The three major political parties in India are looking for support from the Muslim community, ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections on Wednesday. It is hard to ignore the importance of Muslim voters as their votes can be vital. Muslims constitute over 13% of Karnataka’s population, important in more than 40 of 224 constituencies. Here is how the politicians will try and show their support for the community in order to get their votes.
In the 2018 elections, the BJP did not have any Muslim candidates. The BJP is working on reaching Pasmanda Muslims which includes the Dalit Muslims and backward-caste Muslims, and how the government has worked for the deprived without any discrimination. The Bharatiya Janata Party is not the first choice for Muslim voters, minority votes go to Congress. This time round, the Congress and JDS are confident that they will get the Muslim votes.
Muslims have a stronger presence in North Karnataka, Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur, Raichur and Dharwad. Kalaburagi north, Pulakeshinagar, Shivajinagar, Jayanagar, Padmanabhanagar Tumkur, Chamrajpet are all Muslim dominated constituencies in the state.
The Congress and JDS are worried about the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a pro Muslim outfit which can divide minority votes, and benefit ruling BJP. SDPI has identified 65 seats where Muslim voters are more than 20% of the electorate. The muslim community has been included in the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category which is 10% of the population. The government decided to divide 4% between Lingayat and Vokkaliga and removed the 4% reservation quota for Muslims in OBC category.
The Congress has promised to restore the scrapped 4 percent quota for Muslims in Karnataka if it comes to power. Last year, the Hijab ban started a political row when the state government banned Hijabs in schools and Pre University Colleges. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court where the vote was split.
Former Chief Minister, HD Kumaraswamy has appealed to the Muslims to vote for the JDS where the party is strong and vote for the Congress where the party is strong. The former Chief Minister has taken a strong position against the BJP government’s polarizing views such as Hijabs, halal, anti-cow slaughter bill. Both the Modi government and Rahul Gandhi have called the JDS the ‘B team’ of Congress and BJP, respectively, in order to split the votes.
The JDS has also promised to restore the reservation of Muslims if voted to power.
This time only 10 Muslim candidates will represent the Congress Party in Karnataka.
An Ulema leader (body of Muslim scholars) stated that the last few years of BJP rule in Karnataka has created a sense of insecurity within the community. And that they wanted to be with the Congress. But unfortunately, the Congress is not on the same page as them and the Congress thinks that Muslims will vote without addressing the issues raised by them. They have given various representations, but the State leadership of the Congress is not keen on addressing the issue.