Congress' bid to rope in the Shahi Imam of Delhi's historic Jama Masjid to revive its political fortunes seems hardly working as most of the residents in the walled city told dna that the move could only help the BJP by ensuring polarisation of votes.
According to 2001 census, Chandni Chowk constituency which houses Jama Masjid has some 20% Muslim population after the delamination. Other dominant caste groups in the area include 35% Bani and Punjabi votes, 9% Brahmins and 26% SCs.
Residents say over the years, the impact of the Imam's appeal has been decreasing. Congress' Haroon Yusuf won Ballimaran despite Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari's disapproval. And his old disciple Shoab Iqbal, won Matia Mahal, in the immediate neighbouorhood of Jama Mashid, despite inviting wrath of the Imam.
The political stature of the Shahi Imam now seems part of history. Bukhari met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday and is believed to have assured her that the community will support the Congress in the Lok Sabha election. He is scheduled to announce his support at a press conference on Friday.
However people living under the tangled electric wires in the congested alleys of the Jama Masjid have a political brain of their own which is not influenced by their so-called religious leader.
"Imam saheb has done the wrong thing by favoring one party. He will only help BJP by this because now 80% of the electorate which consists of Hindus will get polarized," Abdul Khaliq, vice-president, Meena Bazar told dna.
"Siyasat alag cheez hai aur masjid me namaz ada karna alag cheez hai. We are literally not bothered by what Imam Saheb says. The image of Congress has deteriorated to an extend that despite Imam saheb's statement nobody will vote for them," said owner of one of the oldest restaurant situated near Jama Masjid requesting anonymity.
The Chandni Chowk constituency which is set to witness the electoral battle among Congress' Kapil Sibal, BJP's Harshvardhan and AAP's Ashutosh has a significant 20% Muslim voters out of total 14 lakh electorate.
A 75-year-old Abdul Quyub who was selling artificial jewelry at a stall on the stair of Jama Masjid said the air is set to witness a change. "All these years I have been voting for the Congress. However this time I want to give AAP a chance," said Quyub who heads a joint family consisting of 20 voters.
Bukhari's stand has also received criticism from his family itself. His younger brother Syed Yahya Bukhari who is the president of Jama Masjid United Forum has called Congress non-trustworthy.
Mohamad Akram who owns Al Jawahar restaurant too said he will support the Aam Admi Party. "In the assembly elections AAP got many silent votes. After the results people realized their popularity. This election, people are optimistic that if they vote in full strength then it will be beneficial for them as well as AAP."