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AAP eyes Muslim votes to tilt the balance, Congress fears exodus of its vote bank

AAP eyes Muslim votes to tilt the balance, Congress fears exodus of its vote bank

In the last assembly election in 2013, the AAP managed to secure a chunk of Muslim votes in some constituencies. However, the Muslim votes stayed with Congress in that election.

New Delhi: Muslim votes have always played a big role in the outcome of Delhi elections. According to an estimate, 31 Assembly seats in Delhi have more than 10 per cent Muslim voters. Traditionally, Muslims have been voting for the Congress since Independence.

In the last assembly election in 2013, the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) managed to secure a chunk of Muslim votes in some constituencies. However by and large, the Muslim votes stayed with the Congress in that election.

While Congress candidates Chaudhary Mateen Ahmad from Seelampur, Asif Mohd Khan from Okhla, Hasan Ahmed from Mustafabad and Haroon Yusuf from Ballimaran won Muslim dominated seats, JDU candidate Shoib Iqbal won from the remaining Muslim dominated seat Matia Mahal in Old Delhi. The Congress also won Badli, Gandhinagar and Chandni Chowk where Muslims have a sizable population.

However, the equations seem to have changed this time. According to some Muslim leaders, the community is once again likely to back Congress candidates where the party has a chance. They might back AAP candidates in remaining seats, where they have a substantial number of votes to keep the BJP out.

Sharief, an auto driver from communally sensitive Trilokpuri assembly seat in East Delhi, said, "Last time we voted for the Congress. It lost. This time we are planning to back the AAP. If we still vote for the Congress, the BJP may win." He agrees that some Muslims may vote for the BJP, but most of them prefer the Congress, where the party has a winning chance and are expected to back the AAP in remaining seats.

Congress has fielded six Muslim candidates while AAP has given tickets to five Muslim candidates and the BJP has fielded just one Muslim candidate.

According to a national leader of the BJP, the atmosphere has been polarised by the Congress and the AAP. He said, "We are not against the Muslims. If they want good governance, they should vote for us. The AAP is fooling them and the Congress is still playing vote bank politics."

The BJP welcomed a prominent Muslim face and former AAP leader Shazia Ilmi into the party recently. Another important Muslim face from Delhi is Union Minorities Affairs Minister Dr Najma Heftullah. Delhi BJP minority wing is headed by Atif Mohammed and it claims to have enrolled over 1 lakh new Muslim voters ahead of the election.

The most prominent Muslim face of Delhi politics, Haroon Yusuf, claims that Muslims will not vote for the AAP or the BJP. He said, "Muslims know that AAP and BJP are the same. The AAP is spreading rumours that Muslims are leaving the Congress. It is totally baseless."

He also claims that Muslims are unlikely to vote for the BJP as long as it is headed by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and comes out clean on its RSS agenda.

According to a local Muslim leader, the area heads of the community decide who should the Muslims back and normally the decisions are taken closer to the polling after carefully studying the voting pattern in each seat. The Imam of Jama Masjid Bukhari also claims that community elders take the decision.

Qadir, a mechanic in old Delhi's Ballimaran, does not agree with this. He says that not every Muslim goes by what his or her community leaders say. He said, "We too have our own choices. I don't know, if my vote counts or not. But, I vote for the best among all candidates."

The Congress which is staring at yet another humiliating defeat in the Assembly election is trying its best to keep Muslim votes intact in its strongholds.

The AAP is trying to woo Muslims in other constituencies, where they are more than 10 per cent in number. The AAP is hopeful of winning these seats with the backing of the lower class, Dalits and Muslim voters. In more than a dozen seats, this combination can tilt the election results in AAP's favour.

Seelampur in East Delhi has the highest number of Muslim voters. According to a report, it has over 50 per cent Muslim voters. Last time, Mateen Ahmed of the Congress won from this very backward seat.

Matia Mahal in Old Delhi is another interesting seat. It has almost 48 per cent Muslim voters. Its MLA Shoib Iqbal is contesting on the Congress ticket. Since 1993, he has not lost a single election. A frequent party-hopper, Iqbal earlier won on JD, JDS, LJP and JDU tickets.

Okhla which elected Congress candidate Mohammad Asif has 43 per cent Muslim votes. Jamia Nagar comes under this seat. Ballimaran, the stronghold of Haroon Yusuf, has almost 38 per cent Muslim votes. Mustafabad won by the Congress last time has over 35 per cent Muslim votes.

Percentage of Muslim votes in other seats:

Babarpur - 35 per cent

Kirari - 30 per cent

Seemapuri - 25 per cent

Gandhi Nagar - 22 per cent

Chandni Chowk 20 per cent

Vikaspuri 20 per cent

Karawal Nagar 20 per cent

Trilokpuri - 18 per cent

Adarsh Nagar, Badli, Mundka, Sadar Bazar, Patel Nagar, Uttam Nagar, Jungpura, Malviya Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Badarpur, Kondli, Laxmi Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Shahdara, Rohtash Nagar, Ghonda and Gokulpuri have more than 10 per cent Muslim votes.