Too many secular choices might split Muslim votes in UP

Too many secular choices might split Muslim votes in UP

As the "secular" parties scramble for votes of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh which is about 20 per cent, the community finds itself at crossroads in the state and appears to be weighing its options.

Both the 'grand alliance' comprising the Samajwadi Party (SP), BSP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the Congress have been going all out to woo the Muslims, whose support is considered to be decisive in almost two dozen Lok Sabha constituencies across the state.

Muslim scholars and political analysts say there was "confusion" in the community over whether to support the grand alliance or the Congress.

"Muslims were certain the Congress would also be included in the grand alliance... in that case there would not have been any confusion," said Dr. Mohammed Mustakeem, a Muslim scholar. Despite forming 20 per cent of the total electorate in UP, no Muslim candidate could make it to Lok Sabha in 2014 mainly due to the division in their votes, he added.

Muslim scholars predicted that their community would vote for the candidates, who would be in a position to "defeat" the BJP. They, however, also feared division in their votes this time again. 

In some constituencies, both Congress and the grand alliance have fielded Muslim candidates. "In such places the Muslims votes will be divided," said J.P.Shukla, a Lucknow-based political analyst. Smaller outfits like the Peace Party and AIMIM would further divide the Muslim votes, he added.

Faizan Ahmed, a student, at Lucknow University, says that Muslims have always been used as a "vote bank" by the "secular parties". "Muslims will have to choose between the Congress and the grand alliance," he said.

No wonder BSP supremo Mayawati had to make an appeal to the Muslims to ensure their votes were not divided. "You (Muslims) must not let your votes be split... it will only benefit the BJP," she said at an election rally at Saharanpur, where Muslims formed 42 per cent of the total electorate, referring to the Congress' Muslim nominee Imran Masood.

With barely three days to go for the first phase of the polling in the state, who gets their support remains to be seen.