Mumbai: Breaking of the 15-year-old Congress-NCP alliance might just prove to be a good opportunity for aspiring Muslim legislators. The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has fielded as many as 16 Muslim candidates for the Maharashtra assembly polls, due on October 15, albeit all in the pockets dominated by the community.
Of the total 288 seats for Maharashtra assembly, NCP will be contesting 286 seats this year, compared with 113 seats in 2009 when it had fought that election with its alliance partner Congress. In 2009, the party had given tickets to only 4 Muslim candidates.
Barely couple of days before the deadline of submission of nomination forms of the candidates, NCP broke away from its three-term partner Congress, claiming they could not come to the consensus of 144 seats each.
It appears that the NCP has used this ‘breaking away’ opportunity to gather more support from the Muslim community by giving tickets to 16 Muslim candidates in its overall tally of 286 seats.
Although Muslims constitute 12-14 per cent of the state’s population and play a decisive role in over 40 of its 288 seats, the NCP has chosen 16 out of these 40 seats considering the fact that – as observed in the past elections – that Muslim candidate traditionally attracted fewer voters than a non-Muslim candidate.
The 16 Muslim candidates and their constituencies are: Hidayat Khan (Balapur), Kamil Ansari (Central Nagpur), Shaikh Gaffar Malik (Raver), Babajani Durrani (Pathri), Zubair Motiwala (East Aurangabad), Maulana Mufti Muhammad Ismail Qasmi (Malegaon), Abdul Rasheed Taher Momin (Bhiwandi), Harun Khan (West Ghatkopar), Nawab Malik (Anushakti Nagar), Abdul Rasheed Malik (Kalina), Asif Amla (Bandra), Hafeez Electricwala (Mumba Devi), Basheer Musa Patel (Colaba), Murtuza Khan (Latur), Basheer Murtuza (Ratnagiri) and Hasan Mushrif (Kagal Kolhapur).
Apart from this, the party has also tried to reach out to Muslims through its manifesto released on Thursday in which the party has also assured of increasing budget for the Maulana Azad Minority Economic Corporation to Rs 2000 crore. It has also promised to form a separate ministry for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) if it comes to the power.
While a section of the Muslim community is happy with more tickets to Muslim candidates, there is a section that has criticized the move because they feel Muslims are being fielded by all major parties in Muslim dominated areas but none of the parties have chosen a Muslim candidate for a traditionally mixed community seat.
“(While) all parties are giving more chances to Muslim candidates but that in a way is broadening the fight between Muslim candidates themselves resulting into division of their votes (which may) help non Muslim candidates”, says R. Ali, a social activist from Mumbai.