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|September 17, 1999||
Aligarh mufti gives Congress a morale booster
Onkar Singh in Aligarh
The mufti of Aligarh's Shahi Masjid, M Irfan, today issued a fatwa (edict) in favour of the Congress and asked all Muslims in Aligarh and other parts of Uttar Pradesh to vote for the party.
Aligarh, which has more than 48 per cent Muslims in a total electorate of 1.25 million, goes to the polls tomorrow.
Sheila Gautam of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who represented the constituency in the twelfth Lok Sabha, is facing a stiff fight this time from Sunil Singh of the Samajwadi Party, Usha Tomar of the Congress and Sushil Singh Baghel of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
According to Manoranjan Chandra, a Bengali settled in Aligarh, "The contest this time is tough and no one will be able to predict the outcome. The campaign had been rather low-key and there is no party which can claim to have an edge over its rivals."
But Anil Kumar, who runs a public call office on the Grand Trunk Road, does not agree with this assessment. "How can someone say no party is leading? The BJP is clearly winning this seat," he insists. "The caste factors favour the BJP. Lodhs, the community of Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, will vote en bloc for the BJP. Besides, Kalyan Singh's Attroli constituency falls in Aligarh parliamentary constituency and hence this seat is of great importance to him. His son Rajbir Singh is personally looking after Sheila Gautam's campaign. So there is no question of any other party winning this seat," he argues.
But supporters of Sunil Singh claim that this time around there is no contest and their candidate will win hands down. "We are going to snatch the seat from the BJP. It is our seat and it will come to us," they say.
Though the Congress workers are not making any such claims, they feel the Muslims will largely vote for their candidate. And the mufti's edict has come as a major morale booster.
The edict is expected to swing a big chunk of Muslim votes to Tomar. Two days ago, the state administration refused to allow Congress president Sonia Gandhi to hold a rally in the city, but the sympathies of the minority communities are with her. "Yesterday, a delegation from the Aligarh Muslim University went to the AICC in New Delhi and submitted a memorandum seeking protection for the minorities," said Mohammad Miraj and Javed Akhtar, students of the AMU.
Explaining why Muslims are against Mulayam Singh Yadav this time, they said the Samajwadi Party chief is being held responsible for the present election. Muslims believe that if Yadav had "behaved properly" and allowed the Congress to form an alternate government, the election would not have been necessitated in the first place.
"Secondly, we think that if the Congress comes to power, even if it does not enhance our cause, it will not damage it. Now we, the students of AMU, feel disgusted because over 25,000 students have no voting rights in the campus. In fact, on the day of the poll, the AMU is virtually sealed so that they cannot influence Muslim voters one way or the other," they said.
Both District Magistrate Kishan Singh and Senior Superintendent of Police P K Joshi were not available to contradict this statement.
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