Karnataka 2018

Karnataka elections 2018: the spin around the Muslim vote

Muslims make up about half the 2.5 lakh voters of Narasimharaja segment in Mysuru. File Photo

Muslims make up about half the 2.5 lakh voters of Narasimharaja segment in Mysuru. File Photo  

The heat and dust raised by Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s characterisation of the Janata Dal (Secular) as the ‘B’ team of the BJP has refused to die down. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a meeting on the final leg of the Karnataka poll campaign, chose to sing praises of JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda only to deride the party — that has a tie-up with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Assaduddin Owaisi — two days later.

Political observers say leaders hurl such statements back and forth with an eye on votes. The Congress, which has accused the JD(S) of having a “secret pact” with the BJP, is trying to ensure that Muslim votes do not drift to the JD(S). The BJP is hoping to consolidate non-Muslim votes — especially the Vokkaliga votes in the Old Mysuru region.

Muslims constitute 12.91% of Karnataka’s population and are electorally significant in at least 20-odd urban seats. Informal estimates by political parties indicate that they are capable of changing the fortunes of candidates in at least 90 seats across the State.

The debate around the Muslim vote and accusations of “appeasement” began long before the elections. When the Congress government in 2015 announced the official observation of Tipu Jayanthi to mark the 19th century Mysuru king’s birth anniversary, the State witnessed violent protests and even a death. It continues to resonate through election rhetoric.

At an election meeting on Sunday, Mr. Modi asked why the Congress government was keen on observing the Sultan’s birthday and not that of Onake Obavva, a woman who is said to have fought the forces of Tipu’s father, Hyder Ali. Sangh Parivar outfits have constantly called Tipu “anti-Kannadiga and intolerant”.

This apart, every scheme aimed at the Muslim minority — for instance, the Shaadi Bhagya scheme to provide ₹50,000 each for the marriage of Muslim women — has seen raucous opposition. The BJP manifesto has promised a Vivaha Mangala scheme to counter Shaadi Bhagya.

Karnataka elections 2018: the spin around the Muslim vote
 

(Data compiled by Gramener.com and The Hindu data team)

Sense of insecurity may influence the voter

However, observers say that an overall atmosphere of insecurity that minority communities feel across the country may influence the Karnataka voter more significantly this time.

“The common Muslim voter is right now more concerned about safety and security of the community. Other issues come later. The voter is not bothered about celebration of jayanthis. Shaadi Bhagya has benefited only a section of the community,” former IAS official Mohammed Sanaulla says.

Developments elsewhere in the country — such as the Kathua rape and the response to it from the Hindu right wing — may also have a bearing on Muslim voters in Karnataka.

“People have been voting for the Congress and the JD(S) and in some elections, even for the BJP depending on the candidate all these years. But this time, there may be a greater consolidation in favour of the Congress,” Mr. Sanaulla says.

Nasir Hussain, a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress, says: “When an anti-minority atmosphere is created in the country, it will definitely reflect on the community here.”

The BJP has kept up a narrative of “Hindu killings”, but the State Home Ministry says the numbers are being grossly exaggerated.

The Karnataka Muttahida Mahaz, an umbrella organization of 28 non-political Muslim organisations in the State, has identified “secular-minded” candidates in 222 constituencies who are in a position to defeat candidates from “communal” parties. An overwhelming number of these candidates are from the Congress, with the JD(S) a distant second.

Abdus Salaam Puthige, publisher of a Kannada daily, says: “Though Muslim voters know that the Congress has not done much to check communalism, they see no other alternative. Muslim voters are wary of the JD(S) for being opportunistic in the past. They suspect it will act similarly this time too.”

The Congress, which has managed to take away two top Muslim leaders in the JD(S), Zameer Ahmed Khan and Iqbal Ansari, has been telling people that one vote to the JD(S) is equal to two votes to the BJP.

AIMIM support will help, feels JD(S)

However, the JD(S) feels the AIMIM support will help garner Muslim votes. Its State president H.D. Kumaraswamy has said his party will make a Muslim the deputy chief minister if voted to power. An AIMIM leader says Muslims are never given an electoral choice with the argument that a vote against the Congress will lead to a split in the Muslim vote.

The Congress has not left the Muslim community too happy in ticket distribution. It has fielded 17 Muslim candidates as against 18 last year, while the demand was for more.

The JD(S) has given ticket to eight Muslims and the BJP to none.

The absence of tall Muslim leaders with a mass appeal, like Azeez Sait, Abdul Nazeersab or C.K. Jaffer Sharief, is felt by many.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 4:12:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/karnataka-2018/karnataka-elections-2018-the-spin-around-the-muslim-vote/article23806580.ece

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