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Muslims will decide the outcome in 38 seats
Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore | May 07, 2008 16:33 IST
Last Updated: May 07, 2008 17:20 IST
The most Muslim voters are in Bangalore's Saravananagar constituency. Nearly a third of the 300,000 voters in this constituency are Muslim.
Janata Dal-Secular leader Abdul Azeem says Pulakeshinagar, Shivajinagar, Jayanagar and Padmanabhanagar constituencies in Bangalore have major Muslim concentrations. Tumkur, Raichur, Bidar, Bijapur and Gulbarga are the other Muslim-dominated constituencies in the state.
Both the Congress and JD-S parties have fielded Muslim candidates in these constituencies.
Congress leaders say fielding a Muslim candidate is not sufficient and that Muslim votes will come the party's way only if the community's welfare is taken care of. The Congress election manifesto mentions the implementation of the Rajinder Sachar Committee report, 100,000 houses to be constructed under the Tipu Sultan Housing Scheme, Maulana Azad residential schools in all districts and celebration of the Khwaja Bande Nawaz festival in Gulbarga on the lines of the state's famed Dassera event.
The JD-S promises it will implement the Sachar Committee report in the state. The party also promises to constitute a special cell to implement the Karnataka State Minority Commission report. Peshimams and muezzins, its manifesto notes, will get a monthly pension of Rs 500 after retirement, an Urdu Bhavan will be named after Tipu Sultan and mandatory appointment of police officers belonging to the minority community.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has not fielded a single Muslim candidate, only states in its manifesto that it will improve the quality of education in Urdu schools.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani defends the decision not to field a Muslim candidate, saying the party has nothing against the community. "It is just that we did not find a suitable leader," he told a press conference last week. He feels Muslims are fed up of being used as vote banks especially by the Congress and hence there is a gradual shift in their voting pattern.
Until 15 years ago, the Congress walked away with most of the Muslim votes. With the JD-S portraying itself as a secular party, at least 40 per cent of Muslim votes have swung in its favour.
Former Congress chief minister Veerappa Moily told rediff.com a couple of days ago that his party was defeated in the 2004 assembly election as the Muslims did not vote in its favour. He believes this was largely because of the handling of the Datta Peeta issue. Muslim voters, he says, felt the Congress had not taken a firm stand on the issue.
The JD-S is aware that the issue is a sensitive one and the best way to capitalise on it is promising that the party will resolve the dispute if it is voted to power.
Congress leaders hope that Muslim voters in Karnataka will bear in mind that the JD-S aligned with the BJP to form a coalition government, the collapse of which brought about this assembly election.