Lucknow: Muslim voters, who account for nearly 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population, can make or mar the electoral prospects of key political parties vying for the top slot in the upcoming Assembly elections.
While divided Muslim votes translate to gains for BJP, a consolidation will change the poll arithmetic as minorities play a crucial role in at least 125 of 403 constituencies, which will go to polls in early 2017.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to revoke expulsion of his estranged cousin and senior party leader Ram Gopal Yadav might once again bring the political spotlight back on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
As ruling SP grappled with internal feud, BSP supremo Mayawati sought to fish in troubled waters, seeking to drive a wedge in SP camp to wean away the crucial Muslim vote bank.
Muslims are considered the traditional votebank of the ruling Samajwadi Party and the concern over SP family feud has been voiced by several top clerics including, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid and Maulana Salman Nadvi of Lucknow-based Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama.
These leaders gave a blunt message to SP chief that their votes would end up with BSP if the internecine war in his party did not end.
Even a few days back, the competition seemed even the SP was battling a damaging power struggle, BSP had been hit by desertions and Congress despite a month-long campaign to woo farmers was still struggling to be taken seriously.
But, the revocation of Ram Gopal’s suspension gave a new dimension to the highly surcharged pre-poll scenario.
Mayawati termed Ram Gopal’s reinstatement as a “drama” to cover up the existing bitterness between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal.
Political analysts say the development could drive the BSP supremo to think of a fresh strategy, especially in the communally sensitive western UP, where she anticipates a keen contest with BJP. So far, she has been harping on the feud in SP to caution Muslims “not to waste their votes”.