January 7, 2017 3:06:01 am
BSP chief Mayawati’s decision to field 97 Muslims — the highest ever by the party in Assembly elections — is being seen as a strategy to make the Dalit-Muslim combine its main poll plank, the same way the Dalit-Brahmin combine was the talking point of its successful 2007 poll campaign.
The party on Friday announced its second list of candidates for 100 more Assembly seats, thereby declaring nominees for 200 of the 403 seats, with Muslims getting the lion’s share — a total of 58 aspirants in the two lists. While BSP’s first list of 100 candidates released on Thursday contained 36 Muslim candidates, Friday’s list had names of 22 aspirants from the community, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the state’s electorate.
In 2007, Mayawati had wooed Brahmins in a big way, organising Brahmin conventions for nearly two years, with BSP’s Brahmin face Satish Chandra Misra emerging as a star campaigner. This time, the busiest campaigner for the party has been Naseemuddin Siddiqui, BSP’s general secretary and Muslim face. Along with his son Afzal, Siddiqui has held public meetings in the highest number of Assembly segments, most of them in Muslim-dominated western UP.
Party sources say their 2007 campaign was against the “lawlessness under the Mulayam government”, which had perturbed upper castes, especially Brahmins. Mayawati had based her campaign on the poll plank of eradicating that lawlessness, coining the slogan, “Chadh gundon ki chhati par, button dabao hathi par”, attracting not just Brahmins but also other upper castes.
This time, she has trained her guns at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, repeatedly saying that Dalits and Muslims were facing equal discrimination under the BJP governments, citing the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri and flogging of Dalits in Una in the name of cow protection.
The dispute between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav over control of the Samajwadi Party is also being seen by BSP as an opportunity to present itself as the only option to defeat BJP.
“With BJP likely to emerge as our principal opponent this time, the upper castes are not as likely to vote for us as they were in 2007. BSP has been opposing the policies of the Modi government more strongly than any other party. Muslims will vote for us because we are not only giving voice to their concerns, but also giving them the largest share of tickets,” said a senior leader.
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