Like in many other seats of Uttar Pradesh, Muslims in Gautam Budh Nagar constituency are going to be a deciding factor in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Muslim voters are estimated at about 3.5 lakh — next only to the 4 lakh Rajput (Hindus) electors — and their support will go to a candidate who is strong enough to defeat the BJP’s Mahesh Sharma, who is riding on a Modi wave.
Muslims are cautious that any division in their votes between the Samajwadi Party’s Narendra Bhati and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Awana could benefit Sharma.
Polarisation of Hindu and Muslim votes, owing to the Narendra Modi factor, could work in favour of the BJP’s Sharma, who lost the 2009 polls by 15,000 votes.
The biggest beneficiary of this fear could be Bhati, who won the support of Muslims in 2013, when he boasted to have got IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal suspended for allegedly demolishing an under-construction mosque wall in Greater Noida’s Kadalpur village.
“Muslims are tilting towards Bhati after sitting MP Surendra Nagar joined the SP. Majority of the Muslims believe Bhati can stop the Sharma. But election sentiment is changing each day. Before Nagar joined the SP, majority of Muslims were in a mood to support BSP’s Satish Awana,” said Mursalim Alam Pradhan of Greater Noida’s village Haldoni, which has about 14,000 votes, of which 90 per cent are Muslims.
Muslims in the area are even ready to forget the Muzaffarnagar riots that exposed the SP’s failure to protect the minorities.
With three huge mosques, Haldoni is home to an affluent Muslim community, including religious leaders whose instructions are followed throughout the Muslim-majority villages in the constituency, said locals.
“Muslims do not want to vote for the Congress because they have a perception that it is a weak party, and will fail to defeat the BJP in this seat. They have realised the SP is the only party that took action against BJP, BSP and Congress MLAs who instigated riots,” said Abdul Gaffar, head of the SP’s Noida unit for minorities.
Analysts said very few Muslims would vote for the Congress or AAP because they think the BSP and SP have the potential to defeat the BJP. “Today the community is with SP, but it can go with BSP. Muslims will take the final call a day before polls,” said Neeraj Kumar, an analyst.