A day after Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, urged Muslims to support the Congress in the upcoming elections, Meo Muslims of Mewat, who hold the key to the Gurgaon parliamentary elections, seem to be an unaffected lot.
Estimates by different political parties and opinion of the natives of the Muslim-majority Mewat say the imam’s call might not be able to sway much votes.
The small percentage of voters that might vote for the Congress, after this support call, could benefit the BJP more than the Congress as AAP’s Yogendra Yadav is already concentrating on this Muslim belt. They believe that votes polled in favour of the Congress from Mewat may cut into the Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD) vote share.
“The Delhi imam’s words hold no significance in Mewat where the entire population behaves like a closed tribal group. Even if a Hindu candidate is a local leader who seems appropriate, everyone will vote for him,” says a former sarpanch of a village from the region. According to sources, religious organizations may be able to influence a small group of voters but they usually do not decisively affect the results.
Out of the 18,44,908 registered voters in Gurgaon, there are about 4.5 lakh Muslims, including approximately 3.5 lakh Meo Muslims. The importance of the region can be estimated from the fact that since campaigning began here, party representative have been trying to woo Mewat voters with different tactics. Rao Dharampal from Congress dons a skullcap in Mewat, AAP’s Yogendra Yadav allegedly uses his other name, Salim and INLD’s Zakir Hussain addresses public meetings in local dialect.
While the Congress seems to be slowly gaining strength here, Hussain has been their most favoured choice for years. Projecting himself as the only Meo leader, Hussain has the advantage of being a local lad.
In 2009, Zakir Hussain secured the second position with nearly 1.93 lakh votes with heavy leads in the four assembly segments of Sohna, Nuh, Ferozepur-Jhirka and Punhana — already dominated by Meo Muslims. This was a repeat of his performance in 1999 when Gurgaon was a part of Faridabad parliamentary constituency. He lost by a margin of about 30,000 votes.
“Meos do not believe in caste-based voting. All the people of Mewat just want a local leader who can address the issues of this region. What more do citizens want if they can find their MP at the next tea stall,” said Hussain.
It is evident that the INLD leader wants to play the ‘Mewat local’ card to his advantage. In his public speeches, Hussain does not forget to that his origins. He mentions his grandfather Yasin Khan, the first graduate from the Meo Muslim community, and his father Tayyab Hussain, former MP from the region.