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As Samajwadi Party looks heading for a split, Muslim community leaders have a message for its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav: end the family feud soon or our votes would end up with BSP in the next year’s Assembly polls, which in turn would help the BJP.
Muslims are considered the traditional votebank of the Samajwadi Party and the concern has been voiced by several top clerics including Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid and Maulana Salman Nadvi of Lucknow-based Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama.
Nadvi said while the community was hoping for a Bihar-like “mahagathbandhan” in UP so that the secular votes could remain united. “But here, a fight is going on inside the SP. The Muslim votes are more likely to get split now and Mayawati is set to get more support from the community. But overall, this atmosphere is going to help the BJP,” said Nadvi.
Meanwhile, Bukhari, who met SP chief last week, termed the ongoing turmoil in party is “unfortunate and “at least Mulayam and Akhilesh need to sit together to resolve the differences” before there is any damage in the elections. “The father and son can not go against each other. Netaji can end this dispute and he should do so. The party appears to be suffering. Muslims are confused and despondent because of this.”
Bukhari, however, added it was natural that Akhilesh would want to take more responsibility after being chief minister for four-and-a-half years and his removal from the post of state president was a step against that direction. “It is being said that outsiders have fueled the dispute… There is a need to strengthen Akhilesh’s hands,” he added.
Bukhari, who shares a blow hot, blow cold relationship with Mulayam, had earlier announced to campaign against SP in 2017 polls and dethrone it by supporting other alternative, which may be BSP.
Barelvi cleric Maulana Tauqeer Raza said Muslim votes are likely to get split. “The situation is developing into a scenario where the victory will be served to the BJP. Now that the SP is divided from within, the Muslim votes are more likely to get split. BSP has no good track record on Muslim issues and there is no guarantee that Mayawati-led party will not support the BJP after polls,” said Raza, who is also a member of Ittehad-e-Millat Council. He, however, added that Akhilesh shouldn’t have taken on his father.
Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichhochhvi of All India Ulama and Masaikh Board, a body of Sunni Sufi Muslims, said time has come for Muslims to make a decision. “They may have to change their stance. A new game for power appears to be taking place in the SP and the party appears to have forgotten those who supported it,” he said, adding that his organisation will hold a meeting on November 1 to decide on the support for elections.
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Another cleric, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali of Lucknow, meanwhile said, it was too early to say anything about Muslims shifting their loyalty. “I hope the differences (with the Yadav family and and the party) will be resolved,” said Mahali, also a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
“SP was the contender for maximum Muslim support despite many of the promises made to the community remaining unfulfilled. But the current situation has confused the community. For Muslims, BSP is an alternative. If they find that SP is going to lose, they will support the BSP in order to stop BJP,” said Aligarh Muslim University’s Professor Shakeel Samdani.
He, however, added that Akhilesh enjoys a clean image and “floating voters” will support him. “A lot will depend on how things develop in the coming days,” said Samdani, also a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Akram Ansari of Momin Ansar Sabha, a non-political body of backward Muslims, said the community was in “dilemma” about whom to support in the elections. “Muslims were already a little disenchanted with the SP because of its failure to fulfill the promises made in the election manifesto. Now, they are more worried. However, the Muslims have supported Mulayam, not SP, and they will remain with him irrespective of the goings on in the party,” he said.
Muslims who form more than 18 per cent of UP’s population have largely supported the SP since 1990, especially in the Assembly elections. Mayawati had recently urged the community to abandon “faction-ridden” SP and support her party to defeat the BJP, saying the ruling party was no more capable of defeating “the communal forces”.