the whole community and nation on the basis of religion. What the English people did in this country, these two parties are doing, they want to polarise.
Naturally this is wrong thinking being done by all political parties. The Samajwadi Party played the same role in raising emotional issues, not public issues.
The Samajwadi has given further emphasis on caste, so I think it is time for the people to come out, wake up, and try to re-integrate with each other, and it is our joint responsibility to put the true picture before the public so that they are able to understand, how they are being misled and how the political parties are trying to communalise the whole issue and not focussing on the issues of development and progress.
And unless the social, educational and economic development of the poorest of the poor comes to the fore, I don't see any development in society.
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Image: Gorakhpur member of Parliament Yogi Adityanath
'We are determined to make the current system go'
You have been raising issues concerning Pasmanda, or low-caste, Muslims. Do you think the issues facing them are different from the forward caste Muslims? Or do you think the latter have moved ahead enough in life?
Yes, certain issues are common to both. Corruption, for instance, affects everyone. But when it affects someone like us it hardly matters. Suppose corruption is affecting, say, Ambani, he will pay the money and earn more. But, say, I am a poor weaver, a poor agriculturist, I have to go and take the khatauni and for that I have to pay a hundred rupees, it will affect me more.
It will affect my livelihood but it is not going to give me any advantage. But if some businessman is paying a bribe of hundred rupees, they will earn back two, three hundred rupees.
Corruption affects the upper caste and the rich man too but they are generating money despite this corruption. But not so the poor people, corruption takes away the bread and milk from their children. If I am earning one lakh rupees a month, because of price rise I will reduce the luxury items, but not my day to day requirements.
But what about a poor labourer who earns Rs 200 a day and has five members to care for? The money generated through corruption and price rise ends up going to the rich man, not to the poor man, isn't it?
Statistics say that 85 percent of the development funds meant for the poor doesn't reach them, only 15 percent does. But the missing 85 percent funds reach the rich man. Even the taxes that we collect are not spent on the poor.
Corruption, price rise and misrule are making the poor poorer, and strengthens the rich. This has to stop. Some 35 percent of the population is below the poverty line, if we have to raise this number then corruption has to end.
At independence 38 percent of our population was below poverty line, now it is 35 percent. So in 62 years only three percent change has taken place. This is a shame. If we have to reduce the number of people below poverty line, corruption has to go. Price rise has to end.
And the system should be changed such that the community which is being used by the lower caste becomes cheaper. Unfortunately in our country it is the other way, things used by the rich are becoming cheaper while things used by the poor are becoming expensive. This system has to go. And we are determined to do it.
If after the next month, we get the opportunity, we will start doing it. Whatever the shape of power we get, howsoever we get it, we will show the people that despite the odd situation we can do it, it is possible and it can be done, it only requires determination and dedication.
Image: People travel in a motorised rickshaw on a street in Rae Bareli
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters