Deoband is home to Indias largest Islamic seminary,and the eponymous hub of a globally influential stream of Islamic scholarship. Odd then that this constituency in Saharanpur will vote Tuesday to elect a non-Muslim to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
No mainstream political party has fielded a Muslim candidate for this Muslim-majority seat which after delimitation has 90,000 Muslim voters.
Anil Tanwar is the Congress candidate; SP has fielded loyalist Rajinder Singh Rana. Sitting BSP MLA Manoj Choudhary is defending his seat. BJPs nominee is Rajpal Singh.
Deoband Nagar Palika Parishad chairman Abdul Haseeb Deobandi was thought to be the frontrunner for the BSP ticket for some time. Two people from the BSP met me and took all my details. I gave them everything they desired. Perhaps my files did not reach Mayawati and nothing materialised, Haseeb said.
Haseeb added that he had also failed to qualify in the money aspect.
The seat has in fact been won by a Hindu on every occasion except one since Independence. Haseeb recalled that Deobands only Muslim MLA was elected in 1977,when Mohd Usman of the Janata Party defeated Congress candidate Mahabir Singh. Usman was with H N Bahuguna… No Muslim has since won from Deoband, he said.
Maulana Arshad Madani,a senior member of the faculty at Darul Uloom Deoband and leader of a faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind,had tried this year to persuade the Congress to give its ticket to local youth Saad Siddiqui.
I tried to reason with them, Madani said. The leaders had agreed,but Rasheed Masood vetoed it.
Masood is a member of the Rajya Sabha who joined the Congress from the SP recently. He backed Anil Tanwar,the richest candidate in Deoband with declared assets of over Rs 7 crore. Tanwar was earlier a general manager at Deoband Sugar Factory.
It would have been easy for a Muslim to win from Deoband this time, Madani said. Though we do try to ensure that secular votes are not divided as that is good for both the minorities and the country, he said.
Of the 19 candidates in fray in Deoband,five are Muslims,including two independents. None of them is a serious contender.