Lucknow: In the
absence of a wave and no issue that could have an emotional sway
on voters, the Muslim vote seems to be the one that could make or
mar political fortunes in Uttar Pradesh.
At least three of the four major players plus a newly-formed
political outfit are clearly eying the 19 percent Muslim vote that
may determine the destiny of India's most populous state of 200
Until a few months back, it seemed that a good chunk of Muslims
were tilting towards the Congress, thanks mainly to Rahul Gandhi's
tours of the state. But with the Congress losing credibility on
account of poor governance issues and its flip-flop on issues of
minority development, the Muslim vote seems to be up for grabs
Many saw Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party as the natural
choice for the community, which had for long reposed its faith in
the party, until he shook hands with one-time Hindutva strongman
Kalyan Singh, better known as the Babri Masjid demolition man.
Over the past two years, Mulayam moved heaven and earth to wash
off that 'sin' of aligning with Kalyan. He even got his estranged
Muslim face Azam Khan back in the party to re-establish
credibility with Muslims.
But would Mayawati let go the chance to grab the Muslim vote?
She wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking job quota for
Muslims. Mayawati's letter was sent late at night, hours before
central minister Salman Khurshid disclosed that the government was
working out a policy for providing reservation to Muslims.
Then came the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) announcement of
a 4.5 percent reservation for Muslims.
The Congress now found itself in a tight spot. While the new
policy evoked appreciation from a section of Muslims, it annoyed a
larger section of OBCs who would lose 4.5 percent of the 27
percent quota earmarked for them.
"The Congress-led UPA is making a fool of Muslims by offering 4.5
percent quota when the community deserves much more. It is a cheap
election stunt," roared Mulayam Singh.
To top it all, even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the
Congress, BSP and Samajwadi Party of taking Muslims for a ride.
BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi claimed: "Muslims have better
representation in government jobs in BJP-ruled states like Madhya
Pradesh where it has risen by 11 percent. But is has slid by 42
percent in UP, during the regimes of Mulayam Singh and Mayawati."
Congress leader Digvijay Singh's campaign to label the Anna Hazare
movement "RSS sponsored" was part of the party's design to keep
Muslims on its side. 'Diggy Raja', as Singh is addressed, has
tried to impress upon all and sundry that his charge against Team
Anna was not baseless. He not only wanted to discredit Anna but
also wean away Muslims from the anti-corruption crusader.
Playing spoilsport is the Peace Party. Founded by 56-year-old
surgeon Mohammad Ayub as a political outfit of Muslims, for
Muslims and by Muslims, it soon decided to induct Hindus too.
Even as Ayub objects to Peace Party being termed a Muslim party,
he makes no bones about admitting that he was inspired by none
other than Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram.
"I admire Kanshi Ram for starting from scratch to build a strong
political base for the well-being of Dalits. Today they have
incorporated upper caste Brahmins too with them."
Ironically, the Peace Party founder, who earlier faced the
accusation of receiving funds from the BJP, is now charged with
pro-BSP links. It is said the Peace Party's gameplan is to not
only dent the Muslim votebank of Mulayam Singh but to wean away a
chunk of the Muslim vote that may switch to the Congress.
After all, it is division of the Muslim vote that could give the
BSP the edge that Mayawati is desperately eyeing.
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