The avidly wooed Muslim vote isnt likely to go en bloc to any party this time,at least in the Muslim-dominated constituencies of Bhadohi and Jaunpur (Sadar).
Traditionally Congress supporters,Muslim voters here had gone with the Samajwadi Party following the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. However,Mulayam Singh Yadavs decision to join hands with Kalyan Singh cost the SP the Muslim vote. Though he has distanced himself from the former BJP leader now,it does not seem to have cut much ice. Wiser,Muslims here now intend to make their own choices,depending on the candidates put up.
In Jaunpur (Sadar)s Guraini and Kheta Sarai villages,which go to polls on February 15,every family has at least one member working in the Gulf. Ali Ahmed says they couldnt get government jobs due to lack of education.
In the last elections,the parliamentary polls of 2009,the Muslims had voted en bloc for Ulema Council candidate Dr Taslim Ahmed Rehmani. While it did not get any seat,the Ulema Council won the communitys vote by centring its campaign on the issue of Muslims being tarred with the terror brush.
This time there is no such mobilisation. We have nothing to do with the political situation, says the assistant manager at the madrasa at Guraini,Abu Bakar,opening up after much goading. In 2009,we had joined the Ulema Council. But when they too started using the same political language as the others,we decided to quit politics for good.
Locals say the madrasa stood with the SP earlier. Prior to delimitation,when Guraini and Kheta Sarai fell under Shahganj (reserved),it was the SPs Jagdish Sonkar who won from here. Jaunpur (Sadar) had been won by the SPs Javed Ansari.
In 2012,many villagers are inclined towards the Congresss Nadeem Javed. A local,he also carries the national tag,having been national president of Congress students wing NSUI.
However,sitting MLA Ansari is expected to take some of the Muslim vote. There is no strong leadership among the community, said Alam Khan,a resident of Alampur village.
Bhadohis Shamsher Khan,a carpet trader in the constituencys Qazipur area,agrees that Muslims are more inclined towards taking a call on their own. Even illiterate voters have become intelligent. They can now think for themselves whether a certain person will be of help or not, he says.
A general seat after delimitation,Bhadohi is seeing a tight contest between the Congresss Tanveer Hussain and the SPs Zahid Beg.
Khan will vote for a candidate whom he knows and who knows him,and one whos a full-timer in politics. That might be directed against Hussain who,a carpet trader by profession,is seen to have joined politics just to earn name and fame.
In Maharajpur,a village of nearly 5,000 people dependent on carpet weaving,Ghulam Ali says,Nobody does anything for us. Our business is in ruins. I havent decided yet,but I would like to vote for a party that will do something for the weavers.
In 2007,the village had voted for the SPs Surendra Patel.
The neighbouring hamlet of Chaukia,that falls under Varanasi and is also involved in the carpet trade,had voted together for BJP candidate Ajay Rai in the 2007 Assembly polls because he was a social worker who visited them regularly. In the 2009 parliamentary elections,they all voted for eastern UP strongman Mukhtar Ansari,then a BSP candidate,as he was from their community.
Elderly Bechan Ali,an Ansari like everyone in the village,was among those who canvassed for Mukhtar. Now,he is not so sure. All who come here make a few promises and disappear. We have not decided yet.