As people speculate on the elections in western Uttar Pradesh, with some seeing it as a fight between SP-Congress and the Bhajuna Samaj Party, others as BSP vs BJP, and still others as a triangular contest, Muslim groups and organisations are increasingly endorsing and lobbying for the BSP.
The 73 constituencies of 15 districts in West UP, which voted on Saturday, and 67 from 11 districts that will vote on Wednesday, are said to be the stronghold of BSP and BJP because of the presence of a large number of Dalit and Muslim electorates, and the polarisation witnessed in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar violence.
On an average, in west UP, there are 25,000-60,000 Jatav voters, who are most vocal about favouring the BSP in this election. There are overall 25-30% Muslim votes in these 26 districts; on some seats like Sambhal and Rampur, they are about 60-65%. And this is where the BSP has put all its hopes and energy.
BSP has fielded 50 Muslim candidates out of 140 seats in West UP.
Many Muslim outfits this week declared their support to the BSP. Prominent among these organisations is the Rashtriya Ulema Council, a political outfit led by clerics from Azamgarh. The Council withdrew its 84 candidates fielded largely in East UP in favour of the BSP. The party which got no seat but garnered around 7 lakh votes in the 2012 elections has clout among madarsa connected youth in Azamgarh and nearby districts. They even have clerical connections in West UP areas. “We will campaign for the party in whichever capacity we can. BSP supremo Mayawati has promised us that all those Muslim issues which have been deliberately ignored by Akhilesh Yadav government will be given prominence in her government,” said Tahir Madni, secretary of the Council.
Many Muslim outfits this week declared their support to BSP. Prominent among these organisations is the Rashtriya Ulema Council, a political outfit led by clerics from Azamgarh.
Madni also listed issues which have found echo among the Muslims of almost the whole state: Implementation of the Nimesh Commission report about Muslims falsely implicated in terror charges, the alleged custodial killings of Muslims like Maulana Khalid Mujahid, probe into killing of DSP Zia Ul Haq, justice in Dadri lynching case, establishment of Urdu medium schools, reservation in educational institutions and in jobs, probe into the Muzaffarnagar riots and filing of cases against the accused and above all, the tight law and order so that Muslims may feel secure against rising communalism in the state.
Besides Ulema Council, other prominent Muslim outfits and Muslim personalities lending their support to the BSP are the All India Ulema Mashaikh Board of sufi clerics, Jamate Ulema Hind (Mehmood Madni faction), Delhi Jama Masjid’s Imam Ahmed Bukhari, Maulana Kalbe Jawad, AMU Old Boys Association and AMU Student Union.
Later on Friday, Kamal Faruqui, former SP general secretary and prominent Muslim activist active in Delhi and in West UP, announced his support to BSP to stop “march of communal BJP and betrayer SP-Cong.” He said that he would tour the whole state with Dalit activists to forge Hindu-Muslim unity with focus on coalition of backwards. Hindu saint Acharya Pramod Krishnam announced to support Faruqui in his mission.
Never before had so many prominent Muslim outfits announced their support for the BSP.
“We organised an iftar daily in some district and it was attended by 3,000-4000 people with some prominent personalities like Maulna Kalwe Jawad, Maulana Syed Salman Nadwi etc. And this trend has just culminated now,” said a Muslim leader of BSP, who is incharge of Muslim affairs in West UP.
AMUSU is so vocal that its black sherwani-clad members are aggressively campaigning against “communal BJP and SP”. “Akhilesh government unleashed brutal lathicharge on us when we protested against the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmad last month. Besides, only Mayawati seems to adjust all sections of the society in proper proportion in her selection of candidates and she is the best choice for an efficient and tight administrator who will show no leniency to communalists and criminals,” said the union in its statement on Thursday.
