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United against Modi, Muslim vote splits

- Division between Congress and AAP in Delhi raises possibility of BJP edge

New Delhi, April 10: The Muslim vote in Delhi has split between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, raising the possibility of Narendra Modi’s BJP sailing through most of the capital’s seven constituencies, surveys on the ground as voting ended today have indicated.

The split was distinctly evident in the Chandni Chowk constituency that has a large concentration of the minority community that easily also makes for the biggest anti-Modi voteshare.

United as they are in their opposition to Modi, Muslims were torn amongst themselves. Even Congress functionaries admitted that this was indeed the pattern.

In Chandni Chowk’s congested Bazaar Matia Mahal many of the functionaries, some of them manning Congress voter camps, admitted that there was also a class divide. Middle-class and better-off Muslims favoured the Congress while the poor favoured the AAP.

By and large, the split among the capital’s Muslims reflected a broad trend seen in north Indian constituencies that went to the polls today.

From riot-hit Muzaffarnagar — one of the 10 western Uttar Pradesh constituencies — local leaders said the Muslim vote was divided between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), making it easier for the BJP.

“Even in the past there was a split in the Muslim votes. The BSP used to get 15-20 per cent of the voteshare which has now gone to AAP. It will make no difference to me,” said sitting MP and Union minister Kapil Sibal at Matia Mahal. Sibal was walking into the Dujana House polling station minutes before voting was to end.

Just outside the polling station, Mohammed Shami, who was supporting the Congress for its “secularism”, said “Harshvardhan (the BJP candidate) is a good person but Modi is not”. He also complained that Sibal had not visited the locality in a long time and had done little to address local issues. He pointed to a dark mass of overhead cables that filtered sunlight and posed a fire hazard to a mosque and the bazaar below.

Dilshad Khan, who runs a chicken and meat shop opposite the Jama Masjid, said he figured “that 60 per cent of Muslims in the locality voted the AAP and 40 per cent the Congress and so the BJP is a clear winner”. In the two Muslim-dominated Assembly segments of the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat, he said, “the contest is between Kapil and Kejriwal”.

A Congress worker for voters queueing at the Jama Masjid School booths, Shakir, was happy that Modi’s BJP was hardly polling any votes in the booths in his locality. A junior worker of the party, the young man was barely even looking at the Lok Sabha constituency. But, he said, and admitted it mattered little to him, that Modi’s man would likely win the seat because of the split in the votes.

Abdul Hafiz, a maker of wedding cards and a leader of the Churi Walan Welfare Association, regretted that Muslims failed despite having resolved “to stop communal forces”.

Hafiz pointed to Sibal’s flying visit just before polling ended and said the minister was hardly accompanied by people, unlike other times when there would be a crowd assembling for a VIP visit. He said it was as if the Congress has pulled itself out of the race.


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