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Battle ground 2012: Congress hoping Muslims would make common cause with Jats

After stitching up pre-poll alliance with RLD, Congress hoping that Muslims would make common cause with Jats, RLD’s core constituency.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2012, 03.37 AM IST
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Battle ground 2012: Congress hoping Muslims would make common cause with Jats
NEW DELHI: While campaigning for his party in Aligarh on Wednesday, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, accusing him of making promises to Muslims on the job quota issue which he could not fulfill.

The SP returned fire, blasting Congress with paying only lip-service to the Muslim cause. On the Muslim job quota, SP went a step ahead, and promised reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, the quantum of which would be commensurate of the community's population in the state.

Trends emerging from the first five phases of polling have indicated that, notwithstanding Congress' high-decibel campaign to woo Muslims, a significant section has veered round to the idea of backing the Samajwadi Party. With the exception of the 2009 general election, in which the Yadav chieftain was punished by the community members for cavorting with the former Hindutva poster-boy, Kalyan Singh, SP has, since its formation remained their first choice. The ongoing assembly polls have seen a majority of them reaffirming their loyalty to Mulayam's outfit.

Against this backdrop, the onset of the penultimate round of polling in the seven-phase assembly elections has seen an intensification in the verbal skirmishes between the two parties. When the Congress general secretary reopened his diatribe against SP, the target audience was the 34% Muslim population in Aligarh Sadar, as also the surrounding areas. Congress, which has forged a pre-poll alliance with RLD, is locked in a fierce contest with SP to win the numerically strong community's backing. As the two sides jostle it out, the third non-Hindutva player, the ruling BSP, is silently hoping that Muslims, or at least a substantial section of them, would swing their way.

In the 68 constituencies going to polls during the sixth phase on February 28, Muslims comprise a significant chunk - 20.3% of the electorate. In districts such as Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar, which, between them, contain 16 assembly segments, the community accounts for 35% of total voters. Almost all constituencies falling in the Meerut district too have a Muslim population which is upward of 20%. As many as 30 of the 68 seats up for grabs in this phase have a community representation of over 20%.

Having stitched up a pre-poll alliance with RLD, the Congress leadership is hoping that Muslims would make common cause with Jats, who form RLD's core constituency, and comprise 4% of the electorate in this region. In districts such as Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Meerut, Aligarh, Mathura and Mahamaya Nagar, Jat-dominated pockets are juxtaposed with localities which have a high concentration of Muslims. Leaders of the Congress-RLD alliance are hoping that members of the two communities vote in tandem to enable them to take a march over their rivals.

SP, on the other hand, is banking on Muslims switching their allegiance back to the party. The main obstacle in this reversal taking place is the absence of Yadavs in significant numbers in the constituencies falling in this leg. Mulayam's clansmen add up to only 5.1% of the electorate, and the SP chief would be fervently hoping that the upper castes, who constitute 38.1% of the voter-base, would come to its aid.

In the 2007 assembly polls, BSP had bagged 35 seats from this phase, while SP's share was a meager three. BJP had emerged victorious in 12 constituencies. The trend was more or less the same in the general election held two years later. BJP, on the other hand, is banking on a polarisation along religious lines to help push its figures.

The party has, in the past two elections, polled around 20% of the votes. With Dalits constituting 17.3% of voters in the districts going to polls in this phase, BSP too is looking forward to a Dalit-Muslim alliance to enable it to post a good result. Jatavs, who form BSP's core, are present in large numbers in Agra, Hathras and Saharanpur. But Muslims appear to be disinclined to back Mayawati this time round.
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