Dr Mohammad Ayub,president of the Peace Party of India (PPI) who is contesting from Khalilabad,finds himself at the receiving end of a strategy he had used successfully against his rivals.
In the four years since it was founded in 2008,the PPI had time and again outsmarted the parties banking on minority votes. Sure of his transferable minority support base,Ayub would largely field non-Muslims. None of his candidates ever won but they did eat into the minority votebank of the SP and the Congress. All its 21 candidates lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha election but PPI secured 4.5 per cent of the votes. In the last Lakhimpur Kheri Assembly by-election,it came second; in the Domariaganj bypoll soon after,it finished third.
In 2012 in Khalilabad,however,the doctors rivals have served him his own pill in a new form. The SP and the BSP have fielded Muslim candidates Abdul Kalam and Mashhoor Alam Chaudhary respectively against him. This triangular contest for about 1.35 lakh Muslim votes,and the expected consolidation of non-Muslim votes,has left BJP candidate Digvijay Narayan Chaubey,a Brahmin,confident of getting enough to walk away with the trophy. Muslims constitute 40 percent of Khalilabads electorate and Dalits about 25 per cent. Brahmins,Yadavs and Kurmis make up the rest.
When he fielded 235 candidates in UP,Ayub anticipated he would not have much time for his own constituency. So,he divided it into 42 zones and assigned each one to what his partymen call a chhota Ayub. But then the SP and the BSP turned the tables on him,forcing him to return to Khalilabad frequently.
Ayub,however,dismisses suggestions that he has a tough battle on his hands. In all,there are five Muslim candidates,but I dont believe in Hindus or Muslims. I have the support of the poorest of the poor,the Dalits,and others, he says. His managers also hope that there will eventually be a consolidation of minority votes in Ayubs favour as it is the question of prestige of their own party chief.
For now,however,many voters are undecided. We will see. Last time I had voted for the SP, says Hasmullah,80,of Bhaisahiya village.
The doctor shows no signs of being worried. His party,he claims,will win at least 40 to 50 seats and his allies over a dozen another 30 to 35. Later,he says,he is ready to join hands with any party.