The Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are a capricious lot. They seem to be so busy planning to defeat each other that they are unable to unite and stand up to challenge the ruling party at the polls.

The result is that the ruling party has emerged victorious in election after election including in the mayoral polls held in the state recently.

It is the habit of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav to point fingers at the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati than at the ruling party. According to the SP, Mayawati’s electoral politics these days is not designed to help her to win elections but only the ruling party to enjoy power. The BSP hurls similar accusations at the SP.

Meanwhile, the ruling party continues to sweep in electoral gains. In the UP urban local body elections, the ruling party won all the 17 mayoral seats in the state and even raised its vote share significantly from 2017.

The victory after victory for the ruling party is due to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who was on his toes addressing often 50 rallies within two weeks just before the polls.

The AIMIM Factor

The main Opposition parties are so blind in their resentment of each other that they did not notice the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Hyderabad parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi sneak into their midst to win local body elections from under the nose of the SP and the BSP.

The recent victories of the AIMIM in UP’s urban local body elections has divided voters from the minority community who were once the backbone of the SP, and the BSP. Together with the backward Yadav community, Muslims had for decades voted in favour of the SP.

Another group of Muslims had joined hands with Dalits to support the BSP. Now AIMIM has entered the fray to stir up the already volatile political pot in UP. Owaisi projects himself as a messiah of voters of the minority community at a time when Muslim voters feel excluded by the policies of the ruling party, and are unsure of the intentions and political chutzpah of the secular politics of the day.

Voters from minority communities say that in an atmosphere of aggressive majoritarian politics they feel vulnerable. The AIMIM has made inroads into UP all the way from Telangana to sway the Muslim voter away from the secular credentials of the SP and the BSP to participate in a politics that is drowned in religious exclusivity.

Despite the AIMIM’s role in fanning divisive politics, it has bagged five chairmen in UP’s Nagar Palika Parishad and 75 councillors in municipal corporations. Its mayoral candidate in Meerut came second after the ruling party nominee. It is not sure whether this win for the AIMIM is good for UP as Owaisi has not revealed any viable plan to improve the low standard of life in the state and a safer environment for all citizens.

The reality is that minority community voters who had once voted for the Congress Party, and once disappointed with the performance of the Congress had switched their loyalty to the SP and the BSP. Today, voters in general are disillusioned with the politics of the day, in particular those belonging to the minority communities said that they increasingly feel that life is becoming more and more vulnerable and unsafe for them in the present day political atmosphere.

The recent victory of the AIMIM in the UP local body polls is a wake-up call for the secular and progressive political parties in the region. After all, the improved performance of the AIMIM on the electoral battlefield has dealt a major blow to the SP. A SP supporter confided in The Citizen that the present day leadership of his party must heed the dangers of the extreme form of religious politics being played out in the state today.

So who is Owaisi who seems to be turning the politics of UP upside down?

Owaisi from Hyderabad is a three time Parliamentarian and a well-known face in politics. His ambition seems to be to emerge as a nation-wide leader of Indian Muslims.

For Owaisi the success of AIMIM in the local body elections in UP was the best birthday gift he could have received on May 13, when the names of the many winners from his party were revealed.

Dalits and Muslims

The Dalit as well as the support of Muslim voters for those political parties promising social justice and equality for all citizens has clearly shrunk. The vote is now split, scattered and wasted on different political parties.

In the UP urban body polls, the BSP lost two seats it had won in the past and it stood second in seven out of 17 mayoral seats. The performance of the main Opposition party the SP was pathetic.

The SP has lost the support not only of Muslim and Yadav voters but some of its allies too are no longer seen standing by its side. It is not clear whether Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad still supports the SP, or not? Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary has not been seen in roadshows and election rallies organised by the SP in recent times.

The Congress Party that was so favoured by voters for decades in the past has been conspicuous by its absence and seems to have no role to play today in the politics of UP, the largest populated state in the country that sends 80 representatives to the Lok Sabha.