Muslims constitute about 17 per cent of the population of Uttar Pradesh. The community has the potential to make a difference in the final electoral outcome in about 120 of the state's 403 assembly seats.
The Congress largely enjoyed Muslim support till the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. Muslims drifted to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who his opponents in the Bharatiya Janata Party called 'Maulana Mulayam' to indicate his willingness to enact policies to win over the Muslim votebank. Muslim support has been crucial for Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party to make an impact at election time.
This time it may all be very different. The Muslims are said to have grown disenchanted with Mulayam Singh. His main opponent, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, has shrewdly given 61 seats to Muslim candidates. State Congress president Salman Khurshid is a Muslim, but that may not count for much since he and his party are considereds political bantamweights in UP.
So how will the Muslims vote? One thing is certain. This time the community will not vote enmasse for any single party.
We spoke to Muslims in Moradabad to gauge which way the wind is blowing.
Image: A cycle rickshaw canvasses for the Bahujan Samaj Party in Moradabad, a town with a large Muslim population.
Vote ka jhatka... dheere se!
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Mulayam's battle for the Muslim vote