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With bated breath Muslims await UP results
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Even after the completion of two phases of polls in Uttar Pradesh on 14 and 18 February, there is no clear picture emerging in the state (as we go to press on the 20 Feb.). Though poll pundits are claiming that the next assembly is going the way the last assembly went, there are contradictory voices too. Former prime minister VP Singh has claimed after touring the state that it is heading towards a clear majority for Samajwadi Party-led alliance. 

There are clear indications that Samajwadi is going to emerge as the single largest party in the state assembly. The fight is going to be tough for grabbing the second slot. Though it is being said that the BJP is sure to come second, the BSP too is giving a tough fight in this respect. Congress that ruled the state comfortably for four decades is also hoping for some improvement forward from its last assembly tally. 

The electoral fight in the state has seen increasing polarization between three political parties, SP, BSP and the BJP. This triangular fight doesn’t leave any political party in the state in a position to get a clear mandate. The last assembly saw the unique drama when the BJP and BSP cobbled together an alliance of convenience and formed the government on a rotation basis. Mayawati bagged the coveted post of chief minister for the first term but refused to play ball after her term ended. BJP with its government at the centre, went on a foul offensive and successfully engineered large-scale defections in Congress and BSP to form its own government. 

With no party poised to get a clear majority, and the total sum of the BJP and the BSP seats likely to do the trick, there is once again a fear that political expediency may once again bring the two foes together. There is no likelihood of BSP joining the Samajwadi Party for formation of any government in the state, given the antipathy of Mayawati against the Samajwadi party supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Their strong personal enmity will never allow the duo to come together. Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi, though it is being projected to get the largest number of seats in the state - around 150 - there is no other party getting the rest of the seats to allow it to form the government. Congress is expected to win around 25-30 seats. Even after adding this, there is still a long way to reach the prized number of 203. If luckily there are enough independents able to fill this vacuum, then only the SP will be able to form the next government in UP. 

This scenario has confused the voters. Elections being fought in total absence of any agenda, have not been able to enthuse the common people. 

Muslims are more confused than any other segment in the state. With the single-minded self-imposed ‘burden’ of defeating the BJP in the state, they are a confused lot. They are, however, not going to vote for the Samajwadi Party en masse, as they did in the last two assembly elections, when an amazingly large portion of Muslims voted for Mulayam Singh. Muslim organizations have also not come out in support of Mulayam Singh Yadav. No Muslim organization worth its name has asked Muslims to vote for the SP alone. Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, representing several Muslim organizations, has prepared a list of ‘acceptable’ secular candidates in almost all the constituencies and has asked Muslims to vote for those candidates. The candidates come from all parties including the SP, the BSP and the Congress. 

Though a large number of candidates mentioned in the list are from the SP, Congress candidates too got support from the Mushawarat. BSP also got a substantial pie. Notwithstanding this, the rgw Mushawarat has clearly asked Muslim voters to refrain from voting a BSP candidate, if there is any candidate strong enough to defeat the BJP. 

Other organisations, including Milli Council, have also made similar demands on Muslmis. Syed Ahmad Bukhari, imam of the Delhi Jama Masjid, has asked Muslims not to vote for any party, but, politically speaking, ‘Shahi Imam’ is a nonentity in the state. 

This advice has made Muslims in the state a bit assertive, though confused. Caught in the crossfire of secular parties and their seductive strategies, ordinary Muslims are facing a dilemma of choices that end up dividing them rather than uniting. Muslims are the most backward segment of the society in the state. Faced with debilitating poverty, huddled together in shacks and stuck with the lowest levels of illiteracy in the state, the community is crying for attention. 

The disillusionment has deepened given the grim environment in which the polls are being conducted. Although the demolition of the Babri Masjid is fading away, they have been made a scapegoat in Advani’s crusade against terrorism. It has made the community paranoid. The ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is largely being viewed by the community as an attempt to imprison and criminalise its youths. The ordinance against terrorism, POTO which is seen as mainly targetting minority organizations, is also being seen as a direct assault on the community. The talk of banning madrasas is also seen as a conspiracy to de-school the children of the poor in the community who are already plagued with the scourge of illiteracy. 

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