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Meeting India's Muslim vote bank

April 7, 2009
Ehtasham Khan

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, as I moved into the street leading towards 26, Lodhi Estate in New Delhi, I saw dozens of skull cap-wearing men moving around haphazardly. Some had prominently displayed different types of caps symbolising a Muslim identity. The bearded ones had sported nicely embroidered sherwani. These men were trapped in between OB vans of news channels, vehicles of reporters and hordes of security guards.

For someone who has been regular to this place, this was certainly not a mosque or a mazar. Lodhi Estate is a high-profile area close to Khan Market (one of the most expensive markets of Delhi; and it has nothing to do with Khansahabs). So what are these Muslims, most of who looked like madrasa students, doing here?

Well, it is election time and the crowd had gathered near the official residence of Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh.

After mixing with them for a few minutes, I could make out the crowd was hungry. They had assembled here in the morning and it was 2 pm now. They couldn't have food or even a drop of water. Someone who had mobilised the mob here told me pleasantly: "Hum unke (Amar Singh) bulane ka intezar nahi kar rahe. Darasal woh hamara intezar kar rahe hain. Lekin hum apne kuch aur logon ke aane ka intezar kar rahe hain. Phir andar jayenge. (We are not waiting for Amar Singh to call us. In fact, he (Amar Singh) is waiting for us. But I am waiting for some more of our people to come so that we can go inside together)."

Sensing the mood of the people, the leader arranged for some water. A window from the boundary wall of Amar Singh's residence opened up to distribute water bottles. And people fell for it as if they would die without it. It was a free for all and nobody cared if others got it or not. One tried to grab as many bottles as he could by using all his muscle power.

Image: Amar Singh addresses the crowd. Photographs: Ehtasham Khan. Ehtasham Khan is a Special Correspondent at the IBN 7 television channel.

Also see: Raj Thackeray woos voters in Mumbai

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