Lok Sabha elections: Muslims in metros speak their mind

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,

It’s a few weeks to General Elections in the largest democracy of the world, but there is no single issue swaying the masses across the country. One factor could be growing regional parties and consequent melting stature of national parties. But for the 14 crore-strong Muslim community, who has generally voted en masse nationally for one party or the other, is there a consensus issue on which they will chose party or candidates this time around?

Support TwoCircles

TwoCircles.net team in Delhi, Mumbai and Patna talked to common Muslims to read their mind. Like general people, there is no national issue touching Muslims in all these cities, TCN found. While local civic issues dominate, some in Mumbai also talk about inflation and economic slowdown – a national as well as global issue. However, top issue before Muslims in Patna is security.

As for party of their choice, while majority of Muslims in all three cities are likely to vote for the Congress – some out of choice, many others out of compulsion as there is no strong alternative to keep BJP out of power. A section has not made up its mind and has leaning towards non-UPA and non-NDA party. They want to teach a lesson to the parties that consider Muslims a vote bank. However, some will cast vote on candidates, not party. So if they find a good candidate promising to meet their demands, even if he/she is from a communal party, they may cast vote in their favor. But many are those who are simply fed up with parties and so may not vote at all.

First let’s listen to what Muslims in Delhi say. Talk to them whether in East Delhi, Central Delhi or West Delhi, overwhelming majority of them begin with local civic issues like water, electricity, road and sanitation and end up pinning hope on the Congress for the solution. While some are going to vote for the party that is ruling both Delhi state and the centre as there is no better and strong alternative, some are ready to vote for SP or BSP or Third Front.

Gulzar is a vendor in Jama Masjid area under Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency. “I do not have a shop. I sell clothes on the pavement leading to Jama Masjid. Lack of cleanliness is another big problem in Delhi.”
He thinks Congress is the party which will solve the problems. “We have been voting for Congress, we will vote for the party this time also,” says Gulzar, a Delhi native.

Just in the shadow of Jama Masjid is another Delhiite Ashraf Khan, also a vendor. “The situation of water and electricity is just worsening day by day. Political parties make promises only to break. Our local MLA worked hard to solve the problems but they still remain.”

He hopes the Congress will solve the problems, so he will vote for the party.
South Delhi resident Muhammad Shamshad who lives in Lajpat Nagar talks about poor sewerage system and roads in his locality. He hopes Congress will solve it as its government in Delhi has done a lot of work – made several flyovers and solved water problem. He is of the view that the Congress should be voted for. He himself voted for the party in the recent Delhi Assembly elections.

For West Delhi’s Nagloi resident Dr Saeeduddin Qasmi, communal harmony apart from some civic issues remains decisive. “Local people support parties and candidates who work for communal harmony. They think Congress understands their problems and can take Muslims and other communities along.”

Lots of work has been done by the Delhi Congress government. They worked on roads, sewerage systems, flyovers and also Metro. The area is being connected to Metro rail line. “People are thinking to give them another chance.”
But he also points out some facts. “While people have generally voted for Congress in the past, in the recent Assembly election, first time a BJP candidate won from the area. The local corporater is also a BJP man.

In the newly carved out East Delhi LS constituency, Jamia Nagar which has heavy Muslim presence will play a crucial role.

Zeeshan Ahmad, a Jamia Hamdard staff and resident of Jamia Nagar talks about problems like water, restrictions on construction and police politician nexus. “They are extorting money from builders. New roads were constructed but because of substandard materials, cracks began appearing.”

He does not see there is any party which will honestly solve the problems. “One may consider Congress, but its local MLA has spread corruption, they do not check encroachments and illegal constructions but are disturbing common and poor people.”
Zeeshan will vote for Congress as there is no alternative. But he will consider candidate’s position also before casting vote.

Muhammad Munawwar, MCA student of Jamia Millia Islamia, says that besides poor quality of water and road, there are few hostels in the locality. Because of that thousands of students of the university have to face problems.
As for vote, “People may vote for the Congress. Some may prefer it, but some others will support it as there is no alternative.” “I will vote for the Congress.”
For Sabina, homemaker living in Abul Fazl Enclave in Jamia Nagar, problems of water and electricity are more important. For hours there is no electricity in the area, and no one heeds their grievances.

She thinks Congress may solve the problems. She voted for the party in the last assembly elections, will vote for it again in the Lok Sabha elections.
However, Kamal Ahmad, manager of a reputed English weekly, has different views. True, he also talks about local civic issues besides the Batla House encounter, he has almost made up his mind not to vote for the Congress for the same reasons.
“In the last elections, Muslims voted for Congress, and it was able to form the government. They promised to provide facilities for the Muslim community. But they have failed in this regard. Muslims think Congress has just cheated them as they did not do enough to solve their problems.”

Restrictions on constructions, impure and improper water supply and poor roads are major issues. “Police is creating hurdles in construction of houses, roads are not good, several times water in Jamia Nagar area was tasted and harmful chemicals were found in it, but the government did nothing to provide clean drinking water,” Kamal Ahmad says.

“The Delhi Congress government did lot of development work, but ignored this Jamia Nagar area. Take Metro rail routes. Entire Delhi is being connected to it, but Jamia Nagar has been ignored.”

“Batla House encounter took place here. Despite public outrage over the genuineness of the encounter, Congress governments both in Delhi and the centre did not agree for a judicial enquiry.”

Who are you going to vote? “We have not yet decided. We are considering alternatives. Muslims of this area are thinking about voting other party, Muslims are not bound to the Congress. There are many alternatives, there is SP, BSP, and Third Front is also coming.”

Community break-up in Lok Sabha constituencies in Delhi

Chandni Chowk

SC & OBC 35.1

Punjabi & Sikh 17.5

Vaishya 16.9

Muslim 13.4

North East

SC & OBC 38.0

Muslim 21.4

Brahmins 11.6

Mix middle class 01.4

East Delhi

SC & OBC 27.3

Muslim 15.7

Punjabi & Sikh 17.5

Brahmins 11.9

New Delhi

SC & OBC 30.1

Punjabi & Sikh 20.2

Govt employees 16.3

Mix middle class 08.6

North West Delhi (SC)

SC & OBC 42.2

Brahmins 12.2

Muslims 08.9

Jats 11.9

West Delhi

SC & OBC 33.2

Punjabi & Sikhs 22.5

Brahmins 09.5

Jats 08.6

South Delhi

SC & OBC 50.1

Brahmins 09.4

Gujjars 09.0

Muslims 06.0

(All figures in %, based on internal surveys of political parties)