It isn’t just the division of the Muslim vote but the continuing Hindu – Muslim polarisation on the ground that haunts Western Uttar Pradesh’s politics.
As Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati laid the groundwork for polarising the electorate in west UP by openly seeking votes from the Muslim community, UP chief minister and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Yogi Adityanath, in a counter attack, said his party will then seek the “rest of the votes.”
Citing Mayawati’s speech in Saharanpur where she was urging Muslim community “not to allow the Congress to split and waste their votes”, Adityanath said that he came to “get the rest of the votes.”
The chief minister made these comments while addressing a public rally in Shamli on April 8.
Adityanath also pointed out how those who believed in the ‘Deoband ideology’ were beginning their campaign from there. “While other parties believed in Ali, we believe in Bajrangbali,” Yogi remarked.
For the Muslims of western UP, there’s confusion at the three-cornered contest and the Muslim vote seems to be split wide open. Torn between the Congress and the SP-BSP alliance, Muslims say they may opt for the ‘lesser evil’.
Mayawati’s open appeal to Muslims to unite behind the SP-BSP alliance instead of the Congress stems out of the equation that many of these 20 West UP seats have 35-40% Muslims. There is an often voiced sentiment here that Mayawati fears that, after her recent poor showing in the 2014 and 2017 elections, (the BSP drew a blank in general elections of 2014 and scored only 19 in assembly polls of 2017) Dalit votes could drain away from her towards the Congress.