The Modi magic which seems to have cut across caste and even religious lines to some extent is making the Samajwadi Party edgy.
by Piyush Srivastava, Daily O
The Samajwadi Party has become increasingly edgy over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attempts to woo Muslim voters in the state. On paper of course, it seems very unlikely that the BJP will win a fraction of Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh. But the Modi magic which seems to have cut across caste and even religious lines to some extent is making the SP edgy, fearing that it will lose its Muslim votebank in the upcoming Assembly elections in 2017.
The SP has also been hurt by allegations made by certain prominent members of the Muslim community, who claim that there is really no difference between the party and other Hindu parties, as the former practises “soft Hindutva” and the other i.e the BJP “hard Hindutava”. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) party that has recently announced that it will contest the next Assembly election — a first time for the party in the state — has left SP leaders edgy, as it will divide the Muslim votebank.
The SP’s fears are grounded in some reality. Though the MIM won only two seats in Maharashtra, the party took away a significant number of votes that would have gone to the SP or the Congress. This is ideal for the BJP, as sources say, the recent communal tensions in the state, along with the Modi factor, will give the party Hindu votes. And if some Muslim votes come on board so much the better.
Prime Minister Modi has already begun wooing Muslims. During his trip to Varanasi earlier in November, Modi laid the foundation stone for the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) which was meant for members of Julaha (Muslim weaver caste) community. While doing so, the PM took a swipe at the SP, saying he wanted the Rs 147-crore TFC in the heart of the city so that the weavers could reach there without any hassle. But the state government has not cooperated with the Centre.
The fact that Modi’s words hit home were seen by the sharp rejoinder from the SP. Senior leaders such as Azam Khan tried to stir up passions by saying, “The TFC was planned in Lalpur because not a single member of the community resides there. In fact, the BJP wants the minorities to migrate to Pakistan.”
But a jittery SP was still not confident that Azam’s move was enough to convince the community. So Rajendra Chaudhary, party spokesperson of the UP unit, too jumped into the fray by reminding the Julahas about the work done for them by Mulayam government in the past and the packages presented to them by Akhilesh government.
“Mulayam has given a package of Rs 5,032 crore for weavers’ rehabilitation. Akhilesh has given special package to them. A loan of Rs 8.06 crore was given to 7,520 weavers,” Chaudhary told reporters. He added that Mulayam was in the process of developing Azamgarh, his Parliamentary constituency in a better maner than Modi’s Varanasi. The SP hopes that such promises and sops will keep this crucial votebank with them.
But MIM’s entry is hurting the party. Already, controversial MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked the state government: “Where is the Muslim reservation that was promised during the last Assembly elections? (the SP in its election mainfesto had promised reservations for Muslims in the police and other government jobs). What action has been taken to ensure justice to Muslims who suffered as a community in Muzaffarnagar? These are questions that the ruling party will have to answer,” he said. The fact that Owaisi who refuses to categorise himself as a “Muslim candidate” and has also said that Dalits and Muslims must come together on common causes, is another blow for the SP, Bahujan Samaj Party and an already decimated Congress in UP. The Congress and the SP have so far hit back claiming that the MIM has a tacit understanding with the RSS in the state. But such allegations prove weak as the MIM was a part of the previous UPA government. Clearly, then these parties, especially the SP, will have to rehone their strategies if they retain power in the next elections.