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U.P. Muslims may prefer BSP over SP

LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH, 31/10/2015: MAYAWATI SPEAKS AGAINST MODI GOVT :: Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mayawati interaction with media in Lucknow on Saturday. She accused Modi government not punishing the culprits who are disturbing the communal harmony for political gain citing example of Dadri and Faridabad incidents and demanded the expulsion of MoS for External Affairs Minister, General . V.K.Singh for his alleged remarks against Dalits. Photo Rajeev Bhatt -   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt -

It is 11 a.m. and there is an intense discussion going on at Rashid Hussain’s tea stall in Qaiserbagh, in the heart of Uttar Pradesh’s capital. From references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s utterances of “Jai Shri Ram” at the Dasara festival to debating the NDA government’s push for Uniform Civil Code, the participants, with Urdu newspapers at their disposal, gradually drift to discussing which party would best suit their interests in the upcoming polls.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh is condemned for failing to keep promises made to Muslims made in his party’s manifesto and flayed for the Muzaffarnagar conflagration and Dadri lynching.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is rated positively but his winning prospects are doubted. Only a few voices pitch for the SP. But Mr. Hussain, 58, who has voted the SP ever since the Babri Masjid was demolished has been a loyal Mulayam supporter, is not among them. He feels differently today and for the first time is warming up to the Bahujan Samaj Party. The SP government giving away Rs. 20 lakh compensation to Dadri accused Ravi’s family was the “final nail,” Mr. Hussain said.

“Mulayam Singh has broken our trust. This time there is no doubt. We have hopes from Mayawati this time,” he said. But when the much-talked about Muslim apprehension that the BSP could align with the BJP, like it had done thrice in the past, was raised, Mr. Hussain looked bothered. “I would like to think she will not.”

Mr. Hussain’s dilemma is one that can describe the current mood of Muslims disenchanted with the Akhilesh Yadav government. Though they are warming up to Ms. Mayawati like never before, her past alliances with the BJP and lack of trustworthiness are still hurdles in converting that anger against the SP vote into BSP vote, observers feel. The SP and the Congress are looking to use Ms. Mayawati’s past with the BJP to deter Muslims from voting for her.

Azam Khan’s poser

Azam Khan, SP Cabinet Minister and the tallest Muslim leader in the State, dismissed that Muslims will consider the BSP over his party. “What has the BSP done for Muslims when it was in power? She (Mayawati) even changed the name of districts named after Muslims — Akbarpur, for instance. Thousands of parks, memorials and colonies were built but not one in the name of a Muslim,” Mr. Khan told The Hindu.

The Muslims have “no option” but the SP, he said, stressing that in spite of the riots under his party’s rule, it “protects Muslims as much as we can do.” Why will the SP trigger riots, he asked. “It is only to defame us that such allegations are made. Yes, we could not stop the riots, that is the only allegation against us.”

When pointed out that the BSP claimed the SP and the BJP had a tacit understanding, Mr. Khan pointed out his party had never aligned with the BJP but the BSP had. “There is a video going viral where Mayawati tells her workers to vote for the BJP to teach fundamentalist Muslims a lesson.” The video Mr. Khan referred to is more than a decade old and is currently being circulated by SP cadre among Muslims, sources said.

In her rally in Lucknow last week, the BSP chief appealed the community to not waste their votes on the Congress, which lacked base, and the SP, predicting it would see a dip in fortune and consolidation in Yadav votes due to infighting. Ms. Mayawati gave Muslims an arithmetic lure of a Dalit-Muslim combine (together 40 per cent of the electorate) and even sought to dispel their fears that she may align with the saffron party if she fell of short of majority. In her rallies, she has constantly flagged the issue of insecurity of Muslims under the SP, the discrimination meted out to them by the BJP government and the constant threat of riots, while cautioning the community that a division in its votes would help the BJP.

Ms. Mayawati has even gone to the extent of expressing solidarity with Muslims for being viewed suspiciously in terrorism, a dicey electoral issue, and on the issue of quota for the poor in the community, along with those in upper castes. To woo the community further, Ms. Mayawati said she would hand out as many as 100 tickets to Muslims.

However, Imran Masood, Congress vice-president and its Muslim face in UP, dubbed Ms. Mayawati as “untrustworthy,”. even as he criticised Mulayam Singh for betraying Muslims. The community must vote for the Congress as the fight was not about the State but against the ideology of the RSS, which only the grand-old party could defeat, the Congress leader said “You don’t know when she will form government with the BJP. She has broken Muslim trust for the greed of power. Mulayam has only given lollipops to Muslims. All his promises have proven false. One openly forms government with the BJP, the other has a tacit understanding,” Mr. Masood said. The fact that Ms. Mayawati campaigned for Narendra Modi after the Gujarat riots still plays in the Muslim mind, he added.

Asif Burney, editor of an Urdu daily, says the Muslim fear about Mayawati aligning with BJP was passé and irrelevant, adding that Muslims had heavily voted for her in 2007 after those events. “Muslims have lost total faith in the SP this time. Leave aside the debate on what she has or has not done for them, Muslims support her for law and order. These incidents — Muzaffarnagar, Dadri, etc. — would not have taken place under her.”

Though Ms. Mayawati may have aligned with BJP thrice, she did not support the party when her turn came, Mr. Burney pointed out, predicting that Muslims would pick between the BSP and the Congress in the Assembly elections.

Despite losing badly, the BSP had secured almost 26 per cent votes in the last elections, falling behind the SP by just three per cent. Making a big dent in the Muslim vote would help the party come to power, a BSP office-bearer said. Zaid Ahmed Farooqui, an activist from Banda following Muslim issues, said that though Ms. Mayawati may be openly wooing the community, there existed a big “communication gap” between the BSP and Muslims. Besides, the BSP’s Muslim face Nasimuddin Siqqiqui was not accepted as a community leader by the Muslims in the manner Azam Khan was, Mr. Farooqui said.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 3:19:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/U.P.-Muslims-may-prefer-BSP-over-SP/article16071443.ece

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