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MUSLIM VOTES: KEYS TO THE CASTLE OF UP

Road to Delhi passes through Uttar Pradesh. Any party that rules UP will be in pole position to rule Delhi. Uttar Pradesh contributes 80 seats to the national assembly of 545 members thereby making it the single largest contributor to Lok Sabha and power in the centre. If history is an indication no party has won twice in a row in UP.

UP polity has a very hungry, very dangerous & predatory demography that holds electoral majority in 143 assembly seats. This demography neither seeks good roads or jobs or sanitation nor does it worry about security or healthcare. It needs none of the things that an average voter needs and demands. All that this demography demands is uninterrupted and unhindered freedom to practise its supremacist beliefs. Fact that they demand this spells death knell to all those who become its prey. But it also is an offer that no unscrupulous politician would dare refuse. To an unscrupulous politician it’s a win-win situation – he is free to indulge in corruption & crime while those who voted for him remain free to continue their supremacist agenda.

The Muslim voters vote under a plan. In 2017 they voted tactically – voting for anyone who they felt had the best chance to defeat BJP candidate. In the 21st century, the party that got their votes won UP. As a result, in 2017, BJP+ won 306 seats. Last time the Muslim vote got divided between SP, BSP and Congress. But this time all indications suggest that the Muslim vote would be consolidated in favour of Samajwadi Party. In spite of initial waves that Owaisi’s AIMIM made in UP, Muslim vote remains consolidated in favour of SP.

PARTIES IN THE PLAYGROUND

The Congress led by Priyanka Vadra would be lucky to win 5 seats. They are unable to find 403 candidates and all parties, big or small, have shunned them by refusing alliances. It is likely that Congress would repeat the same suicidal tactic they have used in Delhi & Bengal. They will not make any attempt to campaign or win. Instead, they will try to transfer their vote share (~10%) to Akhilesh’s SP and commit Hara Kiri in the process. Such a move would be political suicide for Priyanka Vadra.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) remains a non-starter. They are expected to retain their Jatav vote bank along with their traditional SC votes. Their campaign is a lacklustre even in their pocket boroughs. Mayawati has remained out of the campaign trail and her trusted lieutenant S.C. Mishra is confined largely to wooing the Brahmin voters. He has not yet met any success. Desertion of Muslim voters has left her bereft of any chance of regaining power.

Akhilesh Yadav has been on the campaign trail for sometime now and he is largely considered the strongest challenger to CM Yogi Adityanath. Akhilesh is a dynast and heads a party that traditionally, has no specific governance plan or development programme beyond the semantics of “हम विकास करेंगे”. What he has done is form a rainbow coalition of small and traditionally, politically insignificant parties. These parties are caste specific – representing only one caste. These include Jayant Chaudhary led Rashtriy Lok Dal, Shivpal Yadav led Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Janwadi Socialist Party and Mahan Dal. All these small parties have individually insignificant vote share but an alliance with SP would fortify their caste votes with consolidated muslim votes. This makes for a winning preposition for Samajwadi Party.

THE M FACTOR

In 2007 the community voted largely for the BSP, in 2012 it was with the SP but in 2017 it got divided between the SP, Congress and the BSP.

Political analysts believe that Samajwadi Party commands a majority of the votes from the Muslims in UP. The 2022 assembly election is fast emerging as bipolar, ie, the main competition will be between BJP+ and SP+ alliances. The other parties including the BSP is expected to be reduced to the fringes. It is expected, realistically, that SP will command over 75% of muslim votes. AIMIM or other Muslim parties will be reduced to the margins.

AIMIM President Owaisi pulls huge crowds and seems popular among the young muslims. He announces from every pulpit and every proverbial soap box that Muslims now demand their share of power. Owaisi plays on the religious supremacist sentiment of the community and fuels the “victim” narrative. Owaisi condemns Akhilesh and Gandhi duo as being in a race to prove their Hindu credentials. To Owaisi, this disqualifies both the parties from being pro-muslim ie secular parties.

The Muslims are the second largest religious bloc and rough estimates are that their population is 20-25%. The numbers further swell with a significant number of illegal Bangladeshi & Rohingya Muslims. These illegals have been given identity cards and voter cards by various political parties who use these fake voters to their advantage.

Districts like Rampur, Farrukhabad & Bijnor have over 40% muslim population. Out of the total 403 assembly seats in UP, 143 seats have Muslim voters as the largest bloc. Out of these 143, about 73 seats muslims are between 20 to 30 percent and about 40 seats where the Muslim population is more than 30 percent.

If Muslims vote remains consolidated, Muslims can win about 30 seats on their own. While on 9 seats 55% are ‘minority’ Muslims. In about 28 districts Muslim votes account for more than 20% votes and the remaining districts have 10-15%. The outlier is Rampur which has a Muslim population of over 50%.

During Samajwadi Party rule (2012-17) Muslims held 68 seats out of SP’s total tally of 224. But during the Yogi government this number was reduced to just 6.3%. Reforms like anti conversion law, seizure of property of rioters, action against organized crime, closure of illegal butcheries and car theft cartels has alienated the Muslim population. The Muslim population seeks a return to the good old days where they held the pole position in any non-BJP government – ironically called “secular” government. They Muslim voters appear desperate to re-establish their significance. This time the community doesn’t want to make any “mistake” that can lead to the division of their votes. For this to happen, Muslim leaders and opinion-makers are using their influence among the community. Leaders like AMU academicians run a campaign claiming that the BJP doesn’t want their votes because their politics is to unite everyone against Muslims.

But how the community will ensure that their votes are not divided appears unclear to them also at this stage. “Defeating the BJP is a big factor. But not all Muslims are able to judge that accurately. Other factors also matter such as the candidate, the party, village level dynamics and local rivalries,” said a senior cleric of Darul Uloom Deoband. “Had all Muslims voted for one strong party, the BJP would not have come to power in 2017,”he added.

As the battle for UP intensifies, consolidation of Muslim votes behind Samajwadi Party holds the key to the castle.

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