It is widely regarded that the political scene in the Indo-Gangetic plain constituting Bihar, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh in India would largely be influenced by the quintessential Muslim vote, which is gaining more prominence in these three states.
This can be attributed to the dramatic rise of the Muslim population in states like Assam, West Bengal, Jharkand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra in recent years. Although this could be a breather for secular parties who believe that they can harvest their votes as they used to do so for many years now, statistics say otherwise.
Consider the Gangetic battleground. The upcoming elections has the Mamata, Maya and Mulayam led parties foraying to secure the Muslim vote bank in these states. A defect in the other direction would lead to these parties losing their size. Then again, a possible Muslim defection in favor of Modi could force these parties to come together and form a never before formed alliance.
Recent examples prove this point. The Bihar by-polls saw Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar join hands to oppose the BJP, while Mayawati allowed victory to the Samajwadi party by staying away from the by-polls. The upcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir are also seeing more voter registrations aimed at keeping Modi (and the BJP) out.
In the midst of all this, the Hyderabad based All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) party managed to open an account in Maharastra with two assembly seats, thus adding to the worries of the secular parties. MIM party’s leader Asaduddin Owaisi shuns traditional Muslim leaders as well as the secular parties. It is highly unlikely that MIM’s victory in Maharastra was a fluke. Judging by the party’s decision to contest in UP and West Bengal as well, there is no doubt the secular parties would need to scramble for cover and protect their Muslim votes.
MIM is confident of winning in these areas, with Asaduddin Owaisi pointing out the inefficient policies laid out by Mulayam Singh and Mamata Banerjee, which hardly helped the minority voters. While no one guarantees that MIM will succeed in grabbing seats in these areas its maiden attempt, the threat to the secular parties leading these regions is pretty clear.
Even if MIM were to garner a mere 20% of the Muslim votes in these states, it could mean deep trouble for the secular parties. For it was a split in the Muslim vote between Mulayam and Mayawati that helped Modi gain 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh. If the split widens and another chunk of the Muslim vote is grabbed by MIM, then the secular parties would have no other option but to pack their bags for good.
The future of the Indian political scene in the Gangetic plain could depend to a large extent on the rise of Muslim parties in these areas. With their Muslim vote bank in jeopardy now, the secular parties in these regions would either need to accept defeat or come together in an unlikely union to fight together to maintain their existence.