The results of the three Assembly byelections in Uttar Pradesh that came in this week spell trouble for the Samajwadi Party (SP). The ruling SP lost the prestigious Muzaffarnagar and Deoband seats and managed to retain the Bikapur seat, but with a narrow margin.
The loss of Muzaffarnagar and Deoband seats, both of which have a large Muslim population, indicates that the Muslim mood in UP is shifting and that the Samajwadi Party is no longer the sole custodian of minority votes.
In Muzaffarnagar, where Muslims have suffered the maximum during the 2013 riots and the subsequent communal clashes that take place with alarming regularity, it is the BJP which emerged the winner. “Muslims are beginning to see through the Samajwadi Party. The SP was in power when the riots took place in 2013, but the government failed to protect us. Communal trouble takes place in one area or the other almost every month. We might as well support the BJP,” said Mukarram Jahan, a young widow who lost her husband and brother-in-law in the riots and is now staying with her parents in Shamli, taking care of her three children.
In Deoband, where the Muslim population is said to be guided by clerics, the winner has been the Congress. The isolated victory for the Congress may not yet signal the revival of the party in Uttar Pradesh, but it definitely spells trouble for the SP.
“The Congress has won Deoband after a gap of almost 28 years and this is not something that can be ignored. People in Deoband are politically aware and receptive to the changing situation. The ruling party should ponder over certain issues,” said local Congress leader Imran Masood, who is said to have charted the victory of Maviya Ali, the Congress candidate.
In Bikapur, the Samajwadi Party managed to win the seat with a narrow margin of around 6,200 votes, but the victory has brought a number of worries too. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which made its political debut in Uttar Pradesh by contesting the Bikapur seat, got over 11,000 votes, just 76 less than the BJP.
The emergence of AIMIM and the proposed formation of a five-party alliance led by the JD(U) and RLD in UP is bound to further split the anti-BJP votes in the next Assembly elections, which this does not augur well for the SP.
“The results should shake our leaders out of their complacence because the writing is clear on the wall. The promises made to Muslims — whether it was reservation or relief to innocent youth in terror cases — have not been fulfilled and the riot victims are still being victimised in western UP,” said a Muslim minister in the UP government. Another minister said that the party should treat the bypolls as a wakeup call because the magical M-Y (Muslim-Yadav) formula was cracking.