Cong, SP woo Muslim voters in UP

Notwithstanding their new found bonhomie displayed in the presidential elections, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress are leaving no stone unturned to brand each other  “anti-Muslim” and to claim to be the “messiah” of the community in an apparent bid to garner their votes in the next general elections in 2014.

Senior Uttar Pradesh minister and SP leader Azam Khan has been attacking the Congress for what he alleged “ignoring” the interests of the Muslim community during the latter’s long rule in the country. “The Congress has not done anything for the Muslims. It has only cheated them,” Khan said.

“The Congress has only exploited the Muslims for electoral gains. The miserable condition of the Muslims as revealed in the Sachar committee report is a testimony that nothing has been done for them in all these years by the Congress,” the firebrand Muslim leader of the SP said.

Though Khan cites the denial of minority status to his dream project—Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar University at Rampur, his Assembly constituency—to buttress his contention, SP leaders view it as an attempt to prove that the SP only takes care of the Muslims’ interests.

“Khan knows the risks involved in befriending the Congress. It may have a direct effect on the Muslim votes and the Congress may gain,” said a senior SP leader.

Realising that the attack could dent the party’s standing in the community, the Congress’ Muslim leaders launched a counter attack on Khan. “Minority interests are not confined only to Rampur,” said Congress leader Haji Siraj Mehendi.

“The SP government has not taken any concrete steps to resolve the issues concerning the Muslims in the state,” Mehendi said at a meeting of the Muslim leaders here recently.

He said that the Congress had always worked in the interests of the Muslim community.

The Congress and SP fully realise the importance of the Muslim votes. In fact it was the support of the Muslims that saw the SP getting an absolute majority in the recent assembly elections in the state.

The Congress also knows that without the support of the Muslims, the party would not be able to repeat its performance of 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when it had won 20 seats.

The Muslims in UP, which constitute around 20 per cent of the state's electorate, play a decisive role in around 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

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