There has been a general feeling among political analysts and commentators that majority of the Muslim votes is shifting towards SP-Congress alliance, especially in the last one month. And entry of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is also said to have eaten into anti-SP Muslim votes. But, Kubool Ahmed, a journalist travelling and in touch with the BSP leadership, says that there is an internal understanding between the MIM and BSP. “Look BSP candidates in Sambhal, Moradabad city, Hasanpur seem less enthisuiastic in their campaign because there is support for MIM candidates and they have deliberately turned cold. Similarly, in adjoining areas, MIM cadres are vigorously supporting BSP candidates,” he said.
But BSP leaders like Naseemuddin Siddiqi, Afzal Siddiqi and Munqad Ali denied any such tie-up with AIMIM and said that Muslim support for the party is natural and because of people’s anger against SP-Congress and BJP.
Nisar Siddiqi, a journalist touring West UP, said that he found SP-Congress alliance more suitably poised to be the first choice by Muslims, but BSP may gain from anger against incumbent SP MLAs in many areas. “There is sharp anger against SP MLAs like there is anger against Mehboob Ali in Amroha, Iqbal Mehmood in Sambhal and even against Azam Khan in Rampur and they are big fishes. If Muslims turn towards BSP in these areas, then BSP may sniff ballot breeze,” said Siddiqi.
Ankit Tiwari, a political analyst touring areas in Meerut, Saharanpur said that support for BSP is more visible in villages or semi-urban areas. “Earlier I used to see blue flags only on thatched houses (usually belonging to Dalits), now they are also visible on pucca houses (meaning upper caste or Muslim houses). BSP candidates are fighting. Support for BSP is visible,” he said. Kubool, who toured same areas, said that BSP is winning Behat and Deoband in Saharanpur, Meerut South, Sardhana, Siwalkhas and Meerut Cant in Meerut. “In 2012, BSP was zero in Meerut but now it is winning at least three seats here. Meerut is very important to make a wave in favour of any party. BSP is also winning Sikandarabad in Bulandshahr, Loni in Ghaziabad. This is my estimate,” he said.
Similarly, Ajmal Hasan, an activist from Barauli, Aligarh said that Thakur Jaiveer Singh of BSP has an edge over Thakur Dalveer Singh of BJP in the area. “Muslims, around 45,000, are all in favour of Jaiveer Singh, who is considered Muslim-friendly by even AMU fraternity,” he said.
In Rampur, the bastion of the SP, party’s Muslim mascot Azam Khan is not said to have a very strong position against his BSP rival Dr Tanveer Ahmad Khan. “If you witness the biggest upset of the election in Rampur, you must not be surprised. Similarly, his son Abdulah Azam is in tight fight against Nawab Kazim Ali Khan in Suar,” said Mumtaz Alam Rizwi and Afroz Alam, two journalists in the town covering the poll in the royal city. In 2012, Khan had won by 63,000 votes.
Intellectuals like Professor Vivek Kumar, Prof Asmer Beg, Prof Sudha Pai, Ajaj Ashraf have mixed views on Muslim support to BSP.
Prof Kumar analyses the arithmetic. “See out of 21% dalits, I see 10-12% moving to BSP. Apart from Jatavs, some Pasis, Dhobis and Balmikis may also move towards there. Muslims may go half (10%) to BSP and it makes a very winnable combination for BSP as other caste candidates fielded by the party will attract votes too and if the mood is in favour of the party, Brahmins and others may also choose it over others,” he said. But Prof Beg said that such calculation looks good on paper and Muslim votes may not go en bloc to any party and will likely be divided. Ajaj Ashraf too sees Muslims angry with BSP because it has appointed Jatavs on key party positions in all districts.
According to Sudha Pai, in West UP, especially in Jat belt, the communal polarisation has widened the gap between Dalits and Muslims as many Dalits have been named in FIRs filed by Muslims, leading to a rift between these two social sections. However, she sees triangular fight between the BJP, SP and BSP over OBC, Muslim and Dalit votes to gain momentum in the UP elections.