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Owaisi in UP: Should SP, BSP, Congress worry about Muslim votes?

By Muhammad Mazhar Saleem
September 26, 2021 17:26 IST
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Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM, which is going to contest next year's Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls on the promise of creating leadership among Muslims, has created unease in the political parties that so far considered the members of the minority community as their core "vote bank".

 

Different castes, including Jatavs, Yadavs, Rajbhars and Nishads, which constitute a relatively small part of the population of Uttar Pradesh, more or less have their own leadership, but Muslims, who account for more than 19 per cent of the people in the state, do not see any united leadership.

So the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by Owaisi, wants to end the "slavery" of Muslims in the hands of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress, which had been using them as their "vote bank", according to the leaders of the party.

There are 82 Assembly segments in the state where Muslim voters are in a position to make or mar the political fortunes of the candidates.

Buoyed by winning five seats in last year's Bihar polls from the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region, which gave jitters to the RJD and the Congress, Owaisi has already announced that his party will field candidates in 100 of the 403 seats in the Uttar Pradesh election expected to be held early next year.

The Hyderabad MP launched his poll campaign from Ayodhya earlier this month and since then, has been addressing public meetings at different places.

AIMIM national spokesperson Syed Asim Waqar told PTI on Sunday that the main goal of the party is to create a political narrative and leadership among Muslims for the progress of the community and a better future.

"Even the so-called secular parties, which were getting the votes of the Muslims, never allowed a Muslim leadership to emerge. The report of the Sachar Committee has made out the condition in which the parties have pushed them to," he said.

The opinions of experts differ on whether Muslims, after the rise of Hindutva politics, have become aware enough to create their own acceptable leadership.

The SP and the BSP have accused Owaisi of serving the interest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by trying to divide Muslim votes and dismissed any possibility of the AIMIM having any impact in the country's political heartland.

Senior SP leader Abu Azmi discarded Owaisi as a "vote-katwa" (splitter of votes) who is acting on behalf of the BJP to damage the poll prospects of the Samajwadi Party.

State media coordinator of the Congress Lallan Kumar said Owaisi remembers Muslims only at the time of elections and claimed that the minority community has traditionally supported the grand old party.

However, political analyst Parvez Ahmed believes that this time, the "Owaisi factor" will definitely have an impact in Uttar Pradesh.

"The reason for this is that after the rise of hardline Hindutva politics in the country, a large section of Muslims has started to understand the importance of their separate leadership. The SP, the BSP and other parties that claim to be Muslim-friendly have been silent on the issues of Muslims.

"The idea is now gaining strength among Muslims that if it they do not have a leadership of their own, the atrocities against them will only increase," he said.

At this juncture, Owaisi is not the target of the BJP but of those parties that have so far been trying to get the votes of Muslims on the basis of their fear of the saffron party, Ahmed said.

He said another section of the Muslims also thinks what harm has the BJP done to them.

"The Muzaffarnagar riots, which left a mark of fear on the minds of Muslims, took place not during the BJP's rule but during the SP regime. During the regime of (Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath, there was no such riot in which Muslims were specifically targeted. The share of Muslims in government jobs in the state is less than two per cent, while the Congress and other non-BJP parties ruled the state for the longest time," Ahmed pointed out.

According to Census 2011 data, Muslims account for 19.26 per cent of the population in Uttar Pradesh.

They can play a decisive role in 82 of the state's 403 Assembly constituencies. Muslims constitute 50.57 per cent of the population in Rampur, 47.12 per cent in Moradabad, 43.04 per cent in Bijnor, 41.95 per cent in Saharanpur, 41.3 per cent in Muzaffarnagar, 40.78 per cent in Amroha and above 30 per cent in Balrampur, Azamgarh, Bareilly, Meerut, Bahraich, Gonda and Shravasti.

According to political analyst Rasheed Kidwai, the issue of giving leadership to Muslims has come up more or less in every election in Uttar Pradesh but never took off and the Muslims often voted for the SP and the BSP.

Owaisi's party will contest the Uttar Pradesh polls as part of the "Bhagadari Morcha" formed by Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) president Om Prakash Rajbhar.

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