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The Times of India
The Times of India
Pankaj Shah | TNN

Uttar Pradesh: Political churning among Muslims over Azam Khan factor

LUCKNOW: Jailed SP MLA Azam Khan's simmering despondency for his own party have tuned the arc-lights on politics around the Muslim community which consolidated momentously behind the Akhilesh Yadav-led outfit in the recently concluded UP assembly elections.

Political experts maintain that the sullen affliction of Khan as a "victim" of BJP as well as Akhilesh's purported neglect could potentially set a deep-rooted churning among the minority community ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections when BJP would seek to repeat its stupendous performance to hoist PM Narendra Modi back to Delhi throne for the third consecutive time.

Analysts point out that Azam's restlessness towards SP amid a chilling discord between Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal coincides with the presumably "moderate" stance of CM Yogi Adityanath vis-a-vis restricting use of loudspeakers during religious functions post Jahangirpuri violence in Delhi -- a move, that BJP leaders insist, positions the saffron pantheon to take the guard for a swiftly changing dynamics in politically crucial UP.

While BJP has been maintaining an arm's distance with developments around Azam and SP, party sources confide that the existing situation in the rival camp was "somewhat suitable" for the saffron outfit. Experts said that the discreet silence maintained by the top BJP leaders on Azam and his supporters, too, contributed its bit in diffusing the possible build-up of reactionary propensity in the opposition camp.

"A host of Muslim leaders chastising SP in support of Azam was bound to trigger a churning in the political landscape of UP," affirmed Prof SK Pandey, head of the political science department in Babashaeb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU). He said that Muslim community's profound political despair for being rendered as a mere vote bank was "showing up". "Already their representation in UP politics has been shrinking following a galactic rise of BJP in 2014 Lok sabha elections," he said.

Experts said that Akhilesh himself has not been very vocal for the Muslim community during the UP elections fearing a possible counter-polarisation -- even though he was at the receiving end of BJP for fielding Nahid Hasan in exodus-hit Kairana and comparing Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah with Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Muslim consolidation behind SP, which managed to position itself as the most potent rival of BJP in UP polls, nevertheless, is credited to have helped the regional outfit raise its vote share from around 22% in 2017 to over 32% this year.

Sources said that the SP and its allies, especially the Jayant Chaudhary-led RLD, have been sensing the precariousness of the situation. It was only last week that Jayant reached Rampur to meet the family of Azam. The development attained great pertinence in the backdrop of his consistent efforts to cobble up his core Jat vote voters with the Muslims -- the two communities had entered into acrimonious terms after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

BSP chief Mayawati, too, has been perceiving a chance to amalgamate her core Dalit voters with the Muslim to throw up a challenge at the BJP. Experts, however, insist that it will not be an easy task for Mayawati who has only been showing signs of rigidity in her strategy.

"Regional political players will somehow not be in a position to challenge the might of BJP and popularity of PM Modi," Prof Pandey said, insisting that even Congress which has a national presence will face tough task of retrieving its lost political stature in UP -- despite its proposed revival plan under a direct watch of poll strategist Prashant Kishore.

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