The upcoming fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections will be a test for Mayawati’s attempt to forge a Dalit-Muslim combine with nearly a fifth the BSP’s 99 Muslim candidates facing polls in the Terai region. In terms of proportion, these 18 Muslims make up 35 per cent of the BSP’s 52 candidates in the fifth phase. This is second only to the second phase, when 43 per cent of the BSP’s 67 candidates were Muslims.
The 52 seats voting next are in 11 districts. Of the BSP’s 18 Muslims, 14 are contesting in the districts of Gonda, Bahraich, Balrampur, Shrawasti, Siddharth Nagar and Sant Kabir Nagar of the Terai region. In contrast, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance has fielded only 10 Muslim candidates in this phase.
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The BSP has fielded Muslim candidates in four of six unreserved seats in Gonda, in two of three unreserved seats in Balrampur, and in three of four such seats in Siddharth Nagar. Muslims account for over 38 per cent of the population in Balrampur district, over 36 per cent in Bahraich and over 30 per cent in Siddharth nagar. The BSP’s Bazmi Siddiqui is the first Muslim candidate fielded by a mainstream party in Ayodhya, an assembly constituency that was a stronghold of the BJP until 2012 when the SP snatched it.
The BSP has fielded two Muslim candidates each in Faizabad and Bahraich districts, and one Muslim candidate each in Sant Kabir Nagar, Amethi and Sultanpur districts.Besides Mayawati, BSP general secretary and the party’s Muslim face Naseemuddin Siddiqui, his son Afzal and gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Afzal Ansari have addressed rallies in the Terai region, mainly to woo Muslim voters.
With the twin aims of wooing Muslims and keeping Dalits away from the BJP, Mayawati has been scathing in her attacks on the BJP and its leaders. Mayawati, who hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday for his remark about crematoriums and graveyards, and at Amit Shah for his acronym “Ka-sa-b”, was speaking at rallies in Ambedkar Nagar and Bahraich.
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A BSP leader from the region said non-BJP parties earlier avoided fielding Muslim candidates in the region for fear that it would cause religious polarisation. “But the BSP has fielded a record number of Muslim candidates because we are not afraid of polarisation. The BJP may attempt to cause polarisation but we will not be affected. On the contrary, more Muslims will vote for the BSP because of this, while the BJP cannot affect the Dalit support of the BSP,” he said. Sageer Usmani, the BSP’s divisional coordinator in Devipatan division, said the BSP’s Dalit-Muslim formula will work well in the Terai as the region’s Muslim and Dalit populations add up to more than 50 per cent in most of the seats there.
“Barring Tarabganj, there is no constituency in Devipatan division that does not have at least 50,000 Muslims. There are many seats where Muslims are over one lakh,” Usmani said.