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How will Muslims vote in this election?

With Muslims unlikely to vote for the BJP in great numbers, the question remains as to whom they will vote for. Many Muslims are very disappointed with the current Congress-led government. Whether, they will vote for other regional parties this time?
The ruling alliance UPA (United Progressive Alliance) led by the Congress party, the main opposition NDA (National Democratic Alliance) led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the regional outfits all have one thing in common: They understand that the Muslim community will have a considerable impact on their electoral fortunes. Muslim voters will play a decisive role in about 100 of the 543 constituencies set to return MPs to the Indian Parliament. In some constituencies Muslims make up about 40 percent of voters.
Although the Congress party has traditionally enjoyed the loyalty of this minority community, its support base among Muslims has eroded significantly in the past twenty years in the face of gains by many of the regional parties. According to government reports, Muslims remain one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in India. As a result, many of them now feel that successive Congress-led governments have failed them. But simply deserting the Congress party for the opposition BJP is hardly an option since Muslims deeply distrust the BJP.
The main opposition BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is being hyped as the man destined to solve India’s economic problems. But that doesn’t seem to cut much ice with Muslim voters. When Muslims go to vote, their primary preference will be for a party that is in a position to defeat the BJP in that constituency.
Muslims, goes the conventional wisdom, are a vote-bank. That bank is now working aggressively towards becoming the central bank of Indian politics with a view to dominating its future political currency. If conversations, events and initiatives of the past four weeks are an indicator, Muslim social and political organisations as well as prominent Muslims have evolved a one-point agenda: to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman Narendra Modi a shot at becoming India’s prime minister after the 16th General Election that is due in a year.
Muslim leaders have long slammed the Congress for what they see as its failure to improve the Muslims’ lot after a panel led by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar reported in 2006 that Muslims were one of India’s most neglected social groups in terms of education, employment, poverty and health.
Disappointment has also been rife among the Muslims at the refusal of the Congress-led UPA to declare the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the premier Muslim educational institution set up in the 19th century, a minority institution as the Muslims have long demanded.
From Lucknow in the north to Hyderabad in the south and Kolkata in the east, the dominant discourse among the Muslim community is as follows: coalition governments that have run India unbroken since 1996 will continue as the norm.
Muslims may be a minority country-wide – they constitute 13.4 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people – but they are a majority in the state of Jammu and in Kashmir, and account for roughly a fourth of the population in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. In the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh – which alone accounts for a fifth of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament.

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