Ahead of polls, Muslims warm up to AAP

AAP leader Ashutosh campaigning in the Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium  

In the coming Lok Sabha election, Abid, a 21-year-old fruit vendor, wants to make amends for the opportunity he “lost” during the Delhi Assembly polls. He voted for the Congress after he was told by “some prominent people” at Jamia Nagar, the Muslim dominated suburb here, that the Aam Aadmi Party was not a “serious contender” and voting for the AAP would go “waste.”

Abid’s support to the Arvind Kejriwal-led party reflects a growing enthusiasm and emerging support for it among Muslims here ahead of the Lok Sabha election. This enthusiasm is in contrast with the times when the Kejriwal-led anti-corruption movement alienated Muslims by using the image of Bharat Mata (Mother India) and use of the Vande Mataram slogans to work up crowds, which they found to be images of Hindu nationalism. The AAP’s deliberate attempt to woo Muslims was reflected when Mr. Kejriwal recently said communalism was a bigger threat than corruption.

Referring to Muslims’ disenchantment with the Congress and the AAP taking on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Mohammad Reyaz, a doctoral candidate of International Relations at Jamia Millia Islamia, pointed out that a large section of the minority community believes that the AAP had managed to emerge as a “formidable and credible” challenge to Mr. Modi. Interestingly, the AAP’s list of 61 general election candidates has 11 Muslims. “The fact that the AAP has taken on Mr. Modi has enhanced its brand value among the community,” he said.

Another reason for growing attraction for the AAP, especially in the age group of 20-40, is its ‘different’ approach towards Muslims. Irfanullah, AAP leader who is leading the party’s campaign among Muslims, said: “Instead of repeatedly invoking emotive issues like communal riots, the AAP’s campaign among Muslims has largely been focused on developmental issues, a welcome change from the Congress treatment of Muslims.”

The irony, in Delhi at least, is that by rejecting the Congress for the AAP, for a large section of Muslim the Congress has become the “vote catua [a party that splits votes]” in the two way contest between the BJP and the AAP.

Congress leaders managed to get Muslim votes during Delhi elections by successfully convincing the minority community that the AAP was not in the race for power and voting for the new party would be like voting for Mr. Modi. But after the stunning performance of the AAP a large section of Muslims now argue that the Congress is just not in the race in Delhi, and will just cut their votes and end up boosting the BJP and subsequently Mr. Modi's prosepcts.

The rethink by Muslim groups on the AAP has only boosted its prospects in the general election. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, one of the influential groups with a substantial following, for instance, used to support the Congress earlier. But after the AAP’s stunning electoral debut, it did a U-turn and extended its support earlier this year.

The “emerging popularity” of the AAP among Muslims may be good news for the party in Delhi, but it may not necessarily be of great help in other States.

Influential Lucknow-based cleric Syed Maulana Kalbe Jawad questioned if just the growing support would be sufficient to get Muslim votes. It would also require several factors, including the party candidates’ ability to win in a respective constituency, he argued.

“AAP is a very new party for a state like UP. In the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar riots and a charged scenario like this where SP and Congress may not be Muslims’ ideal option, why should they vote for AAP and not the BSP which will be in the position to defeat the BJP,” asked the cleric.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:53:50 AM |

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