Can we trust Salman Khurshid with our affairs?
English constitutionalist Walter Bagehot once said of the monarchy something appropriate to India’s minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid too: both don’t let in daylight upon magic. In other words, both owe their success to their air of mystery.
Khurshid is described as a “dynamic leader of mankind” by a website on him. But unlike the monarchy, he doesn’t appeal much to the very masses he is supposed to represent in the larger body politic.
Put him in the company of lettered men or the so-called elite, he’s at home. Amid ordinary Muslims, a perfect stranger — even though he has almost everything going for him – his working knowledge of Urdu, Islamic theology and Muslim culture among things.
Muslims are often skeptical of him. Many explanations are offered for this icy disconnect — he doesn’t say his prayers as often as he should; he’s not even half as dogmatic as others when it comes to prickly issues and seldom hysterical. I take such explanations to be flimsy.
Yet, I believe, the reason he has failed to harness an impressive family legacy to top the popularity charts is simply because he has not tried hard enough. Maybe, he just doesn’t care. Maybe, he thinks it’s not worth trying.
With him as the minority affairs ministers, Muslims should have been sanguine in the belief that their affairs are in safe hands. Far from it.
A widening trust-deficit between influential Muslims and minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid threatens to stall a plan to put Islamic assets called wakf to profitable use — raising questions about how well the government’s schemes are taken by the community.
The UPA government is wary of murmurs of “wakf privatization”, especially from the Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind.
Wakf assets — strewn countrywide — are Islamic endowments for charity, usually in the form of prime real estate. According to a parliamentary report, they can generate over Rs 10,000 crore in potential revenue.
A parliamentary report says of the 4-lakh hectares of wakf property, nearly 3 lakh remain encroached, often by government entities.
Now, plans for a clean-up – with a wakf development agency and mandatory wakf registration — by modifying an earlier law have come unstuck. Even Muslim MPs raised doubts, resulting in they holding back the legislation.
How a wakf is to be used depends on its creator’s intentions – a principle called mansha-e-wakf. Some wakfs, like a drinking-water facility, can serve everybody, unlike others, such as a school for needy Muslims.
The Cabinet recently approved the hiring of a consultant to suggest a finance mechanism – a tricky area, since wakf assets cannot be hired, mortgaged, gifted or sold.
Critics say such financing could route wakf revenue to non-Muslim entities if their funds are used. Khurshid refutes: “By creating an agency to finance wakfs, their properties cannot into the hands of non-Muslims.”
There is absolutely no evidence that Khurshid has mala fide intentions. He held a very resolute brief for Jamia Millia’s status as a minority institution. So, if it’s not necessary for Muslims to oppose Khurshid, it’s necessary not to oppose him.
A snob yes. Arrogant yes. But a traitor? No. That’s my verdict on Khurshid. But snobbery is so monarchical a trait. It doesn’t go well with democracy’s leaders. It can even be politically counter-productive. Khurshid knows what the heck I’m talking about.