As the countdown for counting of votes for elections to Karnataka assembly begins, there is some excitement on the voting distribution of Muslims who account for nearly 13 per cent of the over five crore electorate, especially at a time when the political debate is at its peak about the relevance of liberal and inclusive politics.
According to president of the Karnataka Congress minority cell K Sayeed Ahmed, in about 80 assembly
constituencies the Muslim population account for about 15-50 per cent of the electorate.
But it goes without saying that gauging the voting pattern of Muslims would be crucial not merely for Karnataka polls but also for the national polity.
A section of BJP leaders say the first impact of hyped anti-Triple Talaq Bill as piloted by the Narendra Modi government would be felt in Karnataka only.
“The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that makes instant triple talaq illegal was moved
in December 2017. After that Karnataka is the major election given the size of Muslim electorate as three north eastern states Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura do not have much Muslims,” said a BJP central leader.
Other estimates suggest Muslims can directly influence the outcome in no less than 90 seats and hence the parties like Congress and JD(S) did make use of all possible methodologies to woo the community – who for historical reasons did not enjoy a good rapport with the BJP.
Among the urban seats, it is, however, pretty clear that Muslims are “electorally significant” in at least 30-odd urban seats.
In Bengaluru, the city has some known Muslim-inhabited constituencies and hence all eyes will be on the final outcome of polling into these seats.
In Shivajinagar assembly segment, from where Congress has renominated state Urban Development Minister Roshan Baig, some voters say mere numerical strength does not matter.
“It is the politics around the numbers of Muslims that is important. The victory of BJP nominee Katta Subramanya Naidu in two successive polls in 1999 and 2004 show that all calculation can go haywire. BJP fielded Mr Naidu again,” says Mohammd Ezaz (44) at busy Chandnichowk market.
Similarly, all eyes will be on nearby Shantinagar assembly constituency where the Congress reposed faith in sitting
legislator N A Harris despite the pub row vis-a-vis his son.
The BJP has fielded former mayor Vasudeva Murthy from this segment and is hoping to wrest the seat in a multi cornered tussle wherein AAP has also put up a former IAS officer.
Mr Murthy recently joined BJP leaving JD(S). This segment also has sizeable Christian and Tamil voters.
AAP is making a pitch in this segment this time fielding former bureaucrat-turned-politician Renuka Viswanathan.
The 14th Legislative Assembly had 11 Muslim members, two more than the one between 2008 and 2013.
The Congress minority cell had demanded for 30 Muslim candidates across the state while in the ultimate, the grand old party had fielded 17 candidates.
Predictably in some segments the Congress supporters and workers staged noisy protest against party chief
Rahul Gandhi and the high command.
In the outgoing legislature, nine of the Muslim MLAs were elected on Congress ticket while two from the Janata Dal (S).
In Bengaluru besides Shantinagar and Shivajinagar, the Chamrajpet segment also had a Muslim legislator B. Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan of Congress in 2013.
While Congress banked heavily on Chief Minister’s popular Shadi Bhagya scheme and JD(S) too depended on former
Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s ‘secular credentials’, other than mere number crunching and caste equations, the BJP did not do much about ‘Muslim candidates’ per se.
Of course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah and also other party leaders time and again sought to make an issue of killings of 24 Karyakartas, ‘Muslim appeasement’ of Chief Minister and also charged the Congress regime to let Bengaluru run under the ‘control’ of the trio Harris, Roshan Baig and K J George – incidentally all from minorities.
For his part, BJP president Amit Shah said the party does not give tickets based on anyone’s caste or religion.
In fact on the last day of campaign, he told a scribe at the crowded press conference here that “the media also should not do analysis on how many Muslims have been fielded or not”.
In the ultimate, now that a hung assembly has been predicted by several Exit polls, political observers maintain
that the political upheaval sparked off by Congress president Mr Gandhi’s attack on Janata Dal (S) of Mr Deve Gowda as the ‘B’ team of the BJP will only refuse to settle down.