On Tuesday, Mumbaikars witnessed the first clash for Muslim votes in the city with a terrible traffic day – policemen were out on the streets to prevent a Mulayam Singh Yadav led Samajwadi Party’s rally at Shivaji Park. With BMC elections round the corner, the battle for the minority votes has just begun.
All parties including Congress and Nationalist Congress party (NCP) have started gearing up for the 25-30 per cent Muslim vote in the city. The vote bank translates to directly influencing 50–60 seats out 227 in the cash rich civic corporation with around Rs 7,000 crore budget.
The neck and neck fight between Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP with other factors like Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Samajwadi Party means any small quantity of loyal votes can tilt the balance of power between Congress led alliance or the saffron combine.
Little wonder then Samajwadi Party was first to score with its announcement of a rally at the Shivaji Park—a traditional spot in Mumbai to show that a party has following in State’s capital.
Post-Malegaon blasts where Congress was at a receiving end, Samajwadi Party has smelt an opportunity play a crucial role in Mumbai.
In fact, this is not the first time that SP has played up the card of being the saviour of the Muslims. Post 1993 blasts in the city, SP’s state pointsman Abu Azmi managed to get a foothold in the corporation by cashing in on this anti-government, unsafe for Muslims’ plank. He is perhaps keen on a similar re-run in the 2007 elections.
The Congress and NCP have been anticipating this. NCP perhaps laid down the brass tracks when the party anointed Muslim leader and former minister Nawab Malik as the city’s working president. Malik was accommodated along with the existing city president Sachin Ahir.
Congress is likely to use the Sachar Committee report to woo Muslims. Party leader and legislator from Kurla, Nassem Khan has found a cause in pushing the implementation of the Justice Rajinder Sachar report on Muslims.
On Tuesday, he dashed off letters to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi urging them to implement the report at the earliest. Khan said, "Implementation of the report is necessary for the upliftment of the minorities."