Clerics’ call split UP Muslim votes into two sharp ‘sects’

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Any hope of Muslim voters’ polarization in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections seems to have receded with the appeal of two sections of clerics’ making a vote appeal for two
different political parties resulting in creating a sharp divide in the secular votes. While one group, compromises prominent Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwed, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and Rashtriya Ulema Council, have jointly appealed for voting Bahujan Samaj Party, the other group headed by Kahlid Rasheed of Firangi Mahal, ulemas and sajjadanasheens of some prominent dargas have found Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party a messiah for the minorities. This group has issued an appeal urging all secular forces to put all their might behind the Samajwadi Party and Congress combine.

Besides exercising a considerable clout in the Shia community, Jawwed, is member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The Shia community is indebted to him for freeing a lot of Shia waqf properties from the clutches of illegal occupants and returning them after restoration to the community. His differences with the Samajwadi Party’s Muslim minister Mohammed Azam Khan has been going on for sometime on waqf related issue. With no love lost between the two. Jawwed has been voicing his opposition for the party at all religious and public forums openly. But he chose the crucial election time to strike at the party after the SP-Congress alliance. In his statement he has declared that both the SP and Congress has worked against the interest of the Muslims and SP has betrayed and totally ignored the interests of the Muslims in
general and the Shia community in particular. He has openly appealed the secular forces to vote for Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. Incidentally BSP has fielded 97 Muslims this time. A total of 12 more than the number fielded in the last assembly poll of 2012.

His announcement came just two days before the seven phase elections started in UP on Feb 11, with polling commencing in hyper sensitive 73 constituencies of 15 western districts of the state. At the same time Rashtriya Ulema Council pledged its support to BSP and withdrew its 84 candidates. This followed Shahi imam’s announcement of support. Bukhari accused SP of not doing anything for the minorities. He said it has only doled out injustice and unemployment. He said riots and murders of innocent Muslims like Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri and DSP Zia-ul Haq in Kunda happened He charged SP of not fulfilling any of its poll promises of 2012, including reservation for Muslims and implementing the recommendations of Ranganathan Commission.

Both Kalbe Jawwed and Bukhari have accused the SP and Congress of doling out false promises to the minority. Bukhari alleged that during the five years tenure of Akhilesh Yadav it is only the Yadavs who have been the sole beneficiaries and the Muslims instead of getting ahead have been discriminated against and cheated.

These appeals coupled with the background of SP family feud helped strengthened Mayawati image. She banked heavily on the confusion and fears in the minority whether a divided SP will be able to take on the BJP. It also shed the prevailing fears among the illiterate and lower class which was apprehensive that after the polls the BSP may align with the saffron brigade in order to form the government.

Playing the Muslim card to the hilt, in her election rallies Mayawati openly accused the BJP of attempting to interfere with the Shariah laws of the Muslims by promising in their manifesto all help in triple talaq issue.

Just when it appeared that this will affect the Muslim voters decision in UP and tilt the vote bank towards the BSP a written press note was issued by the Sunni cleric Khalid Rasheed urging all secular forces especially the Muslims to vote for the SP-Congress alliance.

Refuting that it was an eleventh hour decision the cleric while speaking to Tehelka said that he along with other ulemas and sajjadanashis of various dargas have closely studied the work done by Akhilesh and only then extended their support to him. Projecting Akhilesh Yadav as a true messiah of the minority he said while the family feud had
earlier made the secular forces, especially the minority confused about whom to vote for the SP-Congress alliance has send positive message and strengthen the belief of secular forces that this combination can defeat the saffron forces.

To a question on how far it is right for religious leaders like them to issue appeal of political nature the cleric said that in a democracy this is very necessary and important
exercise and it safeguards interests of one’s community.

He accused the opportunist ulemas speaking against the SP-Congress combine and said this group has been regularly issuing appeals and that they are guided not by the community but by “personal interests.”

Condemning the track record of BSP he said that the party has two times earlier too joined hands with the BJP just to form the government and that is why it cannot be trusted and there is no guarantee that Mayawati will not do it the third time too.

However the BJP U.P. state unit chief, Keshav Prasad Maurya presents a cool exterior in the wake of these appeals and condemns the polarization of votes through these fatwas and appeals. He calls it an exercise driven by fear factor that sees BJP poised to make a clean sweep in the assembly polls.

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