The Chase for Muslim Votes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that you can win big, even in Uttar Pradesh, without the support of Muslims. But as the state assembly elections draw near, the Muslim vote is once more the subject of fervid discussion. At just under 20 per cent of the electorate, Muslim voters have traditionally been important to parties with ambitions of forming the government.
The Bahujan Samaj Party, which failed to win a single seat in the general elections, has since worked hard to recover its position among Muslims in western UP. Party boss Mayawati deployed trusted lieutenant Nasimuddin Siddiqui for the purpose. In two years, over a thousand local ‘bhaichara’ meetings have been organised to push the idea that Dalits and Muslims can transform the politics of the state. The message, a BSP insider says, “is that the BJP and Samajwadi Party work hand in glove and the Muzaffarnagar riots were the result”.
The SP, meanwhile, is confident its alliance with the Congress will breed confidence in Muslim voters. Azam Khan is the face of the party and leaders such as Shahid Manzur in Meerut and Mehboob Ali in Amroha have large followings. “Muslims are not going to support the BSP anymore,” says Khan. “Every vote cast for the BSP will ultimately help communal forces.”
In the final analysis, that may be the deciding factor. The broad aim remains to defeat the BJP. The BSP has expended plenty of effort on outreach and fielding Muslim candidates, but will the SP’s alliance with Congress persuade Muslim voters that theirs is the more likely winning combination?
WOO FACTOR (Top) Rahul Gandhi visits the Nadwatul Ulama seminary in Lucknow; BSP’s Mayawati gets a bouquet from alleged mafia don Mukhtar Ansari’s son Abbas Ansari. Three Ansari family members have got party tickets