It's common knowledge that Muslim votes play a crucial role in the prospect of government formation. But the community is searching for answers to a few questions: which party should it back this time?
Should it dare to vote for a change and teach the ruling Congress-NCP alliance a lesson or just stick to the basics and go against the saffron parties to keep Narendra Modi at bay? For that matter, can't it change its option and chose either Samajwadi Party (SP) or the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)?
Muslims form close to 14% of the total electorate of Maharashtra and play a definitive role in shaping the poll outcome in certain constituencies.
Activist Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz, who runs the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, claims that the community is willing to chose the option of giving new parties a chance. "These questions were on my mind until the Delhi assembly elections. Now, I have some clarity. I shall explore my options in AAP since I can't allow Congress-NCP to continue to take us for granted. Eight years have passed since the Sachar committee report was made public. What has the alliance done about its recommendations," she asked.
She not worried about the Modi factor. "Modi is reality. We know it's a difficult choice to make. But I believe it's time to take some risk and not fall prey to the fear psychosis (about Modi) created by the Congress," she observed.
Senior journalist Mohammed Shoaib Koti, who is the general secretary of Tahrik-E-Zakat India and vice president of Quami Majlis-E-Shora, Maharashtra, calls the BJP and the Congress "two sides of the same coin".
"Congress and its allies have not done much for the progress of the community and the country, but the saffron allies are worse. Their entire focus is on spreading hatred and hampering the growth of the nation.
Under these circumstances, Muslims would opt for secular parties. I am also open to exploring options in parties like AAP," he said.
Perturbed over the prevailing confusion over whom to chose, activist Maulana Burhaan-uddin Qasmi, director of Markaz-ul-Maarif, an education and research centre in Jogeshwari, has been holding community meetings to discuss the issue.
"We have reached a consensus that the community should vote for the candidate — whether from the Congress NCP or AAP — who has the brightest chance to defeat the candidate of the saffron parties," said Qasmi.
In the Delhi assembly polls, despite a poor show in almost 62 out of the 70 seats, the Congress party managed to retain all five Muslim-dominated seats. The AAP, however, ate into a considerable number of Muslim votes and there is a likelihood of this trend being repeated in Maharashtra.
The riots in Muzzaffarnagar have perhaps hit the popularity of SP among Muslims in Maharashtra. While most community members dismissed the party as a non-entity, a few said its worse than the Congress.