The people of Uttar Pradesh (UP) would love to know what is on the mind of leaders of the state's Opposition parties. The people of UP are amazed at how the Opposition parties are allowing the ruling party to distance them further and further away from winning elections.

How come the opposition stands paralysed as the carpet of fair politics is pulled from under its feet with such ease?

Does the Opposition not realise what is going on, or is it incapable of practising alternative politics because its own is no better than that of the ruling party? If the Opposition is wiped out how will politics remain democratic in the country? If the politics of symbolism practised by the ruling party is obvious to ordinary citizens why is it not to the Opposition party leaders?

Atul Chandra, senior journalist says that during decades of reporting on UP politics, he is yet to see a political leader as laid back as Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav.

The kind of religious, caste and class calculations that the ruling party puts together in order to win elections does not seem to be of concern to Akhilesh Yadav. This Yadav is happy to continue to follow in the footsteps of 'papa's politics' that worked for his father Mulayam Singh Yadav but threatens to ruin his political career forever. Nothing fresh, nothing clever, nothing that has the power to either inspire, or to sweep voters off their feet has come out of the political closet of Akhilesh Yadav in recent times.

As for the Congress Party, the joke in the city is that it has been a loser for so long that it does not even want to win elections any more. That the SP and the Congress might be decimated like Mayawati in UP or the Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra is the cause of much angst today.

Politics of Symbolism

Does the SP and the Congress not realise that a woman from the tribal community is about to become the next President of the country, even as the forest rights of tribals continue to be trampled? Why is the Opposition not sharing this information with voters?

Senior journalist Arun Tripathi says that in the end it is not Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition candidate who will lose the Presidential election but the real losers will be the adivasis and tribals whose basic rights have not been addressed for more than half a century.

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also an example of symbolic politics. She is a woman but rising prices of essential commodities have made life most difficult for housewives who struggle today to keep the fire lit in their respective kitchens.

Pasmanda Love

Despite an obvious dislike for Muslims, the ruling party has appointed Danish Azad Ansari as minister Minority Welfare in the UP government. Yet another example of the politics of tokenism. The message seems to be that the ruling party does not like educated, well to do male Muslims but is attracted to the economically and socially backward Muslim. Most poor Muslims belong to a community called the Pasmanda, or those left behind. Pasmanda is a Persian word meaning marginalised.

Ansaris are usually from the weaver community of Muslims who are mostly poor and illiterate. However those who see all citizens only as a vote bank will naturally try to woo the Pasmanda as they are almost 85% of the country's Muslim community. For anyone obsessed with electoral politics numbers are all that matters to them.

Ali Anwar Ansari is a former member of the Rajya Sabha. He founded the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (Marginalised Muslim Front) an organisation of Dalit and backward class Muslims in 1998 in Bihar in a bid to end the exploitation of poor Muslims by rich Muslims.

However it is merely tokenism, a symbolic gesture to include a lone Muslim in the UP cabinet. The more important question before Danish Azad Ansari is to convince his colleagues in the government to immediately put a stop to the on-going public harassment of poor Muslims like vegetable and street food vendors. That the life and livelihood of poor Muslims is threatened by roadside hooligans even as those in power including the police do little to safeguard the interest of the poor citizens.

One reason why some hot headed citizens attack fellow Muslims is because they are made to believe that the population of Indian Muslims is increasing fast, and soon Muslims will outnumber other citizens in the country.

The UP Chief Minister has said in the past that the Muslim population in India has increased seven or eight times since 1947. This is simply not true. That India's population will soon overtake that of China must have other reasons but it is not because the population rate of Indian Muslims is uncontrollably on the rise.

A Play of Words

In present times words like secular, liberal and democracy are given convoluted connotations. They are made to sound like bad words with seculars termed 'sickular' and liberals called "libtard". The original context of the words is forgotten or not known. All these words originate from European languages. Liberal simply means free while secular means of that world which is not the world of the church.

The Greek origin of the word democracy is most beautiful, with demo meaning people, and cracy meaning force or strength. Therefore never forget that no matter how the context of the word is twisted, democracy simply means the power of the people that is always anti-monopolistic.

In Athens, the birthplace of democracy, citizens voted for people to represent their interest and made sure that excessive power was never allowed to rest in the hands of an individual like a monarch. It was always the responsibility of citizens, also known as the Opposition party who prevented individuals from stealing power for themselves and always stood up against those obsessed with total power.

Therefore any attempt to allow the opposition to be swept away is to deny democracy to the self.