OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

The cabinet Thursday gave its approval for enactment of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill. The bill purportedly aims at preventing sectarian strife and quicker justice to victims. The bill envisages this by attempting to preventocommunal violence and related offences, and ensure speedy investigation and dispensation of justice. It will also impose enhanced punishment on those guilty of communal violence, providing relief and rehabilitation facilities to the victims and empowering the states and central authorities to discharge their duties in assisting victims in the matter. PTI was more specific in what the bill means. It said the law was meant to givemore teeth to law enforcement agencies to protect religious minorities against rioters was today approved by the Union Cabinet.

With the battle for Uttar Pradesh hotting up the Congress is clearly eyeing the Muslim Vote Bank. Offstumped takes a hard look at what insights if any can be drawn about the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh and how that is likely to influence the outcome in 2007.

In the 2002 assembly elections there were about 46 muslim MLAs elected out of as total of 403 assembly seats. So it is reasonable to assume that in about 10% of the assembly seats there was some kind of muslim vote consolidation save the odd constituency where a muslim candidate may have won without any significant vote consolidation. Another interesting statistic from the 2002 assembly election was that in these 46 seats won by muslims the runner up was a muslim in  only 7 seats while a whopping majority of the seats the runner-up was a non-muslim. The other interesting statistic is that in an equal number of seats the runner up was a Muslim where the winner was a non-muslim. So in effect in roughly about 86 seats muslims candidates were either winners or runners-up. A crude measure of the size of the battleground where Muslim vote consolidation has in the past made an impact and will likely make an impact in the current election. In 2002 the SP which had 143 MLAs to begin with had a shorfall of about 60 odd MLAs. The 40 additional seats in which Muslims were runners up could have swung the pendulum the SP way pretty darn close.

The Muslim Vote Consolidation is not without precedent in recent times. The Ajmal experiment in Assam paid off rich dividends with the AUDF contesting in 69 seats and winning 10, contrast this with the BJP contesting 125 seats and also winning only 10. What is astounding is the vote percentages with which the AUDF supported Muslim candidates won the elections in these 10 seats. For example in Bilasipara West in Assam the total turnout was 82%, which is very high for any election in India, however the winning Muslim candidate from AUDF polled only 24% of the votes. In Katigora which had nearly 70% voter turnout, the winning Muslim candidate from AUDF polled only 37%. Badruddin Ajmal himself in Jamunamukh which had a voter turnout close to 80% polled less than 50%. The story is pretty much the same in the rest of the seats save a couple. The lesson from Assam seems to be that despite a fragmented polity, there was sufficient consolidation of Muslim votes behind an upapologetically Muslim Political Outfit to ensure electoral victory despite very high overall voter turnouts.

Leading the charge in Uttar Pradesh is Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Maulana Syed Ahmed Bhukhari who sometime back announced the formation of a political front Uttar Pradesh United Democratic Front (UPUDF) to replicate the Assam experiment. Lending support to Bukhari are Assam’s AUDF and C.M. Ibrahim of the AIPJD from Karnataka as well as the grand old dinosaur of Indian Politics V.P. Singh’s Jan Morcha. The electoral strategy of these outfits is to target 150 odd assembly seats which they claim to have more than 20% Muslim population. Of these as Offstumped has revealed atleast 86 have had very viable Muslim candidates. The effectiveness of this front in consolidating the Muslim Vote Bank remains to be seen.

Offstumped Bottomline: All of 2006 we saw an environment of increasing Muslim Mobilization on Islamic issues. Starting with the controversy in Uttar Pradesh over the Danish Cartoons which were followed by the rather shameful mobilization of Muslims in favor of Iranian Nukes and then against the visit by President George Bush by the so called secular parties. As the UP Polls near the Congress seems to be unapologetically moving ahead with wooing the Muslim Vote Bank with the Communal Violence bill timed to coincide with the  five year Godhra, Gujarat Riots anniversary. The reasons are quite clear, the Muslim Vote Bank is real and the 86 odd assembly seats attest to it.

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