Several Muslims IANS spoke to feel that the Congress will not be an en masse beneficiary of the Muslim vote unlike in the December assembly polls that nevertheless ended 15 years of Congress rule in Delhi.
“The community is weighing its options,” an elderly Muslim resident of Old Delhi said ahead of Thursday’s vote.
In Muslim areas, the disenchantment with the Congress, a party in which Muslims have reposed their hopes time and again, is palpable.
At many places, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal – who was Delhi’s chief minister for 49 days until Feb 14 — is emerging a clear favourite.
“In the last 67 years, the Congress has done little for the Muslim community,” said a disgusted Hamid Husain Khirz, a former municipal councillor from Ballimaran, a Muslim-majority area near the Red Fort.
“We have voted for them time and again, but won’t do that this time around,” Khizr told IANS. “We have seen enough of Kapil Sibal. Let’s give a chance to a new party like AAP.”
Far away from Old Delhi, similar sentiments were voiced in the East Delhi constituency.
Said Okhla resident Ashraf Ali: “This time we have a good alternative in the form of Rajmohan Gandhi. “AAP has done some good work during its brief stint in Delhi.”
The recent arrest of Muslim youths from Okhla has angered the Muslim community, which feels that police pick up young Muslims at the slightest provocation.
Often, such young Muslims suffer for long in prison, only to be declared innocent later.
Not everyone is ready to go the AAP way.
RTI activist Afroz Alam Sahil, who too lives in Okhla, feels that a lot of people were still inclined to support the Congress although Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit “has not done much for the area”.
There are also whispers in some Muslim communities that the AAP was “Team B” of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
But there is hardly a Muslim who spoke for the BJP.
Muslims constitute some 14 percent of Delhi’s estimated 17-18 million people. In the Delhi December election that threw up a hung assembly, most of them are said to have voted for the Congress.
Not all Muslims are flashing their cards yet — this time.
“We are not openly supporting any party. But yes, it is important to defeat communal forces,” Maulana Abdul Hameed Naumani, spokesman for the Jamiat Ulema Hind, told IANS
“Our stand is that people should vote for a good candidate from a secular party instead of going for a single party en bloc.”
That’s the stand several Muslim organisations too are taking.
Recently, Jamat-e-Islami Hind issued an advisory to this effect – vote according to local conditions and choose a secular candidate.
On the issue of supporting the Congress, one Muslim said: “If it’s a fight between the BJP and Congress, you will have to naturally choose the lesser evil.”
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, has asked Muslims to vote for the Congress. This triggered complaints that Congress president Sonia Gandhi was pandering to Muslim religious leaders.
Whatever the final outcome, it’s certainly not going to be a cakewalk for all seven Congress candidates in Delhi.