While many secularists are banking on the consolidation of 15.09% Muslim votes in Varanasi against BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, two main Muslim groups Jammat-e-Islami (JEI) and Jammiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) are pulling the community in different directions. The former has come up with an appeal backing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal, while the latter is rooting for the Congress candidate Ajay Rai.
Both of them maintain their decision was based on the reports received form the ground workers.
The JEI chief Maulana Jalaludin Umri told dna that they took decision after receiving feedback from local units, who said Muslims were veering towards the AAP and — the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — were not inspiring.
But the JUH chief Maulana Arshad Madani had a different take. He described JEI decision too simplistic, claiming that his organisation has decided to back Congress after holding over a dozen meetings with local groups in Varanasi.
According to a report prepared by the JUH, the Muslims in Varanasi are not monolith, but divided in castes and sub-castes.
"There are over a dozen caste-based Muslim organisations in Varanasi, who don't see eye-to-eye," the report said. The report stated that only Ansaris (Muslim OBCs, weavers) have six different organisations according to their sub-caste.
The heads of these organisations are called Mahto or Sardars. One such organisation "Bawni", headed by Mahto Haji Mukhtar and Nasir Jamal have influence on 22 mohallas.
Another organisation of Ansaris is "Baisi" which hold sway in 14 mohallas. "These people vote according to decision taken by these Mahtos, which cannot be wished away by taking a decision in favour of some candidate in the air-conditioned rooms in Delhi," the Jamiat report said.
The report further says that most of these groups are rooting for Congress candidate, who is a local and has been interacting with them regularly.
"Some of the Mahtos had initially favoured Kejriwal, but their other members didn't accept the decision to support an outsider," a Jamiat leader said adding Rai was a formidable candidate and cannot be taken lightly.
Varanasi-based Jammiat leader Niyaz Farooqi, however, said his group has not yet taken any decision. He said they were still trying to get all these groups together and most probably will convey the decision to local community at the eleventh hour.