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Preparing for 2019, UP Muslims Now See Their Future Tied to Alliances

Muslims in UP are like a puzzle that all parties try to analyse and understand, mostly around elections. Which way will they vote? Which candidates will they support? Whose bidding will they do? Will they vote as a bloc? Will they vote individually? Will they be swayed by blandishments? Will they be influenced by local clerics? Questions upon questions stack up without any answers.

Rakesh Bedi | CNN-News18

Updated:February 21, 2017, 6:27 PM IST
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Preparing for 2019, UP Muslims Now See Their Future Tied to Alliances
The graphic shows a maze and tries to hint at the puzzle around the Muslim voting behaviour. (Network18 creative)

Muslims in UP are like a puzzle that all parties try to analyse and understand, mostly around elections. Which way will they vote? Which candidates will they support? Whose bidding will they do? Will they vote as a bloc? Will they vote individually? Will they be swayed by blandishments? Will they be influenced by local clerics? Questions upon questions stack up without any answers.

Parties which claim they have understood the Muslim conundrum or solved the puzzle are either blatantly lying or living in outlandish reality or, plainly, do not know what they are talking about or are completely removed from the thrust-and-parry of Indian politics.

In 2017, however, Muslims in UP are clearly sending a signal that they as a community will vote for alliances they think can defeat BJP. In this Assembly elections, their vote is largely for the alliance the Samajwadi Party (under Akhilesh Yadav) has forged with Rahul Gandhi's Congress. Muslims from Azamgarh to Jaunpur to Gorakhpur are speaking in one voice on this move by the community.

"We know it is difficult to defeat the BJP; a single party can't do it alone. So, we have decided to support alliances because they are obviously in a better position to fight the saffron party," a Muslim professor said in Azamgarh.

What this move by a community, which forms a substantial chunk of UP's population, entails for politics in the state, this election and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will tell. Obviously, the Bihar experiment, where bitter enemies Nitish and Lalu decided to forget their cantankerous past and forged a successful relationship to fight the BJP, has enabled Muslims to take the same step in Uttar Pradesh. Now, if the community decides to go with the same strategy in 2019, there will be some realignments in the politics of the country.

Even individual Muslims, who are shy of expressing their political opinion to strangers, also agree that alliances are the best way forward to battle it out with a "Hindu" party like the BJP. On the road from Azamgarh to Gorakhpur, many skullcap-wearing Muslims said the same thing. They said Mayawati has strengths and some of her Muslim candidates are also superb, but the numbers favour the alliance. "So we shall vote for it," a group of middle-aged Muslims crowded around a ramshackle mosque said in unison.

Mayawati has always protected us, did things for us, but we are influenced by the success of what Nitish and Lalu together did in Bihar, they said. "We hope Akhilesh and Rahul can pull it off," they said again in one voice.

The road from Banaras to Azamgarh is completely cratered and clearly shows, in its utter depletion, that the prime minister's grand plans to lift Banaras and its surrounding areas out of hellish misery and deprivation have not taken off.

Some election promises are never realised, but Modi's popularity in these areas hasn't come down even a notch. Muslims are aware of this and know and understand that BJP under Modi stands a good chance of coming back for another five years in 2019. So, with this fear in mind, they have begun to root for alliances that they think have the potential to stop the growth of BJP in its tracks and stop it from taking another five-year term in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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