Salman Khurshids attempt at a change of image will be put on test in Farrukhabad,from where voters had elected him to the Lok Sabha in 2009,and from where his wife Louise is now contesting as an Assembly candidate. She is Louise Salman Khurshid in all her publicity material.
Louises shift from the family stronghold of Kayamganj is possibly explained by Farrukhabads new demography; delimitation has given it a a high number of Muslim (and OBC) voters.
But it also carries a risk of a split Muslim vote. And this,in turn,possibly explains the image makeover.
Louise cant hope to get Brahmin votes because of the grip of the family of late BJP leader Bramha Dutta Dwivedi. The BJP has fielded his son Sunil Dutt Dviwedi.
What could split the Muslim vote is the BSP candidate: Umar Khan is popular. And a third factor is Independent Vijay Singh,virtually a symbol of anti-BJP votes because of his alleged role in the murder of Bramha Dviwedi. He too has a Muslim following. Salman urged Singh to contest elsewhere. He failed to persuade him, a source close to Khurshid says.
Possibly sensing a split in Muslim votes,Salman ensured that Satpal Maharaj,a Congress MP with a large local following,campaigned for Louise on Tuesday.
Khurshid denies any particular staregy for this seat. This is one of 403… I have only one face, he tells reporters.
But voters cannot but help notice. Salman might have been prompted to champion Muslim reservation, says Khurshid Siddiqui,who sells bangles in the local market,but that will not help Louise win. Farrukhabad is not Bareilly or Meerut.
Irshad,a rickshaw puller and a Mansoori Muslim,is intrigued by the prospect of a sub-quota but senses it is an election agenda. Based on what leaders of other parties have been saying,Irshad guesses,We dont think OBC Muslims will gain if the quota includes all minorities. He admires Khurshid but complains that the MP has been spending most of his time in New Delhi. If his wife wins,there is no guarantee she will be around for us either, says Irshad,who feels the BSPs Khan will be here all the time.
Islamuddin Ansari,who is in the embroidery business,welcomes the sub-quota but he too grumbles that Khurshid is rarely around. And Noor Mahemmad,70,who sells chorpoy,says,People know him as an educated leader,not as a champion of OBC Muslims.
Businesses here cut across communities. Farrukhabad is in UPs potato zone and many work in cold storages. The farmers are mainly Kurmis and Lodhi Rajpoots,OBCs. In the December-March season,Farrukhabads demand for gunny bags is met by suppliers from other states,over 30 per cent of them Muslim,says Ajay Gangwar,president of the potato traders association.
Another thriving profession is jardozi,a industry that employs 10,000. The business involves upper caste Muslims like Pathans and OBC Muslims like Mansoori and Manihar.
Farrukhabad is known also for tasty dalmot,sent all over the country. The business involves more than 5,000 people.