Muslim votes deciding factor in UP's Rohilkhand region

Home to a sizeable Muslim electorate, the Rohilkhand region of the state is far from any particular community’s stronghold, courtesy division of the Muslim votes.

The region, which boasts of maximum concentration of Muslims in UP, is slated to witness fierce electoral battle as every political party in the fray vies for a victory here.

As many as 60 seats are up for grabs in this region and the Muslims dominate around 35 per cent of assembly constituencies.

In three of the nine districts in the region, the Muslims constitute between 42 and 49 per cent of the electorate while in three others, Muslim population varies between 21 and 34 per cent. No wonder, every major political party other than the BJP has fielded Muslim candidates.

“There is going to be division in the Muslim votes…..the votes will go to the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and also to some smaller outfits like Peace Party, which has also fielded Muslim candidates,” said Mohammad Mustakeem, a journalist in Moradabad which is home to 46 per cent of the Muslims.

General secretary of Majlish-e-Ulema-e-Hind Mufti Mohammad Ashraf also expressed similar sentiments. “The BJP stands to gain by the division in Moradabad,” he told Deccan herald.  “Be it Moradabad city, Kundarki and others...the BJP nominees are well placed only owing to a sharp division in the Muslim votes,” he said.
Indifferent leaders

In fact, local MP and former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin has antagonised the locals with his alleged nonchalance to the region’s welfare.

“Azharuddin did not do anything for the town…he had promised a lot,” Ashraf said.
Mustakeem said the former cricketer has not taken much interest in campaigning though he shared the dais with AICC president Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on a couple of occasions.

The situation is no different in the neighbouring Bijnore district, where Muslims constitute around 42 per cent of the electorate.

In the neighbouring Rampur district, Muslims constitute 49 per cent of the population. “The Muslims here have always voted for the personality and this time also there will not be any change,” says Maulana Akbar Ali, member of the state executive of Muslim League.

Ali feels that the Congress could gain from the 4.5 per cent reservation for the backward Muslims. “The reservation for the backward Muslims has been welcomed by them and it may benefit the Congress,” the Maulana said.

A 100 km further, Bareilly, with 34 per cent Muslim population,  tells a similar story. A Muslim outfit Ittehad Millat Council has fielded its nominees from the Muslim-dominated seats here, dividing the vote bank further.

A number of Muslim heavyweights have jumped into the fray on the tickets of the “secular” parties. “All of them have been trying their best to corner the Muslim votes…the community is in a dilemma,” Ashraf said.

Muslim clerics regret the situation. “This situation is sad and is not in the interest of the community,” they said.

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