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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

AAP, Congress battle for Muslim votes as BJP banks on split in Delhi

Trying to stage a comeback in Delhi, the Congress, which governed the city for 15 years till 2013, is reaching out to the community. But the Congress’s bigger worry is that these votes may be spilt.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 30, 2019 09:32 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
While campaigning in Muslim-dominated areas, the two parties are asking people to choose “wisely”. Muslims are a sizeable population in Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi and East Delhi parliamentary constituencies.
While campaigning in Muslim-dominated areas, the two parties are asking people to choose “wisely”. Muslims are a sizeable population in Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi and East Delhi parliamentary constituencies. (PTI)
         

After their attempts to forge an alliance in Delhi for the Lok Sabha polls failed, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress are vying for the support of the Muslim community, which plays a decisive role in three of the seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi. A split in this support base will benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), say political analysts.

While campaigning in Muslim-dominated areas, the two parties are asking people to choose “wisely”. Muslims are a sizeable population in Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi and East Delhi parliamentary constituencies.

Trying to stage a comeback in Delhi, the Congress, which governed the city for 15 years till 2013, is reaching out to the community. But the Congress’s bigger worry is that these votes may be spilt.

Political analyst Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said, “There is likely to be a split in the non-BJP votes. The Congress is likely to get support of Muslims as it is a national party and people see it as an alternative to BJP. But had the two (AAP and Congress) come together, the scenario would have been different.”

Arvinder Singh Lovely, a three-time MLA and Congress candidate from East Delhi, said, “Congress will be the party which will form a non-BJP coalition government. We are asking people not to waste their votes by supporting the AAP. In the end, they will also support a coalition, which will be headed by the Congress.” He has already held public meetings in Muslim-dominated areas such Okhla, Trilokpuri, Nizamuddin in his constituency.

AAP’s North East Delhi candidate Dilip Pandey said, “The work the AAP government has done in the last four years is unmatched. The Congress has neglected the constituency. We have got the water lines and sewage lines laid, upgraded school infrastructure and provided better medical facilities to people and they acknowledge this.”

The North East Delhi constituency has about 23% Muslims, the highest among all seven constituencies, concentrated largely in Mustafabad, Seelampur, Ghonda. In the Chandni Chowk segment, Ballimaran, Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk assembly constituencies have a sizeable Muslim population.

In 2015, minorities, the slum and unauthorised colony dwellers, who were considered to be Congress supporters, had voted en masse for the AAP, helping the party win 67 of 70 assembly seats.

But in the 2017 municipal elections, the Congress regained some of the ground it ceded to AAP. In East Delhi Municipal Corporation, the difference between the vote share of the Congress ( 22.8%) and the AAP ( 23.4%) was just 0.6%.

The votes of the Muslim community consolidating in favour of a single party would be bad news for all three parties, experts say.

This was one of the reasons why the recent move by the Delhi Waqf Board to give increased honorarium/salary to imams and muezzins had the BJP and the Congress seeing red.

The BJP Saturday had alleged that the AAP had misused public funds to appease Muslims. Its MLA Vijender Gupta said, “The AAP is misusing the Waqf Board funds to appease voters of a particular religion to get their support. They are distributing crores to the imams and muezzins in the name of honorarium/salary.”

Calling the move a political stunt, Haroon Yusuf, Delhi Congress’ working president, questioned the timing of the decision. “It is a political stunt to garner the support of Muslims. It is a violation of the poll code.”

But the AAP defended the decision and said it was taken “long back”. Amanatullah Khan, chairman of the Delhi Waqf Board, had said, “Delhi Waqf Board is an autonomous body. The decision to increase the salary was taken in November 2018, which is now being implemented. There is no violation of the poll code.”

First Published: Apr 30, 2019 06:04 IST

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