By Anand Singh
Lucknow, March 17 (IANS) Amid rising incidents of violence in the name of cow protection, Shia Muslims in Lucknow say while the incidents outrage them, they might still consider voting for the BJP if it again fields Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh from the city seat in 2019 elections.
There has been speculation that Rajnath Singh, who won convincingly from Lucknow in the 2014 polls - the Bharatiya Janata Party's seventh successive victory in the constituency - may be shifted to the Gautama Buddh Nagar seat for these elections. The minister has, however, denied any change.
Muslims comprise over 26 per cent of Lucknow city's population, according to the 2011 Census, and about 350,000, as per UP Minister Mohsin Raza, of its 1.9 million voters (in the 2017 assembly elections). According to Reza, about a third of the Muslim voters are Shias, and he is confident that they will vote for the BJP.
The lone Muslim minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, he said that there are two reasons for this. First, in respect to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the MP from the city from 1991 to 2009, and second, the air strike in Pakistan by the Indian Air Force in response to the Pulwama attack.
He claimed that the Sunnis don't go out to vote while the Shias participate actively "We are confident that about 70,000 votes of Shias will go in favour of the BJP," he said, adding that the Muslims "are now feeling that the (Modi) government has given the opportunity to grow".
Shia Wakf Board chief Waseem Rizvi also backed the BJP, saying "we will vote for Modi ji, whoever is the candidate from Lucknow."
But, other Shia community leaders have different views.
Prominent cleric Yasoob Abbas told IANS, "The way in which the BJP MPs and the MLAs had targeted the Muslim community has broken our heart."
"The Modi government had gave a slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'. But the BJP leaders raised the issues of temple and mosque and that hurt us. The BJP failed to act against such leaders. Even the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has polarised voters on the name of religion," he said.
Describing incidents of lynching as "very unfortunate", Abbas said that a human being's life is very precious, "but in the state, the price of an animal life is more than the life of a human being".
About other issues, he said one major concern that they "will keep in our mind is the condition of youths of our community". "We are very worried about their future as nothing has been done for employment," he said.
Asked about whom the community will vote for in the elections, he said that they were waiting and watching. "We will decide after looking at the candidate fielded by the political parties," he said, but praised Rajnath Singh.
"If BJP fields Rajnath Singh, then we shall consider voting a gentle and noble leader as he had never spoken against the community. He carries forward the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who believed in taking all communities together," he added.
Another prominent Shia cleric, Maulana Saif Abbas, also admitted that they were "unhappy" with the way senior leaders of the party have been silent" over incidents of hate speech by the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Giriraj Singh.
Asked if who they shall vote for, Abbas said, "This time we shall vote very cautiously. All the Muslim votes will be decided in coming days. And the candidates of the BSP-SP and Congress would also be considered."
"We want relief from harassment caused by the leaders in the second row of the BJP and the silence of Modi and other top leaders had made us feel cornered," Abbas noted.
Uttar Pradesh will vote in all seven phases of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled from April 11 to May 19 and Lucknow will go to vote in the fifth phase of May 6. Votes will be counted on May 23.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)