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UP Elections
By Masood Hasan, Lucknow 

Despite fielding a large number of Muslim candidates in the Assembly elections by political parties to win their support, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have adopted the approach of tactical voting in order to save a split in their votes and to ensure the defeat of BJP candidates in the polls. 

The Milli Council, an apex Muslim body and the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat headed by Syed Shahabuddin have made a fervent appeals to the Muslim community to vote in favour of ‘secular’ candidates who have a chance to win in the elections. The minority community which nearly accounts for 20 per cent of the electorate in the state can play a crucial role in at least 110 Assembly segments in the state. In some constituencies, Muslims accounted for 22 to 47 per cent. Amroha, Rampur, Saharanpur, Bijnore, Baharich, Lucknow and Sambhal have a large number of the Muslim voters who can influence the result of the elections. 

Political parties -- the Congress, Samajwadi and the BSP barring the BJP --- have given good representation to the minority community in their lists of candidates. Even the former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh who took pride in the demolition of the Babri Masjid during his regime has also nominated 10 Muslims to contest the polls. The total number of Muslim candidates fielded by the political parties exceeds 223, excluding the independents. 

The minority community’s spontaneous orientation has put Muslim leaders and political parties alike in a piquant situation in the state. Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Maulana Abdullah Buhkari who had campaigned for the BSP candidates in the Assembly elections in 1996, had in fact divided the Muslim votes, resulting in a sharp split which benefited the BJP nominees in at least 70 seats. Maulana Obaidullah Azmi, who was a staunch supporter of the Janata Dal headed by the former Prime Minister V P Singh and had canvassed for the JD candidates, has since joined the Congress. The Maulana has made an impassioned appeal to the Muslims to vote and support the Congress nominees for maintaining the secular character of the country. But the appeal which is often made by Muslim clergy has failed to make any impact on the Muslim electorate and they have decided to vote in favour of those candidates who would be in a position to win the seat and ensure the defeat of the BJP nominees.

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