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The big dilemma of Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh
It's election season in Uttar Pradesh. After failing to send even a single member from community as MP to Lok Sabha, these elections slated next month are very important for the minorities. Muslims account for 18% of population in Uttar Pradesh and decide who would win in 73 constituencies (>30% of population). In 70 other seats, they wield considerable influence (20%-30% of population) as per CSDS.

BSP as well as SP-Congress alliance are wooing the Muslim voter claiming they are the best placed to defeat BJP. Muslims have been treated as vote bank without considerable improvement in their socio-economic indicators in the state. Muslim votes have been split amongst SP, BSP, Congress, RLD, Peace Party, QED etc., though majority have backed Mulayam Singh's party in UP.

Muslim community voting preference in recent elections

        Party

2002

2007

2012

Average 2002-12

LS 2014

SP

54%

45%

39%

46%

58%

BSP

10%

17%

20%

16%

18%

BJP

2%

3%

7%

4%

10%

CONGRESS

10%

14%

18%

14%

11%

OTHERS

24%

21%

16%

20%

3%

Source: CSDS Reports

These elections are very important for anti-BJP forces. If BJP wins here, Modi gains strength and 2019 bid remains on track. If BJP loses, Modi-Shah jodi may face internal rebellion and opposition gets confidence to trump BJP in 2019.

Mayawati is pitching for a Dalit-Muslim consolidation to defeat BJP. Together they account for 40% of population and three-fourth support would land her at 30% vote share, enough to win these polls. She has distributed the maximum number of tickets to Muslims (97). She's drafted 'Mission 184', 87 Dalits (reserved seats) plus 97 Muslim candidate seats which would propel her to form government.

The alliance between SP and Congress has dealt a severe blow to her plans. The alliance looks more formidable on paper (30% combined vote share in Lok Sabha vs 20% of BSP) to defeat BJP. The minorities supported Congress in the state till early 1990s. However, after the demolition of Babri Masjid, they predominantly moved to SP. Additionally, Muslim youth are attracted by the development model of Akhilesh, evident in his high popularity ratings. The alliance has given 64 seats to Muslim candidates as of now.

The topmost objective of the community is to not let BJP win at any cost. The second goal is to send as many MLAs as possible to the assembly so that community issues / problems can be raised in house. The third aim is to ensure safety and security of its members. However, achieving all these goals is not going to be easy.

To realise the first goal, the community needs to vote for candidate best placed to defeat BJP in every seat. But it may so happen that BSP candidate is stronger than SP/INC alliance contestant. Voting for BSP candidate reduces SP/INC chances and help BJP which could emerge as the single largest party.

In seats, where BSP has fielded a Muslim candidate and SP/INC alliance a Hindu candidate, the choice gets more difficult (30 odd seats). Voting for SP/INC candidate means less Muslim MLAs make it to the assembly. A certain section of community is peeved at the fact that parties whom they support in the end put up majority Hindu candidates, who get elected on their minority support, and look the other way after getting elected. Muslim representation is a key theme of this election, the second goal.

The community also has to be wary about counter polarisation among Hindus. If they give a clear call to support SP/INC candidates, there is a chance that Hindus cutting across caste lines back BJP like it happened in 2014. Non-Jatav Dalits, Jats and even a fourth Yadavs supported Modi in Lok Sabha polls. Even in seats where minority population was greater than 30% and sizeable, BJP candidates won by huge margins of a lakh plus votes.

The community has voted for SP in the past, but it has failed to provide security to the community leading up to Muzaffarnagar riots. The Kairana incident and other related events have left a section unhappy with SP's handling of the situation and taking them for granted.

To sum up, it's going to be a tough call for minorities in Uttar Pradesh. Some pundits are predicting consolidation of Muslim votes in favour of SP/INC alliance. Some say it will adopt 'tactical voting' in each seat and back BSP / SP / INC candidate depending upon their merit.

The dual objective of defeating BJP and ensuring maximum representation, may ensure that community votes are split again as in the past. Safety and security will also be on top of their mind when they go out to vote.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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