LUCKNOW: As the bustle over the union interim budget settles down, the focus returns to the political script being readied by parties and alliances to outshine the ruling BJP in upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
With Congress making it clear to play on front foot and SP-BSP alliance looking for a socio-political
engineering to turn the tide in their favour, parties can’t overlook UP’s Muslims – largest in the country, playing a key role in deciding the fates.
“This time around, the so-called secular forces will be vying for the Muslim votes as an oar to sail through,” says Ashutosh Mishra, a senior political scientist.
Of 22 crore population of Uttar Pradesh, Muslims constitute crucial 19.23 per cent. Of 80 Lok Sabha seats, around 20 seats are such with over 20 per cent Muslim population playing a decisive role in making or marring the electoral fortunes of candidates in the fray.
In 2014, not even a single muslim candidate could reach the Lok Sabha largely due to the multi-cornered fights and division of muslim votes among non-BJP parties including Congress-RLD, SP, BSP and a few smaller religious outfits like Peace Party and Rashtriya Ulema Council.
It simply facilitated the BJP and allies sweeping UP with humoungous mandate and walking away with 73 0f 80 seats.
As per the 2011 census, UP has over two dozen parliamentary constituencies where Muslim community is over 20% of the total population. Even more, over a dozen of these constituencies, including Rampur (50.57 %), Moradabad (47.12%), Saharanpur (41.95%), Bijnore (43.04%), Muzaffarnagar (41.30%) and Amroha (40.78%), Balrampur (37.51%), Azamgarh (36%), Bareilly (34.54%), Meerut (34.43%), Bahraich (33.53%), Gonda (33%), and Shrawasti (30.79%) have very strong over presence of Muslims which stands out to be over 30 per cent.
In fact, the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, when jat and Muslim clashed leading to a huge exodus of populations, both communities deserted the RLD.
While Muslim votes divided among SP and BSP, jats got polarised in favour of the BJP.
In 2009, when Muslims were annoyed with the Samajwadi Party for siding with the then BJP rebel Kalyan Singh and voted tactically in favour of candidates who were capable of defeating the saffron forces. As a result, the non-BJP parties got nearly equal numbers of 80. Congress had fared well with 21, SP 22, BSP 21 and RLD also won 5 of eight seats it fought on in alliance with the BJP which had won just 10.
This time around, Muslims have two options – the SP-BSP-RLD alliance and the Congress post- Priyanka Gandhi’s entry in political arena.
Now the fear of division of Muslim votes once again looms large over non-BJP parties. Before Priyanka Gandhi’s entry, the Muslims were clear about backing the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the state but now
with an assertive Congress on the horizon, they may a ray of hope has been reignited among the Muslim voters they may express confidence in grand old party despite their annoyance over Babri demolition in 1992 under Congress rule at Centre.
But with the emergence of young leadership in Congress, Muslims may get drawn towards it leading to a division of their votes yet again. That will certainly help the BJP to salvage its pride. However, this time around, the saffron party is also hoping for some support from another half of the Muslim population after triple talaq bill.