SPECIAL REPORT ON UP ELECTIONS
Muslim reservation backfires on Congress
Ruling BSP faces severe anti-incumbency, Peace Party-Apana Dal combine to mar SP prospects
By Pramod Kumar from Raibareilly
After the first round of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the picture is now clear. All efforts of the Congress to woo Muslims are going to backfire, as the community has taken them as ‘merely election stunts’. On the other hand the ruling BSP is going to be washed away in severe anti-incumbency and the BJP is likely to gain substantially, as, thanks to the minority quota announced by Congress, the OBCs have rallied around it. Primarly the SP appears to be benefited with Muslim votes in some pockets, but the Peace Party-Apana Dal combine is all set to dent its prospects by dividing the Muslim votes at over 100 assembly seats.
I visited Uttar Pradesh from February 3 to 7 to know the mood of the voters. What is visible is that all pre-poll predictions and calculations are going to prove wrong, especially with regard to the BJP. The party which is now being placed at third or fourth position by some ‘hired’ predictors is all set to emerge single largest party.
To understand the impact of 4.5 Muslim reservations, I started my journey from Raibareilly, the Lok Sabha constituency represented by Smt Sonia Gandhi, who is head of the Congress Party which crossed all limits to woo Muslims for the last two years. After creating a bogy of Hindu terrorism and repeatedly questioning the Batla House encounter of Delhi, the Party snatched 4.5 per cent reservation quota of OBCs last month for Muslims. Not only this, Congress leader Salman Khurshid announced to make it double after elections. But all it failed to impress the Muslims.
“Reservation to Muslims is nothing but an election stunt. Congress cannot make us fool anymore,” says Farid Ahmed (64), an animal feed seller at Bara Ghosayana in Raibareilly. “Will Smt Sonia Gandhi tell us, as to from where she will give us reservation, as there is already 50 per cent cap on it? The move to snatch 4.5 per cent share from the existed OBC quota will only deepen the division and hatred in the society,” adds Mustakeem, neighbouring shopkeeper of Farid Ahmed. Nasim and Rehman also expressed the similar views while preparing for Barawafat outside Bara Ghosayana mosque. Murtaza, a painter belonging to Baghail village under Tiloi assembly constituency, also is not impressed with the reservation sop. He says, “We do not trust the Congress at all.”
Not only in Raibareilly and Amethi, but the Muslims all over the state have rejected reservation sop of Congress. Mohd Sajid of Rudauli under Faizabad district says: “We have not forgotten the Babri mosque. The Congress is equally responsible for its demolition. Since BSP too has cheated us, we will support only Mulayam Singh Yadav.” He further says, “The single issue which is going to oust Mayawati from power is the anger of farmers. A bag of urea which normally costs Rs 200 is being black marketed at Rs 500. Farmers are languishing but the BSP leaders, government officers and politicians are busy in making money under Maya regime.” Alim Khan, Afroz Khan and Irshad Ahmed of Rudauli also endorse the feelings of Sajid.
Prof Jahid Khan of Shibli National Post Graduate College, Azamgarh, looks at the reservation quota as ‘another election issue, which cannot be trusted’. “The different stand of Digvijay Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram over Batla House encounter, is enough to understand the double standards of Congress,” he added. “The grand welcome of SP leaders by Muslims in Azamgarh is sufficient to understand that we are not going to support Congress,” says Faizan, a student leader of Shibli College.
Fazal Ahmed Siddiqui, who originally belongs to Gorakhpur, runs a travel agency, Zafar Bus Service, outside Shan-e-Awadh hotel in Civil Lines area of Faizabad. He says, “Congress is friend of none. It thinks only for votes. Though, I admire the honesty, simplicity and easy accessibility of local BJP MLA Lallu Singh, I will vote for SP, as majority of the Muslims are going with him this time.” When asked whether he will support the SP if it has a post-poll alliance with Congress, he says: “It will be wiped out again as it was wiped out after joining hands with Kalyan Singh.”
The promise made by BJP to help the economically weaker sections of upper castes appears to be clicking the upper caste voters. “BJP is the only party that thought about us. This step should have been taken long back,” says Pawan Singh Thakur (23) in Gonda. Abhay Mishra of Lucknow also now hopes that he too can get a job if BJP comes to power.
Besides the miserable condition of farmers, the second issue which is agitating the voters is the wastage of thousands of crores on developing parks in Lucknow and Noida by Mayawati. “Is it fare to waste such a huge amount on useless projects, especially at the time when UP is under heavy debt of over two lakh crore rupees, per capita income is less than the national average (Rs 26,000 against the national average of Rs 58,835), state is responsible for 13 per cent of the total debt on the country, lakhs of posts are lying vacant in various departments because the government does not have money to even pay the salaries of the existing staff, over a dozen state Corporations have either been shut down or have been declared sick