The Mahagathbandhan achievement: Six Muslim MPs elected to Lok Sabha
MORADABAD (UP): It is Ramzan and the old part of Moradabad city in is bustling. While many people are out to offer namaz at a nearby mosque, others are returning home and picking up things from the bazaar.
Naushad Hussain, a shopkeeper in Sambhali Gate, is upbeat but not just because of the festive season.
“If Modi is indeed so popular, why did he lose all the seats here? Now we have our own voice. Can Modi ji take this away from us?” he says.
Hathi, lathi aur saat-sau chhiasi (elephant, stick and 786) was the opposition alliance’s rallying cry for the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. The elephant symbolised BSP or the dalits, the stick meant SP or the Yadavs and 786 the holy number of the Muslims.
Indeed, in a state with 21% dalits, 9% Yadavs and 18.5% Muslims, this was supposed to be a winning formula.
Yet, even after the formula failed to factor in the pro-Modi undercurrent (with BJP and allies winning 64 of the 80 seats in UP), six of the 10 Muslim candidates who contested for the Mahagatbandhan won. Thus ended five years of political isolation of UP’s Muslims since no one from the minority community could bag a Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 elections (except for last year, when Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Tabassum Hasan won the Kairana bypoll).
The Moradabad division in western UP was the lucky patch for SP and BSP in these elections. All Lok Sabha seats in this division — Amroha, Rampur, Sambhal and Moradabad (each with more than 35% Muslims) — went to the Mahagatbandhan. “There was a clear consolidation of dalit and Muslim voters. They understood how the BJP divides and wins,” says ST Hasan, Moradabad’s new MP, who is also a physician.
SP state president Naresh Uttam feels Muslims are of the same ideology as the SP and the BSP. “We gave due representation [in tickets] to all communities. But the strike rate was more for such [Muslim] candidates because of [Muslim] voters’ reluctance to vote for BJP.” Making up 18.5% of the state’s population, Muslims, till the last Lok Sabha election in 2014, used to play a dominant role in nearly 30 constituencies of UP — most of them in western and central regions.
However, in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, national and even regional parties refrained from giving a lot of tickets to Muslims to avoid polarisation of votes.
SP-BSP, which gave tickets to 10 Muslims this time, had fielded 33 Muslim candidates (BSP 19 & SP 14) in the last general elections.
The Congress, which contested on 70 seats this time, had eight Muslim candidates. None won. Muslim clerics also point towards a shift in how political parties look at people from the community as winnable candidates. “Compared to elections in the past, less number of Muslims were given tickets. Their issues were ignored,” says Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahli, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
The BJP, on the other hand, remained consistent in avoiding giving tickets to Muslims in UP arguing that the party did not follow the policy of appeasement and selected candidates on their winnability factor. “Our message is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’.
We do not look at one’s religion while passing on benefits of any scheme unlike other parties who feed on them for electoral gains,” says Keshav Prasad Maurya, UP’s deputy chief minister.
Most people from the Muslim community in UP this reporter spoke to feel they would rather wait and watch than take at face value PM Modi’s post-poll promise to run a government based on inclusiveness. “No vikas is possible without sabka saath. If Modi is truly the leader of all Indians, he must reach out to all and be sabka leader,” says Danish Ali, the new Amroha MP.
Compared to the last Lok Sabha, the number of Muslim MPs in the House has risen by four to 27, their constituencies making up 4.8% of the country’s total population.
In UP’s Ghazipur where BJP’s Manoj Sinha lost, winner Afzal Ansari of the BSP claimed only a small part of the constituency’s 3 lakh Muslim voters supported him. “I received only 65,000 [Muslim] votes. Rest of the five lakh votes I polled are from other communities,” he says.
He then adds: “The PM has talked about taking all sections along. It remains to be seen how much of it happens in terms of actions.”
But scholars point towards two issues behind the unwillingness of political parties to field more Muslims: lack of grassroots workers and few pan-India unifying figures.
“National parties must give due representation but the problem also lies within. There are no grassroots Muslim political workers in UP or leaders who have mass appeal,” says Abdulrahim P Vijapur, a political science professor at Aligarh Muslim University.
Courtesy : The Economic Times