In the fight for the Mumbai civic body, bagging the Muslim vote has become crucial for the city’s prominent parties as more candidates enter the fray.
The main Opposition party, Congress, has learnt it cannot take the Muslim vote for granted, as it faces tough competition from the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. The AIMIM is contesting its first civic polls.
Add to this competition, the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), both of which have fielded a large number of Muslim candidates.
A close look at Muslim dominated wards shows that in seven wards ( 49, 66, 162, 171, 174, 209 and 224), three Muslim candidates are vying for a win; at 11 wards (34, 124, 140, 145, 161, 168, 179, 223, 187, 211 and 213), four Muslim candidates are in the fray, three wards (48, 136, 138) have five candidates contesting and at one ward — in ward 96 — six Muslim candidates are engaged in the battle .
Political analysts believe the situation has become far more complex and confusing for voters. They said the AIMIM in this poll may change the game for Congress. “Too many players are in the fray and this may compel Muslim voters to think about other factors for voting, such as winnability , whether it is a local candidate and who is more active among the lot,” said Shahid Lateef, editor of Inquilab, an Urdu daily. He said traditionally, Muslims vote for the Congress, “but AIMIM has been attracting the youth, and this may create a sentiment to try the unproven AIMIM “.
Imtiyaz Jaleel, an AIMIM MLA, said whenever change has happened, it was led by the youth. “The youth have realised there has been a generation wasted because seniors have depended on the Congress or NCP. They have become the biggest advantage of the AIMIM and want change.”
State Samajwadi Party president Abu Azmi admitted his party will be affected by the AIMIM. “We will lose some of our voters owing to AIMIM’s entry as they are using emotional speeches to attract Muslim voters. Wherever we lose, Sena or BJP will be benefit,” Azmi said.
The Congress thinks otherwise. Mumbai Congress party unit chief Sanjay Nirupam said a majority of the community still favours the Congress.
“Other parties will benefit only where our candidate is not strong. We have pitted good candidates ,” Nirupam said.
Experts said the community doesn’t consider NCP as its own party.