There is no specific reason why the Muslims would dump the BSP. Her equation with the community was never too warm; it was never too cold either. There was no communal violence, barring one in Rae Bareli, during her regime. None of her policies posed threat of any kind to the community. She had secured a sizable chunk of Muslim votes in 2007 and in the 2009 parliamentary elections, the relationship looked hunky-dory with the BSP bagging close to 18 percent of the community’s votes.
There was no strong communal issue this election to polarise Muslim votes. In such a case, the votes normally go to the SP. Without polarisation, the community’s votes get scattered among all parties, barring the BJP. The Congress, which is never a favourite, also manages good votes when things are normal. Then why would the Muslims dump the BSP? Possibly there were strong polarising tendencies which stayed unnoticed at the sub-surface level.
Mayawati sought to explain it today. “The BJP used the Congress strategy to polarise upper caste votes in their favour. It also tried to woo voters in the other backward caste category… The Muslims feared that the BJP may be in a position to form a government. They also saw Congress in a weak position and then decided to bring a government which may keep the BJP away. So, they voted in bulk for the SP,” she told the press.
Is is apparent now that the presence of Uma Bharti, the Hindutva firebrand, caused some consternation in the community. The BJP’s attempt to project her as the party’s face in the state and later the revival of the Ram Temple issue in the party manifesto, could have led to consolidation of Muslim votes.
Construction of a grand temple is associated with the faith of crores of people of the country. Ram is the symbol of prestige, pride and dignity of the country. Unfortunately due to psuedo-secularism and vote bank politics it is being opposed. BJP is committed to remove all hurdles in the path of construction of Ram temple, the manifesto said. That was hint enough for the Muslim community to get together.
The election was expected to throw up a fractured mandate. In that case, there was a distinct possibility of the BSP tying up with the BJP. The BJP had made it clear prior to the polls that it won’t back the BSP, “come what may”, but it was not convincing enough. It has reneged on similar promise thrice earlier. The Muslim community wanted a BSP-BJP combine out of power. This explains the polarisation better. The BSP suffered because of a perceived threat, not a real one.
Now there is the issue of enticement offered to the community. The Congress offered 4.5 percent quota for the community within the 27 percent OBC quota and later hiked it to nine percent. The SP outdid the Congress by promising 18 percent reservation. The community realises such promises mean little and coming particularly from the Congress, a party they don’t trust at all, it means nothing. In SP they could trust more.
“The Muslims understand that the parties, particularly the Congress, is trying to fool them. These are just poll time promises and are not meant to be taken seriously. This cannot be reason for the polarisation…The very basic concern of the community is about the security of lives and property. When there is a perceived or actual threat to it, they unite. Any small provocation in this respect would drive them together,” the editor of an Urdu daily said, requesting anonymity.
It appears that at some stage the community feared a BJP comeback, either by itself or by riding piggy back on the BSP. It made the SP the obvious choice.