To Allah Rakha Khan, security means little more than being able to sell fruit at a street corner and be able to feed his family everyday. The 45-year-old fruit vendor from Jamia Nagar says he has never seen a politician come up to his door to ask for his vote. He has been to many political rallies where each time, he was reminded how important the Muslims are to the “secular fabric” of the country.
As the date for the first phase of voting for the Lok Sabha polls approaches, Khan is reminded of previous elections. “At some point, I was so disappointed with every leader. I decided not to vote at all, but then again, this is the only chance we get to have a say. I mean nothing to a politician, but I know my vote counts.” he said.
Many like him are troubled by the “vote bank” status accorded to the Muslim voter. They appear in the manifesto and disappear from the report cards every five years. “Are we not participants in development? Why are we treated like trouble,” questions Aqib Ali, a shopkeeper outside Jama Masjid.
To him, local issues matter, but who leads the country matters more. “If I want to meet Kejriwal, I can go and meet him directly. Wahan gareebon ki bhi sunwayi hoti hai (There, even the poor are heard) but in the Congress, I have to first find a local leader who may or may not entertain me,” Ali said.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi echoed Ali’s sentiments at a rally in Delhi on Sunday. Rahul said the loss in the Delhi Assembly elections had sent a message to the Congress.
Ameeque Jamie, former convenor of the People’s Campaign Against Politics of Terror, spells out the fear in the mind of the Muslim voter. He says that the Muslim voter will always look for options minus the NDA. “Kejriwal is explaining his position, but not his plan. AAP is only an alternative to the Congress where the candidates themselves are popular among the people,” he said.
According to a sitting Congress MLA, the last time there was a strong Muslim candidate from Delhi was in 1977 when Janata Party’s Sikander Bakht was elected to the Lok Sabha. According to voters, since Bakht, there has been a vacuum in terms of a Muslim leadership in the capital for which they only blame themselves. In Okhla, government school teacher Farhana said, “I have voted for Muslim candidates in the past but they win an election and forget about us. They never think about giving back to the community that put them in a position of privilege.”
A few meters ahead, at E 101, Abul Fazal Enclave where two youth from Dhanbad were picked up for their alleged links to the Indian Mujahideen, Sajid explains that the popularity of the Congress has definitely gone down this election but with the AAP there is an issue of trust. “What if they quit again? Do we want to push the country into a Delhi-like situation?” he asks.
Imam Bukhari’s recent endorsement of the Congress also means little in these parts. Bukhari was possibly aware of this when he said that his support to a political was not binding on anyone and that he was expressing his views as a citizen and voter.
Senior leaders in both parties including BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit have conceded that they took the Aam Aadmi Party lightly in the Assembly elections. While the Muslim voter may discard BJP as an option for reasons of security or opportunity, this election they are unlikely to vote the Congress “just for the lack of a better option”.