Around five years ago, the Samajwadi Party (SP) had made a host of promises to the Muslim community.
It was the time when Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati’s five-year regime was coming to an end and a young Akhilesh Yadav was criss-crossing the state on a cycle. Ahead of the Assembly polls, Akhilesh was working hard to attract youths to the party. One of the major promises of the SP was to give laptops to students.
Clearly, the SP was trying hard to win the overwhelming support of the community through the 16 promises made in the 2012 Assembly poll manifesto. Some of the promises included reservation for Muslims, opening of government educational institutes in Muslim areas and setting up of Urdu medium schools.
The document said that the Uttar Pradesh government will put pressure on the Centre to implement the recommendations of the Sachar panel and Ranganath committee reports. It was also said that once the SP was in power, the government would hold special camps so that more Muslims get recruited in state forces and the community gets its due representation in the police department.
Eventually, the SP won the election and laptops were distributed after Akhilesh Yadav took over as the chief minister but the long list of promises to the Muslims remained unfulfilled.
The party's promise of the government releasing Muslim youths implicated in false cases, a compensation to them apart from taking action against erring policemen in such cases remained empty vows. After coming to power, the SP leaders remained silent over the promise of reservation too.
Strangely enough, UP, which has the highest Urdu speaking population in India among all states, doesn’t have Urdu medium schools unlike Maharashtra or Karnataka (to name a few) because of an old law that doesn’t allow the medium of instruction in any language other than Hindi or English. The government never bothered to change the parochial law.
As a result, there are fewer government schools (forget English medium or private schools) in Muslim hamlets and madrasas still cater to a huge population of students.
Over the years, the SP didn’t bother to fulfill the promises it had made to the Muslims. Why? Perhaps, because the party was confident that it would get the Muslim vote, even if it didn’t keep its word.
Instead, one of the promises that was kept was the construction of boundary walls around graveyards. “They won’t give you what you need — education, jobs and representation,” was a common lament in Muslim gatherings in Uttar Pradesh in the last couple of years.
However, whether the community will still vote for the party is yet to be seen. The publicity campaign that has equated Akhilesh's tenure with development seems to have swayed a section of Muslims. Many Muslims in the state also acknowledge, “Akhilesh ne kaam to kiya hai (Akhilesh has worked)."
“After the Muzaffarnagar riots, the party suffered. There was anger among both Hindus and Muslims but now the situation has improved. Muslims are largely going to vote for the party,” says a Muslim functionary of the party.
A retired bank official from the community echoes the functionary's sentiments. “The community was upset with the SP after the riots but the positive campaign focusing on development and its alliance with Congress has given it an edge lately,” says Viqar Ahmad, the official.
However, Lucknow resident Maqsood Mohammad Khan says the tables could turn anytime. “There is no blind support for the SP among the Muslims. People are going to vote according to their considerations and candidates in each constituency. The Muslim electorate is not vocal this time, they are still thinking and the decision could be made just before polling,” says Khan.
Rihai Manch, an organisation that has been fighting for youths implicated in false cases in UP, has written an open letter to Akhilesh.
In the letter, Manch spokesperson Shahnawaz Alam speaks about the SP's failure to keep its promise.
With barely a week to go before the first phase of polling in UP, it is just a matter of time when the voters might recall the empty words and the lack of development in their community and the state.
Updated Date: Feb 06, 2017 16:07 PM