M. Hasan Saharanpur. With 2017 state assembly fast approaching, a battle has ensued among non-BJP parties for pie in dominant muslim votes in western Uttar Pradesh. Even as there is no-let up in communal division in almost entire region, ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress have been making determined efforts to win over the minority to prepare a safe electoral shield. Keeping in view, the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi undertook one-day six km Padyatra in Nakur assembly segment in Saharnpur on November 22. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which has been fighting battle for its survival in �Harit Pradesh�, has also planned a �Rath Yatra� by general secretary Jayant Chaudhary in January-February 2016. Communal Polarization During extensive tour of the region recently it was amply revealed that continuing sharp communal polarization is going to play vital role in assembly election. While there is no attempt to douse communal fire, divisive forces have been trying to keep cauldron active. My taxi driver Naushad on way to Muzaffarnagar said �people have stopped hiring us�. Naushad said the situation was grim in entire region and it was for this reason a section of the community has started looking to BSP for safety cover. Naushad�s perception seemingly had some conviction at least in Saharanpur where the BSP won 25 panchayat seats to capture Zila Panchayat. The victory was possible only because of combination of Jatavs (Dalits) and Muslim votes in rural areas. However similar trend was not visible in Muzaffarnagar or Shamli, which indicated that this tie up was yet to emerge in these districts. Of 43 Zila Panchayat seats BJP won nine, followed by BSP and SP four each and Congress one in Muzaffarnagar. Rest of the winners were independent candidates. In Shamli of the total 19 seats six had gone to SP. BJP and BSP shared two and one respectively. Minority Votes Even though panchayat results could not be benchmark for final 2017 battle it simply indicated likely emerging mood among the people. In Muzaffarnagar, a social worker Vashishtha Bhardwaj said there were frequent communal flare-ups on smaller issues. The administrative slackness in dealing with situation has caused widespread resentment in the minority community. Observers feel that prevailing resentment in the minority could benefit the BSP. But, says political pandits, it would be possible only when the BSP succeeded in winning back its core Jatav vote which had deserted it in 2014 Lok Sabha election for support to BJP along with its arch rival Jats. The BJP has been striving to keep this alliance intact along with upper caste support. Moreover BSP�s gain would also depend on stopping division of minority votes. Samajwadi Party facing massive anti-incumbenc The SP, facing massive anti-incumbency, has also been facing a ticklish situation of unpopularity of its local leaders among the people. Lack of development and resentment against the local SP leaders among Muslims could prove harmful for the party. People are also quite angry on massive illegal mining in the region. While the SP has been keeping Jamiat Ulema Hind president Maulana Arshad Madni in good humour, the rival faction headed by Maulana Mahmood Madni has launched tirade against the government. Hyderabad-based MIM of Assaduddin Owaisi has also been making efforts to divide Muslim votes. The SP has deployed Ashu Malik, a close confident of Maulana Arshad Madni, to mobilize the people but the party is fraught with sharp dissension. In the absence of corrective measures it might prove disastrous in future. Communal divison in West UP On the other preparing aggressively the BSP recently got shot in arm by winning over a senior RLD leader Kaukab Hamid. His son Mohammad Ahmad Kaukak is BSP nominee from Siwalkhas assembly segment. Kaukab said the RLD has lost ground in the region. RLD�s traditional vote bank Jat and Muslim has deserted the party. The RLD has been worst victim of communal division in the west UP. In Congress, controversial Imran Masood is only face of the party in Saharanpur division. Although Masood had apologized for his comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Rahul Gandhi�s padyatra, resentment against him is still prevailing. As an alternative Congress leader of Deoband Saad Siddique, who runs several educational institutions and is quite popular among clerics, has come up but he is to go a long way.
Battle for Muslim vote in West UP