The Muslim community’s plan to vote tactically to defeat the BJP seems to have gone haywire in 14 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh that went to the polls in the fourth of six phases in the state on Wednesday.
After the reported disarray among Muslim voters in the three previous rounds, the ulema (clerics) had issued appeals to the community to be cautious while voting.
Jamiat Ulema Hind president Maulana Arshad Madni called for unity in the community, emphasising that tactical voting be undertaken to “frustrate the designs of the communal forces”.
But reports from the 14 constituencies, especially Kanpur, Fatehpur, Barabanki, Jalaun and Sitapur indicated that there were sharp divisions in the community that could end up helping the BJP.
The confusion can also be attributed to the fact that almost all non-BJP parties garnered the support of one or the other cleric. While Delhi Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari openly urged Muslims to vote for the Congress, others worked quietly for inexplicable reasons.
Lucknow, which has a high concentration of nearly 4.5 lakh Muslims, forming nearly 25% of the city’s electorate of 18.5 lakh, was a test case on Wednesday. The entire exercise to prevent division of the community’s votes collapsed during the day as the Congress, Samajwadi Party and AAP succeeded in making dents into the minority vote bank.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) executive committee member and imam of the Lucknow Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Mahli, who was quite active in the community, blamed “Muslim leaders” for the division. “The lack of political vision and proper guidance” led to the division, he lamented.
There was utter confusion in the community over the winnability of a candidate from the ‘secular formation’. In previous elections, the Milli Council, the political wing of the AIMPLB, played a vital role in guiding the community about who to vote for on the basis of surveys from the ground. But this time no such exercise was conducted. “We stopped this exercise because of objections from various quarters in the community,” council member Zafaryab Jilani said, adding that “there were divisions today”.
Shia cleric Kalbe Jawad asked his community to vote against the Congress and his laudatory comments on BJP president Rajnath Singh created confusion. His rivals in the community, however, worked for the Congress.
Similar patterns emerged from Dhaurahra to Jhansi in Bundelkhand.