U.P. elections and Muslims

By Mohammad Shahid

Lucknow: With less than a year to go for the UP Assembly Elections a mud- slinging match between the poll players has begun. While the four main parties—Congress, BJP, SP and BSP—blame each other for all the ills in the state the smaller outfits hold these four responsible for the slow rate of development in the state. Every decision and action of the parties is governed with an eye on elections. As elections in the state are fought basically on caste and communal lines, the parties are trying to outwit each other to woo a particular caste or community. And Muslims who constitute about one-fourth of the electorate and are a deciding factor in 130 Assembly and 24 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, so parties particularly the Samajwadi Party and Congress are leaving no stone unturned to woo the community in showering their largess on them. 

Muslims who traditionally supported the Congress were alienated by the party after its dubious policy on Babri Masjid, the shilanyas etc. and finally the Muslims deserted it in favour of the SP after the demolition of the mosque. Ever since all efforts by the Congress to win back the community’s trust and loyalty faith has failed except in the last Lok Sabha elections when angry with the Samajwadi Party for hobnobbing with Kalyan Singh, the architect of the demolition, a section of Muslims voted for the Congress. Much water has flown down the Ganga since. Now   realizing his mistake, and the importance of the Muslim vote the SP has distanced itself from Kalyan and has expelled former general secretary Amar Singh, allegedly responsible for bringing Kalyan Singh close to the party. With Azam Khan, the Muslim face of the party back in its fold, the party now hopes to win back the Muslim electorate. On the other hand Congress is pinning its hope on the secular and clean image of its young leader Rahul Gandhi and disillusionment of the community with regional outfits.

But some Muslim outfits which have decided to jump into the poll fray may play spoilsports to the SP and Congress plans. The three main parties—Peace Party, Ulema Council and newly formed Welfare Party—encouraged by the pattern of Muslim voting in recently concluded elections in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala, consider their prospects bright in UP as the Peace Party president Dr. Mohammad Ayub has said ‘It is only natural that Muslims feel let down by parties like Congress and SP which they trusted for years but in return did not get any concrete rewards for their loyalty. No issues of the community was ever solved by these parties which is why there is a plethora of Muslim outfits coming up and doing well in elections. The voting pattern in UP elections is bound to change given these changed perceptions.’
With this objective in view and also to consolidate non-Congress and non-BJP votes the Peace Party has already forged an alliance with the Lok Dal, Indian Justice party, Lok Kranti Morcha, Bharatiya Lokhit Party and Janawadi Party to form Lok Kranti Morcha. While the alliance and also the Ulema Council have decided to contest all assembly seats the Welfare Partry has commissioned a survey to identify the pockets where it would be at an advantage because of concentration of Muslim population. The party is also trying to bring together Deobandi and Barelvi sects besides other minorities, SCs and OBCs under one political umbrella. 

All the three parties have a similar agenda--to give Muslims and other minorities and weaker sections their due which has so long been denied by the Congress and other parties who have used them as vote banks–but pursuing it separately. In the past also a number of parties tried to achieve this goal but failed mainly because each of them claimed to represent the community without having the infrastructure and support base required to win an election and the leaders’ larger than life ego prevented them from providing a united front as was seen in recently held elections in Assam and Kerala. But the Muslim leaders, it seems have not learnt from past experience. Ulema Council that was formed by Amir Rashadi of Azamgarh in the aftermath of the Batla House encounter could not even win the Lok Sabha byelection in the district but only facilitated the victory of the BJP which won the seat for the first time due to the division of Muslim votes engineered by the council. Still the party feels that it will win the elections and has decided to contest all assembly seats.

The Peace Party, with its good performance in the Dumariyaganj byelection and alliance with some smaller outfits is better placed. But its support base too does not go beyond some districts of eastern UP. As for the Welfare Party it is still surveying the constituencies but its mission to unite all Muslim factions to form a united platform is laudable. But how far it succeeds in its mission only time will tell. Elections are still about ten months away. Alliances will be made and broken during this period. If the Muslim leaders belonging to whichever party are really pained at the plight of Muslims and have the same mission and goal to help the community they must  rise above their narrow self interests and come together on a single platform to avoid a split of Muslim votes. In unity lies strength and it is with this mantra they can get maximum benefit in elections and become a force to reckon with. Otherwise they may end up unconsciously helping the communal and divisive forces.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 July 2011 on page no. 1

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