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UP elections: an analysis

The BSP's tactics to win over the minority community from the Samajwadi Party by fielding 86 Muslims apparently failed to benefit it but had damaged the prospects of the candidates of the latter as well as of the Congress in several seats, particularly in the Muslim-dominated areas. analyses PM Damodaran.

Lucknow: Though the tactical voting, advised by the All India Milli Council to defeat the candidates belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the recent Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, failed to yield the desired results, there is a significant rise in the Muslim representation in the House. The number of Muslim representation has gone up from 34 in the last Assembly to 47 in the new House.

The higher representation of the Muslims in the Assembly may have to do with the downslide of the BJP in the recent elections. If one reviewed the past few elections, it was clear that whenever the BJP made significant gains in the polls, invariably there was a fall in the representation of the Muslims in the House. The BJP had won 157 seats in the 1996 Assembly elections and the Muslim representation in the House then was only 34 with no member of the minority community being elected on its own ticket. The party had nominated a lone Muslim candidate to contest the recent elections but he failed to win. The BJP's tally along with its allies had gone down to 108, of which the former's share was only 88 in the House of 403, in the recent polls. This has led to a significant rise in the representation of the Muslims to 47 this time.

In the wake of the recent elections, the Milli Council had conducted a survey of the winnability of secular candidates in all the constituencies in the state. It later released a list of 374 names and appealed to the Muslims to vote for them to defeat the nominees of the BJP and its allies. It had extended support to 256 Samajwadi Party, 67 Bahujan Samaj Party and 40 Congress candidates. But the tactical voting by the Muslims failed to make much impact on the election results due to several reasons. Significant among them was the presence of a large number of Muslim candidates in some constituencies which led to the splitting of the minority votes. Four Muslim parties had also put up their own candidates creating confusion among the Muslims voters. While there were 13 Muslim candidates in one seat, in five other constituencies, there were 12 Muslim candidates each!

But the Council is pleased with its efforts and claimed that its call had helped to consolidate the secular votes in 35 per cent of 374 constituencies. It claimed that 98 Samajwadi Party, 24 BSP and 11 Congress nominees short-listed by it had come out victorious. It claims that the poor show by the BJP and its allies was the result of the consolidation of the secular votes. According to the Council, the Muslim electorate accounted for 25 per cent to 30 per cent in 150 to 200 constituencies and the role of the minority community was vital in deciding the fate of the candidates in them.

The BSP's tactics to win over the minority community from the Samajwadi Party by fielding 86 Muslims apparently failed to benefit it but had damaged the prospects of the candidates of the latter as well as of the Congress in several seats, particularly in the Muslim-dominated areas. The BSP had put up nominees in constituencies, from where no Muslim candidate had ever won. The Samajwadi Party had condemned this tactics of the BSP in putting up a large number of candidates belonging to the minority community and alleged that it was done by the latter to split the Muslim votes and damage its prospects rather than sending maximum number of Muslims to the Assembly. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party maintained that the party had fielded Muslim candidates in the constituencies where they had a fair chance to win.

The Samajwadi Party's stand proved true because though it had fielded only 50-odd Muslim candidates, 23, four more than the last elections, of them had come out victorious. On the other hand, only 14 Muslim nominees put up by the BSP had won the polls. Though the BSP had won 32 more seats in the recent elections as compared to the 1996 polls, only two more Muslim candidates had won this time. On the other hand, though the Congress had secured seven seats less this time, four Muslims had won on its ticket this time, which is one more than the polls held in 1996. Significantly, only one Muslim nominee was got elected under the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which had an alliance with the BJP, ticket this time. In fact the RLD had two Muslim nominees in the last House. Among the other Muslim winners were two from the Apna Dal, one from the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal and an independent.

According to a post-poll survey conducted by an agency, the Samajwadi Party still continues to enjoy the maximum support from the Muslims though there is minor erosion of its base among the community. The survey revealed that nearly 65 per cent of the Muslim electorate had voted in favour of the Samajwadi Party whereas the share of the BSP was nine per cent only. On the other hand, despite high expectations, the Congress received an insignificant vote share of only seven per cent from minority community, mainly from the upper Muslims. The survey significantly revealed that ten per cent of the Muslim electorate had voted in favour of the BJP and its allies, which is higher than the vote share received by the BSP and the Congress.
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