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Muslim outfits to test electoral fortunes in UP polls

By Abhinav Pandey in Lucknow
March 16, 2009 13:56 IST
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In an apparent bid to cash in on the Muslim vote bank, a number of outfits representing the community in Uttar Pradesh have decided to field candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. Projecting them as the the "real" well wishers of the minorities, these organisations have already announced their candidates.

Out of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, the population of Muslim voters is about 20 per cent in 17 of them, mostly in western UP districts including Muzaffarnagar, Amroha and Moradabad. In eastern Uttar Pradesh, the community plays a decisive role in constituencies of Azamgarh, Bahraich, Gonda, Srawasti, Varanasi and Duamariaganj.

Considering this fact, the Ulema Council, which came into existence after 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has announced  its decision to contest from more than a dozen Lok Sabha seats in the state including the Congress strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi. The council, which has its roots in Azamgarh and had first raised the issue of atrocities on "innocent Muslim youths" of the district by the police, is all set to make this its poll plank. "Muslims will vote for our candidates. The community has realised that political parties are using them as a vote bank only," Amir Rashadi Madani, coordinator of Ulema Council, had said recently.

Following its footsteps, another organisation Peace Party too has announced to contest Lok Sabha elections on 30 seats. While the party plans to field Muslim candidates on 10 seats, it is still looking for non-Muslim candidates on remaining 20 seats. "We have to take all castes toghether to make a mark in elections. Besides Muslims, we will also be fielding candidates of other castes too," Peace Party leader Arshad said.

The Party too had organised a rally in the state capital to show its strength. While the Council and Peace Party have decided to contest on their own, three others parties have forged an alliance-Milli Mahaj with a similar objective. The alliance which was announced on February 23 comprises Muslim Majlis, Parcham Party and National Loktantrik Party. Mahaj, which has announced its candidate for Lucknow seat, while claiming that a few more like-minded organisations would join the alliance, said that it would declare its candidates on other seats soon.

Other than Muslims, the alliance is concentrating on mobilising most backwards and Dalits in its favour, its leaders claim. Another organisation All India Muslim Forum has also joined the bandwagon by announcing a candidate for Chandauli parliamentary constituency.

An old organisation of Muslims, Jamiat-ul-Ulema is on the verge of a split ahead of polls. While one section of the organisation is being commanded by Maulana Mehmood Madani, who is also a sitting MP of Rashtriya Lok Dal, another section is being headed by his uncle Maulana Arshad Madani. Taking a lead, Arshad Madani organised an anti-terrorsim convention in the state capital, where he shared the dais with UP Congress president Reeta Bahuguna Joshi. However, it has not declared any candidates so far and is looking for options.

Unlike previous elections, when Muslim organisations had been concentrating mainly on the community votes, organisations, which are in fray this time are "disseminating" a message of unity and secularism among the community people. For example Ulema Council has named a Hindu candidate Amrish Mishra from Lucknow parliamentary constituency. Mishra, who is making a debut in the electoral politics, is a follower of a Ayodhya-based mahant.

Similarly, the Council has fielded two Dalits Sohan Ram and Chandra Ram Saroj from Machlishahar and Lalganj respectively. Asked about the prospects of the Muslim outfit, All India Muslim Morcha President M A Siddiqi said "formation of outfits claiming themselves to be real well wishers of Muslims ahead of polls has become a routine practice in the state". "In the last assembly polls, United Democratic Front and Peoples Democratic Front were formed but they failed to make any impact in state politics," he added.
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Abhinav Pandey in Lucknow
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