When Darul Uloom, Deoband, Islamic seminary at saharanpur, demanded ban on the visit of Salman Rushdie in Jaipur Literature Festival, it lit the faces of many Muslim leaders in poll bound state.
It was anticipated that Darul's demand would have major effect in the region that will go for poll on February 28 and Rushdie episode along with 4.5% quota to Muslims will be covertly used as a tool to polarize Muslim voters in favour of Congress-RLD alliance.
Rushdie cancelled his visit for security reasons but it has given sufficient political ammunition to the leaders of this poll bound region, where majority of assembly seats are dominated by Muslim voters so the seven constituencies of the native district of Darul Uloom.
These constituencies, however, have hogged the limelight soon after Congress decided to bank upon the political acumen of Kazi Rasheed Masood.
Interestingly Kazi had been the flag holder of anti-Congress politics for long 35 years and he joined Congress a few months back after splitting from Samajwadi Party.
Ignoring his entire cadre in the district, the party gave tickets to Kazi's men in all seven constituency. It drew a quick reaction when party's stalwart Gujar leader Yashpal Singh parted his ways and joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav to teach the congress and Kazi a lesson. Besides Muslims the region has sizable population of Gujar, Saini, upper caste and dalit voters.
Those party leaders who were preparing for elections for years also got disappointed and raised questions over the total surrender before Kazi. "This was not the way to run a party like Congress," commented Isham Singh, former MP and dalit leader, who joined Congress after parting his ways with Mayawati.
Sources say anger is brewing inside the party cadre which will go against the party in coming poll. Party`s former MLA Surendra Kapil also believes "it will demorlise the lower cadre of party workers".
Unfazed by his criticism Kazi is confident of winning all seven seats of the district clarifying he is aware about the activities of those who failed to get the tickets. "We are keeping a close eye on their activities," said Kazi mincing no words in admitting that he has been trying to adjust himself in his new political outfit.
Declaring Rushdie episode a religious matter, Kazi, however, demanded for a strong law in the country against blasphemy. "It will help us in keeping a check on those who don`t care for religious `sentiments of people", he clarified. It was Kazi who accompanied Mulayam Singh when the latter visited Darul Uloom in ahead of previous Lok Sabha election in a bid to seek the blessings of the Maulananas of the seminary.
An exporter of the town, Abdur Rehman, however, has doubts over the political abilities of Kazi. "I doubt that he would bring fortunes for his new party when he failed to do so for SP."
Describing the 4.5% quota for Muslims in OBC quota simply and eyewash to lure Muslims the entrepreneur insisted "if he (Kazi) was really concerned for the welfare of Muslims then he should ensure quota for his clansmen in education".
Kazi's call to ensure defeat for all Msulim candidates of Samajawadi Party also has not gone well down in Muslims who had supported Mulayam Singh Yadav in previous elections.
After delimitation, 74 assembly constituencies across the state (majority of them are in western UP) have more than 30% Muslims voters while in 70 constituencies their percentage varies between 20 to 29. Mulayam had enjoyed an overwhelming support of Muslims in previous assembly and Lok Sabha elections by garnering their 46 to 30% votes in different elections. "How Kazi and his men could overlook the affinity of Mulayam with Muslims," asked an Urdu journalist of Deoband emphasizing that the coming elections won`t be a cakewalk for Kazi and his men and they will taste the wrath of their own people.
Sources say that many dissidents are in constant contact with SP supreme through Ch Yashpal Singh and they could benefit SP by undermining Kazi and his team in elections. Unfazed by the moves of his rivals and dissidents Kazi is confident of winning the hearts of people as he declares "all candidates of Samajwadi Party will forfeit their security deposits in the poll".
Under such political situation it will be interesting to watch that who will win over the hearts of voters in land of Darul Uloom. The victory of Kazi`s men in election would elevate Kazi`s status in Congress and if he fails it would bring a serious blow to Congress in Saharanpur region.
Assembly constituencies in Saharanpur region with more than 30% Muslim voters: