BSP nominating 11 Muslims for mayoral polls in UP seen as move to split SP vote bank
Polling for the urban bodies in Uttar Pradesh is slated in two phases, on May 4 and May 11
The Bahujan Samaj Party giving 11 out of 17 nominations to Muslim candidates for the election to mayoral posts in Uttar Pradesh is seen as a move to split the Samajwadi Party's traditional Muslim-Yadav vote bank and also gives a glimpse into the Mayawati-led outfit's plans for next year's Lok Sabha polls.
While the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have termed it a "vote-cutting" strategy, a BSP leader said his party has tried to project itself as the true well-wisher of Muslims.
Polling for the urban bodies is slated in two phases, on May 4 and May 11.
The BSP has fielded Muslim candidates for mayoral posts in the municipal corporations of Lucknow, Mathura, Firozabad, Saharanpur, Prayagraj, Moradabad, Meerut, Shahjahanpur, Ghaziabad, Aligarh and Bareilly.
On the other hand, the SP and Congress have fielded only four Muslim candidates each. The BJP did not field any Muslim candidate for the mayor's seat.
"Every voter knows why the BSP gave so many tickets to Muslims. She (Mayawati) cannot win herself, so she has done this at the behest of someone else," the Samajwadi Party's chief spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhary told PTI.
"The BSP is the BJP's B-team and this is their strategy to cut votes. But now everyone is aware of all their tricks," he claimed.
On the SP giving nominations to fewer Muslim candidates than BSP, Chowdhary said his party that takes everyone along and works accordingly.
Congress leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui, who was a minister in the Mayawati government, said, "No one knows Behenji (Mayawati) and BSP more than me. Whenever this kind of game was played, the party was wiped out." "Uttar Pradesh has a 20 per cent Muslim population and we (Congress) have fielded four Muslim candidates out of 17, which is more than 23 per cent," said Siddiqui who was once considered a confidant of Mayawati.
In 2017, out of 16 mayoral seats, the BJP won 14 and the BSP two.
"This time, the BSP has fielded 11 Muslims, trying to wean away the minorities by sending out a message of being the true well-wisher of the Muslims," a senior BSP leader said.
The BSP won only one seat in the 403-member strong Uttar Pradesh assembly and got only 12 per cent of votes in the 2022 state polls. Therefore, the BSP chief has started a campaign to influence Muslims, a Samajwadi Party leader said.
While staying mum on other important issues in the last few months, Mayawati has been most vocal in criticising the Samajwadi Party and raising matters concerning Muslims, he said.
Mayawati had targeted the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the law-and-order situation after gangster-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf were shot dead at point-blank range by three men posing as journalists in the middle of a media interaction on Saturday night while police personnel were escorting them to a medical college in Prayagraj for a checkup on April 15.
Atiq Ahmed's wife Shaista Parveen is still in the BSP even though she is wanted by the police, the Samajwadi party leader said.
The BSP's lone MLA Uma Shankar Singh had on Sunday said that Shaista Parveen is still in the party. "If she is convicted, she will be expelled from the party," Singh had said.