Worry in BJP: Can SP infighting unite Muslims?

The BJP’s plan was to divide Dalit votes to hurt the BSP and to split OBC votes to blunt SP’s prospects. A division in Muslim votes would then help the BJP immensely.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: September 16, 2016 8:58 am
The BJP leader said the infighting within SP could also lead to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav emerging with a stronger presence. The BJP leader said the infighting within SP could also lead to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav emerging with a stronger presence.

The infighting in the Samajwadi Party is making the BJP mull changes in its strategy for the 2017 Assembly polls in UP. According to BJP’s calculations, Muslim votes are expected to influence results in at least 40 per cent of Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. The party is of the view that neither SP nor BSP can get a clear majority unless they get a significant share of the Muslim votes. The BJP’s plan was to divide Dalit votes to hurt the BSP and to split OBC votes to blunt SP’s prospects. A division in Muslim votes would then help the BJP immensely.

But the power tussle within SP has sent alarm bells ringing in the BJP. Senior party leaders now fear that troubles in the SP may push Muslims to turn to Mayawati en masse. “Family issues can split the cadre. Our understanding is that the Muslims are still divided area wise. But a deep divide in the SP can make them turn to Mayawati,” said a senior BJP leader. He added that Muslim votes can also be split if Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is able to influence the community significantly.

A BJP general secretary said: “The developments in the SP are bad news for the BJP.” The BJP has so far avoided making direct attacks on BSP leader Mayawati and maintained that SP is its rival. The BJP recently poached several legislators and senior leaders from the BSP. This too has helped it play down BSP’s significance in the poll battle.

The BJP leader said the infighting within SP could also lead to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav emerging with a stronger presence. “He has a good image. The sentiments can work in his favour and he could get an appeal that goes beyond caste equations. If that happens, the BJP would have to be more aggressive. We are watching the situation closely now,” he said.