The Chase for Mus­lim Votes

India Today - - UPFRONT - By Piyush Ba­bele

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?

MANEESH AGNIHOTRI

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

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