Having sealed a pre-poll alliance last month, Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) are wooing the sizeable Muslim-Jat vote bank in western Uttar Pradesh — which has 136 of the 403 assembly seats in the state — with gusto.
On December 12 last year, Congress enlisted five-time Lok Sabha MP Rasheed Masood, who was earlier with the Samajwadi Party (SP).
On Monday, the RLD took in Haji Yakub, a suspended Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA and former minister.
Wooing Muslims, RLD chief Ajit Singh is promising them 8% reservation within the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota if voted to power. Last month, the union cabinet had cleared a 4.5% sub-quota for minorities within the 27% OBC quota.
Both parties are making quota promises to Jats as well. According to sources in the RLD, Singh — while negotiating for the alliance — had sought a commitment from Congress for a Jat quota.
The Muslim population in western UP comprising 22 districts is estimated to be 25-35%.
More than 96% of the Jat population in the state is concentrated in a dozen districts of the region, where the RLD counts on a traditional vote bank. “The Congress-RLD alliance has the potential to make a clean sweep in the Muslim-Jat dominated districts,” said Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, a political science professor in Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.