Even as Yogi pitches an 80% vs. 20% debate, SP aims fewer tickets to Muslims, particularly in West UP
Evenn as Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s recent statement that the election in 2022 will be a fight between 80 per cent and 20 per cent indicated that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is unwilling to abandon its reliance on Hindutva, rival Samajwadi Party (SP) is planning to field fewer Muslim candidates, particularly in communally sensitive West UP.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Muslim population is believed to be roughly 20 per cent, with a bigger representation in West UP. Around 70 of the 140 assembly seats where Muslim votes are thought to be crucial to have a minority population of at least 30 per cent or higher, while the remainder has a minority population of 25 per cent -30 per cent.
West UP is also more prone to play on community fault lines as a result of its distinct demographic reality. Following the horrific Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, the schism became even more pronounced. The two federal elections in 2014 and 2019, as well as the 2017 assembly elections, demonstrated how the BJP maintained a firm dominance in the region. The sectarian division, as well as the 80% against 20% narrative, played a significant influence in the saffron wave.
The 2017 assembly election was a watershed point in the state’s current politics. From a peak of 17.1 per cent Muslim MLAs in 2012, the assembly’s Muslim members dropped to 5.9 per cent.
In 2017, there were just 25 Muslim MLAs, compared to 69 in 2012. This, despite the fact that mainstream political parties, except for the BJP, supported 178 Muslim candidates. The BJP did not run a single Muslim candidate.
The Samajwadi Party, which is running in coalition with the Congress, has offered tickets to around 60 Muslim candidates. Congress allocated 22 of the 105 tickets to Muslim candidates.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) utilized the Muslim card by distributing 99 tickets to Muslim candidates.
As religious polarization defined the elections, the Muslim card was unhelpful for both the SP and the BSP, but beneficial for the BJP. The Muslim card’s failure was exacerbated by a divide in its vote among opposition parties.
SP to minimize Muslim appeasement in the aftermath of the 2017 election
Since 2017, the opposition has been adjusting to new realities as the BJP has defined the terms of the political game. SP’s strategy has changed dramatically during the last five years. Akhilesh Yadav, the party’s chief, has abstained from aggressive minority posturing.
Aside from removing the skull caps from images and posters of its leaders, the party has also attempted to remove itself from the label of “minority appeasement.”
“To fight the BJP, we now ensure not to bat on its field,” a senior party leader remarked on the condition of anonymity. Our party is dedicated to defending the rights of all groups, particularly minorities. Muslims are aware of which political party is on their side. There is no need for extraneous projection.”
This policy of avoiding antagonizing the majority group and denying the BJP the opportunity to polarize is now resulting in fewer seats for Muslims.
Beginning February 10, the UP goes to the polls in seven stages. The results will be announced on March 10th.
“We aim not to foster the Hindu against Muslim controversy, especially in the West, which goes to the elections first,” a senior SP official remarked. In comparison to 2012, the party aims to run fewer Muslim candidates.” SP will also provide around 35 seats to its partner RLD.
Yogi Adityanath has made it obvious that the BJP would aggressively play the Hindutva card, notwithstanding pledges of “Vikas,” “excellent governance,” and “double engine government.”
The struggle ahead will now be decided by the candidates, whose lists are due in the coming days. The SP believes that defeating the BJP, rather than participation in ticket allocation, is the primary goal of the community.