Speculation over SP fielding a Muslim candidate from Lucknow has made Congress jittery. Congress’ Lucknow candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi is apprehensive that if SP fields a strong Muslim candidate, it could upset her calculations as she is banking heavily on Brahmin votes to defeat Rajnath Singh — BJP’s Lucknow candidate.
At present, SP has fielded national general secretary Dr Ashok Bajpayee from Lucknow. However, there has been clamour among several Muslim leaders to change the candidate in favour of a Muslim to tap the four-lakh strong Muslim voters in the constituency.
As of now, no part has fielded a Muslim candidate except unconfirmed reports that former MP Ilyas Azmi has sought change of his ticket from Khiri to Lucknow from AAP.
“We are getting reports that SP is planning to field a Muslim candidate. Even AAP is considering a Muslim candidate,” Rita Bahuguna Joshi said.
Local influential Muslims are also issuing statements cautioning Muslims about a possible Muslim candidate from SP that may spoil Joshi’s chances. Nawab Jafar Mir Abdullah, a descendent of Nawabs of Awadh issued a statement explaining the harmful effect of SP’s Muslim candidate.
“In 2009, Lok Sabha polls SP gave an example of the camaraderie with BJP and fielded a Muslim. This time we are hearing AAP will be doing the same. All these parties just want that BJP wins from Lucknow,” Abdullah said.
However, Muslim leaders are excited about the opportunity. Many have approached for a party ticket.
Sources claimed that SP’s youth wing president Mohammad Ebad, local MLA Rehan Naeem and MLC Bukkal Nawab are also in the reckoning. Muslim leaders have also highlighted that in 2010 when Mohammad Raees was the lone Muslim candidate in Mayor polls, he registered an impressive 1.14 lakh votes, despite being a Peace Party candidate.
In the past, SP has played the Muslim card in Lucknow and fielded film-maker Muzaffar Ali who lost to the charisma of BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998.
SP’s spokesperson Shivpal Yadav has however, denied any such strategy. “We are fighting the BJP and communal forces and are contesting to win the elections,” Shivpal added.