Lucknow, April 9:
Muslims have a sizeable presence in the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh that go to polls Thursday. The region has been polarised following the September 2013 riots.
The population of Muslims varies between 19 and 48 percent in the 10 constituencies spread across 13 districts in the western region of the state.
Old timers in the region fear that the polling April 10 “would strongly be on communal lines”.
Umara Warsi, a student at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), regrets that while new-age voters like her would like to “hear more about development, economy and jobs”, all that they have so far have been hearing are communal rantings.
“I simply do not understand what and why should your birth be so important while voting,” she asks matter-of-factly.
Avnish Tyagi, a businessman in Saharanpur, however, justifies the “surge of sentiments on caste lines”.
The Congress is trying to win back the Muslim community by its talk of pro-minority welfare schemes set rolling by the UPA government at the centre and is also advocating among Muslims the need for “collective voting”.
A senior leader says the Congress is trying to hardsell its good work in fields like health, education and other minority welfare schemes.
“It is tough but we are hopeful,” says a senior party functionary.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Uttar Pradesh Umesh Sinha said the Election Commission is seized of the situation in western UP and assures that the poll panel will ensure free and fair polls in the region.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is trying to win back the Muslim votes, citing the Muzaffarnagar riots.
BSP supremo Mayawati planned more than seven public rallies in the region before the polling day.
Invoking the fear of Modi becoming the prime minister, Mayawati has been telling large crowds that Modi’s ascendance to the Delhi throne would mean riots all across the country.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) on its part has pulled out all stops to win over the sullen minorities and has been talking of a bouquet of welfare schemes and measures taken by the Akhilesh Yadav government to benefit them.
Both Mulayam Singh Yadav and his chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav have been warning the minority voters of the fallout of a BJP victory in the state.
“This is a party which fools people by tall promises and spews communal venom,” Mulayam Singh Yadav recently told supporters at an election rally.
The BJP on its part is banking heavily on the simmering discontent among Jats and other communities who accuse the Samajwadi Party government of “victimizing” them post-September communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.
Whether the contradictory pulls and warnings of the political parties sway the Muslim votes remains to be seen.