Secular parties jostle to garner Muslim votes

Secular parties jostle to garner Muslim votes

Political observers say minorities will have divided loyalties

Muslims in UP, who constitute 19 per cent of the electorates in the state and are the deciding factor in as many as 135 constituencies, have emerged as the most attractive target group for the mainstream secular parties in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Parties are falling over each other to project themselves as the “messiah” of the muslim community, relentlessly pursuing them to garner their votes.

While trying to outscore each other to be the champion of the minority community, Congress, Samajwadi Party and the BSP are also violating the model code of conduct.

Aware that it would not be possible to form the next government without the muslim votes, Congress, which is hoping to emerge as a major political force after two decades of plummeting electoral fortunes, wooed the muslims by making the UPA government at the centre announce 4.5 per cent sub-quota in the OBC reservation.

Largely due to the efforts of its General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, the party also made the Centre announce an Rs 6,000 crore package for weavers in the eastern UP districts of  Azamgarh, Mau, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Sant Ravidas Nagar.

The party went a step further when union law minister Salman Khurshid announced that the sub-quota will be increased to nine per cent if Congress is voted to power in the state, triggering the BJP to complain to the Election Commission. The watchdog issued notices to both Salman Khurshid and his wife Louis Khurshid, the party’s nominee in Farrukhabad constituency.

In all his election rallies, especially those held in the muslim dominated areas, Rahul Gandhi harped on the twin decisions-reservation and the package for the weavers. At Mau, he even got a weaver to share the dais with him and also address the crowd.

The party also brought to its fold Kazi Raheed Masood, a prominent muslim leader in western UP, giving him an important position in the party and his son Imran Masood ticket to contest in the elections.

Despite being stumped initially by the Congress, Samajwadi Party termed the sub-quota an “eyewash” and promised reservation in government jobs according to their population.

SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had allied with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh in 2009 lok sabha polls and paid the penalty, sought forgiveness of the community and dumped Kalyan Singh this time.

The party also gave tickets to 80 muslims in a bid to prove that it cared for them.
Mayawati, to ensure that the BSP was not trailing in the race to court muslims, wrote several letters to the prime minister seeking reservation for the community in government jobs.

She also flaunts over a dozen portfolios of Naseemuddin Siiduq to buttress her claim that she had done more for the community than any one else.

“No party should take the muslim votes for granted...the community knows who is its well-wisher and will vote accordingly,” says Afreen, a student. The views were also endorsed by Hina Kausar, a student of Lucknow University.

Secular parties would also be competing for muslim votes with several smaller outfits like  Peace Party and the Ulema Council of India fielding candidates in muslim dominated constituencies.

The Peace Party nominees had cornered a sizeable chunk of muslim votes in the areas dominated by the community in the 2009 lok sabha polls and could be a threat to the secular parties this time.