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More Than Minority Votes, Did Congress's Imran Masood Force SP-BSP to Hold First Joint Rally in Deoband?

Imran Masood is being seen as a tough contender against BJP and BSP-SP joint candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman. The motive of the Deoband rally will be to prevent the exodus of minority votes to Congress kitty.

News18.com

Updated:April 7, 2019, 8:10 AM IST
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More Than Minority Votes, Did Congress's Imran Masood Force SP-BSP to Hold First Joint Rally in Deoband?
File photo of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav.

New Delhi: Deoband, the land of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom, is set to witness a high-voltage campaign on Sunday with foe-turned-friends holding their first joint rally in the area. The public meeting by BSP chief Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav comes just four days ahead of the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11.

Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh and vice-president Jayant Chaudhary are also expected to attend the rally, which is scheduled to be held near Jamia Tibbiya Medical College in the town.

This Muslim-dominated area is one of the five Assembly segments of the Saharanpur parliamentary constituency in western UP, with four others being Behat, Saharanpur, Saharanpur Dehat and Rampur Maniharan.

Although the choice of the location for the first SP-BSP rally might raise questions, Deoband's selection is more to do with local factors of Sahranpur. Congress's Imran Masood is being seen as a tough contender against BJP and BSP-SP joint candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman. The motive of the Deoband rally will be to prevent the exodus of minority votes to the Congress kitty.

In 2014, Imran Masood got 4.07 lakh votes, but lost to MP Raghav Lakhanpal by 66,000 votes. This time, there's clearly a three-way fight, with chances of votes getting split are very high.

The Saharanpur parliamentary constituency has nearly 40% Muslim voters, many of whom have been averse to the BJP ever since the 2017 violence — one of which took place during Lakhanpal's procession. On April 20 that year, Dalits and Muslims in one locality of the district had clashed over an Ambedkar Jayanti procession led by the BJP MP that reportedly did not have police permission.

Besides the anger against BJP, division within the Muslim community can also play a significant role. For instance, Gaddas and Qureshis, who comprise a significant number of the minority community in Saharanpur, are said to be favouring BSP candidate Rehman.

Apart from Muslims, Saharanpur has a large concentration of Jatavs, who have been traditional BSP voters.

Hence, keeping in mind the strong vote base and a focus on retaining it, the alliance partners may have chosen Deoband for their first rally. But will the Opposition's strategy pay dividends?

A lot will depend on how much influence the parties are able to cast on the minority voters, especially on the Jats and Gurjars which constitute a considerable chunk of OBC votes in the constituency.

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| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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