All eyes on the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh
By Rizwan Khatik - Wed Jan 18, 2:17 pm
LUCKNOW: The battle for Muslim votes is getting fiercer by the day in UP. All major parties, barring the BJP, are trying to come out with the best strategy to win over minority voters who have the power to influence results in over 130 seats.
But BJP, too, is interested in this multi-corner contest for Muslim votes. If this leads to a polarization on communal lines, it would be the party to benefit the most.
Congress has taken the lead announcing 4.5% minority quota and promising to make it 9% if voted to power, SP has announced an 18% quota for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes.
The BSP has not made any promise, but has given tickets to 84 Muslims (21% of the total 403 candidates), highest in comparison to the Congress’s (61) and SP’s (75), indicating it would give more representation to Muslims if it forms government.
This has given a fresh lease of life to BJP. The party is using the minority quota issue to polarize votes on communal lines. The attempt is to woo Hindu backward classes whose share in the OBC quota has shrunk because of the 4.5% minority quota.
“Congress is desperate to gain in UP because on it will depend the prime ministership of Rahul Gandhi. He has gone all out to woo Muslims. I would say the party is brazenly wooing one community. This is obviously a cause for concern for both BSP and SP. SP is more worried because its existence is based on the Muslim-Yadav combination, whereas BSP has an advantage of dalit support. Even a small percentage of Muslim votes will be enough for BSP which is also targeting other castes, particularly Brahmins,” said analyst JP Shukla.
For BJP, he said, the issue is a blessing in disguise. “It is clear from Nitin Gadkari’s statement that the party would try its best to polarize Hindu OBCs,” he added. “Muslims already figure in the OBC list for 27% reservation. Fixing of 4.5% minority quota under OBC quota would squeeze the space for dominant OBCs like Yadavs and Kurmis,” he added.Muslims constitute 18% of UP’s population and can tilt the balance in around 130 out of 403 assembly seats. The desperation to win Muslim votes can be gauged from the way parties are digging up old issues like the Batla House encounter and Salman Rushdie.
BSP, though, has remained silent. Its supremo Mayawati was the first one to raise the issue in September last year by writing to the PM asking for a constitutional amendment to provide quota to dalit Muslims. Smaller parties have asked for quotas for dalit Muslims besides separate quota under OBC category.