Hoping 2007 repeat, Maya pushes Dalit-Muslim tie-up to counter Modi

More than the communal divide between the Hindu and Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh it’s the division in the Muslim votes in nation’s most populous state which is giving jitters to parties from the secular stable. In the last Lok Sabha elections, out of the 16 seats on which there is a Muslim presence of 20 percent and above, only two returned BJP candidates – Meerut and Lucknow.

The biggest beneficiary of polarised voting in the last election was Congress, which won five seats followed by Bahujan Samajwadi Party 4, Samajwadi Party 3 and Rashtriya Lok Dal 2. The Ajit Singh-led RLD benefitted in polarised voting as it fought in alliance with the BJP. This time around Ajit Singh is in alliance with the Congress.

There are few other metamorphic traits in the poll environment. Samajwadi Party, which in the last assembly polls in 2012 was seen as the biggest benefactor of Muslim votes, following the Muzzafarnagar riots is today suspect in the eyes of the minorities. Sensing an opportunity to poach on Muslim votes, BSP boss Mayawati has decided to fish in troubled waters and turned rabidly pro-Muslim fielding candidates like Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, who had announced a reward of Rs 51crore for beheading the Danish cartoonist for drawing a sketch of Prophet Mohammed, from the neighbouring Moradabad seat.

BSP candidate from Meerut, Haji Akhlaq enjoys reputation of being as aggressive as Haji Yaqoob, if not more. Mayawati in all has given tickets to 19 Muslims out of 85 seats and given the presence of her Dalit community in substantial numbers on all the Muslim dominated seats, she is hoping for a Dalit-Muslim (DM) combination accompanied by Brahmins (21 tickets given from this community) to repeat the 2007 assembly poll performance catapulting her to the centre stage once again.

With opinions polls too predicting BSP to emerge as the biggest party after BJP in the state which sends maximum number of MPs to Lok Sabha, Mayawati has also taken to a vitriolic discourse vis-à-vis BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. She is working overtime to remind people in her rallies of the ‘atrocities’ committed in Gujarat in 2002. The BSP, Congress and SP leaders in fact seem to be in a contest on who can pour more vitriol on Modi.

With neither the likes of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan nor BSP leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui in her ranks, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has rushed to the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid for support to guard against the division of the minority votes. Imam’s effectiveness in influencing the Muslim vote is doubtful but the message to ‘guard the Muslim vote’ to defeat Modi has certainly created a buzz. It would lead to consolidation of minorities behind the candidate who is best pitched to pluck Lotus, the symbol of BJP. As of now, figures seem to stack in favour of Mayawati.

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