Muslims voters in Delhi clearly appeared splitting, an ultimate scenario for the BJP, between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party. In the debutant Assembly election for the AAP last year, Muslims were the only major ‘voting-bloc’ who conspicuous by their lack of enthusiasm for the newly launched party that started with the anti-corruption movement, largely seen with the right wing Hindutva tilt, at a time when most of the other groups and communities had deserted the Congress in their favour.
In the general election, however, as some of their voters are switching to the BJP, largely because of the extra effort put in by the AAP leaderships, they have been quite successful in reaching out to the Muslims.
In fact as the party jumped into the lok-sabha bandwagon, they widened their diatribe from merely anti-corruption rhetoric to now include communalism and directly targeted the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Arvind Kejriwal, after all, is contesting from the Varanasi against Modi. All this has clearly made them more popular as Muslims have gradually shed their earlier apprehensions of AAP being team B of RSS/BJP.
Several Muslim and liberal groups had urged the voters to decide their choice judiciously to defeat the communal BJP and had in fact issued a list of preferable candidates. The shift from the Congress to the AAP, however, is not complete though and on April 10, as Delhi voted for the lok-Sabha, voters in Muslim dominated constituencies appeared divided between the Congress and the AAP. The contest thus appears to be three ways particularly in the three constituencies of East Delhi, North-East Delhi and Chandani Chowk, which have sizeable Muslim population.
In Jamia Nagar locality, which falls under East Delhi after delimitation, the battle for the incumbent Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit is not a cake-walk like earlier occasions as AAP candidate Rajmohan Gandhi too has got considerable Muslim votes. There are in fact talks that he may even clinch victory, although it appears difficult. What maybe the ultimate nightmare for the Muslims in Okhla is that none of them win, as BJP’s rookie Mahesh Giri gains due to this apparent vote divide?
Although several residents did accept the fact that Sandeep Dikshit does visit them regularly, and has done ‘good work’, the new aspirations of better infra-structure, and comprehensive manifesto of AAP helped them gain momentum. It also helped AAP that their candidate is a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and himself a reputed Academician as Okhla voters comprise of a large number of pupils and teachers of Jamia Millia Islamia, among whom Rajmohan Gandhi shares immense respect.
Okhla traditionally has been a Congress bastion and they won here even during the 2008 Assembly elections, when resentment against Congress was at its peak owing to the infamous Batla House police encounter, believed by many locals here as well as several civil rights groups to be false.
In fact, during the last year’s Assembly election, minorities were the only face-savers for the Congress as out of the eight Congress candidates who won the elections, four were Muslims and two Sikhs. Out the eight constituencies where the party was able to save it face, four were Muslim-dominated constituencies of Okhla (Asif Mohammad Khan), Seelampur (Ch. Mateen Ahmad), Mustafabad (Hasan Ahmad) and Ballimaran (Haroon Yusuf). The fifth Chandani Chowk too won by Congress Prahlad Singh Sawhney has 25% Muslim voters.
None of the three constituencies appear easy win this time as Kapil Sibal (Chandani Chowk) is getting stiff resistance from Ashutosh (AAP) and Harshvardhan (BJP), despite the fact that two of the sitting MLAs – Yusuf and Sawhney – are from the Congress; and another MLA Shoiab Iqbal too has extended the support; although the media reports that he may not even be a second choice for voters here appeared a bit far-fetched.
Similarly, North-East Delhi, that comprises of 50% Purvanchali votes, including 21% Muslims are the deciding factors, and although two of the sitting MLAs – Hasan and Ahmad – are again from the Congress, the contest is not a cake-walk for Congress stalwart and sitting MP, JP Agarwal.
While Muslims explored other alternative options in other parts of the country, in Delhi so far they remained loyal to the Congress largely because so far here the contest was bi-polar and often they voted to keep the BJP out. As I have argued earlier, now clearly the Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as a credible alternative for the Muslims, but the switch of votes is not complete, leading to split in votes that may spoil the very purpose of a potent force to fight against the communal fascism of the BJP.
As it appears now, in this crucial election, it would become the best situation for the BJP which had always hoped to divide the Muslims’ votes, and may gain in this split of not only Muslims’ votes, but also rest of the non-BJP ‘secular’ votes.
M Reyaz, 28, is a Delhi-based journalist. He tweets @journalistreyaz