As the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, the politics of Muslim vote bank has once again hot up in the Indian heartland of Uttar Pradesh where majority of the Muslim population resides. There are 19 per cent Muslim voters spread over 27 districts out of 71 districts in the state.
Uttar Pradesh has 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, the highest number in the country. In 34 Lok Sabha seats Muslims are in a position to decide the fate of the candidates. They are in numerical majority in 24 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Yet only 8 Muslims were elected to the Lok Sabha in the last elections from Uttar Praesh. No party may like to address this demand of democracy, yet all abide by the rules that democracy is all about number game, where majority rules.
There are four formations that has substantial political reckoning in the state. The Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samaj party are fighting for number one position. The BJP stands on number three, while the Congress is a distant fourth. The left the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Ajit Singh and few other fringe parties have some presence in this state.
Uttar Pradesh has seen a sharp polarization of politics on religious lines centering on the issues related to Ram Janm bhoomi in Ayodhya. The state has also seen polarization of politics on caste lines in wake of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report that recommended reservations for the other backward classes.
While the Ayodhya event triggered the Hindu sentiments and catapulted the BJP to the centre stage of Indian politics, the Mandal recommendations brought the Samajwadi party and the Bahujan Samaj party to the forefront of UP politics.
The BJP went on with its religious campaign to enlist the Hindu vote bank, the Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj parties competed with each other for the Muslim and backward caste vote bank. Both the parties also tried to outflank each other with promises of protectors of Muslims interests. Muslims thus have been natural ally of both the camps.
They had the first shock when the Bahujan Samaj Party aligned with the BJP to form the government in the state. It’s another matter in 1995 that the BSP ditched the BJP when it came to hand over the power. Since then three times the two parties have come together to assume power in the state.
Muslims as a result had special liking for the Samajwadi party because of its ‘don’t touch BJP’ stand. However, they got a shock when this party inducted the former BJP leader and Chief Minister Kalyan Singh into its fold. Kalyan Singh happens to be the architect of the demolition of the Babari Masjid and Muslims find to reconcile with such crude realities of politics.
Ever since then Samajwadi party’s relationship with Muslims have become tenuous. The party’s show boy and one of its founder leader; Azam Khan is on warpath against the induction of Kalyan Singh into the party.
Azam Khan is a rare breed of orator on the Uttar Pradesh political scene. He has the gift of the gab and can pierce into the heart of vast multitude by the sheer theatrics of his oratory skills. He commands a huge following and his dissent reflects the popular expression of his constituency.
There is no denying of the fact that the Samajwadi party stands on the crunches of the Muslim vote bank. It will be a disaster for the party if its Muslim show boy walks out of its ramp. The party has already lost Sahid Sidqui, its English speaking face on national televisions, who went on to join the Bahujan Samaj party.
It looks Mulayam Singh Yadav has to decide between the rock and hard surface. If he keeps Klyan Singh, he may loose Azam Khan and if he pushes Klyan Singh out it would be a breach of trust. So the entire energy of the Samajwadi party is to make Azam Khan and Kalyan Singh cohabit in the party. Mulayam Singh is holding parleys with Azam Khan to bend his stand and once again take part in this ‘reality show.’
Azam Khan has few other issues with the party. He is upset about the party’s nomination of actress Jayapradha from his home turf Rampur. He also has problems with party’s spokesperson Amar Singh who has taken control of the party and dominating all its important decision.
Amar Singh image is that of a bourgeoisie’s representative in the party of backwards. He seems more found of actor and actresses, industrialists and financers rather than the core constituency that forms the political base of the party.
The chanakya of the Samajwadi party is busy right now to package the unholy alliance with Kalyan Singh. He is trying to get endorsements from mosques, madarsas, darghas and religious seminaries. He is also making rounds to other contractors of Muslim vote bank to keep the party’s electoral base intact. He is confident of his managerial skills as he chuckles; Mein hoon na- I am there.
The most important point of this story is who speaks on behalf of Muslims. What kind of people is leading this community? If we go by the media projection, then there are three kinds of people that are projected as the leaders of the community. One the clerics, other the show boys that dot every party, and third Muslim non-believers that stand at the opposite fringe and are critical of their religion.
It’s often asked where are the moderate Muslims, why are they not consulted in important matters, why only a myopic picture is presented of such an important community, is there a conspiracy going on?
Notwithstanding the facts, the 15th Lok Sabha elections provide one great opportunity to silence the voices that are misleading the community. There has been slow but gradual awareness about the citizenship rights and the importance of the general elections. It’s time the moderate voices to turn out in large numbers and assert their identity. This alone can change the image of the community. The election results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections are eagerly awaited to know if this is happening.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org