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No Fear No Favour

Why Muslim voters are tight lipped in battleground of UP elections?

Their silence, this time, is deafening and even unnerving. Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh remain tight-lipped even as the political cauldron boils over with vote bank politics. Talk to any Muslim on the street and the reply about the political prospects is non-committal and even ambiguous.

Fearing polarisation on religious line, most political parties are also not talking about the Muslim factor, and the Muslims, themselves, prefer to remain low key because they are aware that any ‘appeasement’ issue mayactually prove detrimental to their interest.

When Yogi Adityanath took over the reins of power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, he ruptured the perception that Muslims could make or mar a government in the state. He chose a broader Hindu mobilisation to relegate Muslims to the wings. He pursued policies that did not serve Muslims, including a ban on cow slaughter and curbs on use of loudspeakers for ‘azaan’, to name a few.

The ban on triple talaq has angered the men who feel it is an intrusion into Sharia laws. The women, though happy, feel that the law has not served its purpose.

“How can we take on men on this issue without having financial independence? If we are dependent on the family for ourselves and our children, we cannot go against them,” said Shaheen, a young graduate.

‘Attacks’ on Muslims on issues like transporting meat increased, anti-CAA protests and the law on ‘Love Jihad’ opened a gateway for ‘harassment’ of Muslim youth (in inter-faith relationships).

In short, Yogi Adityanath put the 20 per cent Muslims on the ‘defensive’ and proved that power could be attained and retained without the minority community.His recent remark on “80 per cent versus 20 per cent” proves this.

“Muslims have been made to feel like second class citizens in the Yogi regime. He has branded the entire community under one label—anti-national—and it is this that hurts us. We have never opposed if anyone is punished for doing wrong but you cannot term the entire community as a wrong doer. In the past five years, everyone seems to have turned into a right-wing police and all you need to bash up Muslims without getting booked is a saffron ‘gamcha’,” said a senior faculty member from the Shia Degree College in Lucknow.

The huge following that Yogi Adityanath has built up among Hindus, cutting across caste lines, has also made non-BJP parties cautious on the Muslim issue. “We know that the BJP is waiting for us to utter a word on Muslims and they will then go all out to polarise the election on religious lines,” said a Congress spokesman.

According to sources, parties, this time, will not take the risk of fielding too many Muslims for this reason.

Muslims’ representation in Uttar Pradesh has historically fluctuated. The rise of socialist parties in the 1970s and 1980s and the decline of the Congress saw the first post-Independence rise in Muslims’ representation in the Vidhan Sabha, from 6.6 per cent in 1967 to 12 per cent in 1985.

By line : Divya Thearia

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