Delhi election: Have Muslims abandoned Congress?

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New Delhi, Feb 16: Delhi's voters have given their verdict loud and clear. After months of uncertainty, the electorate has reposed faith in Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP that has its genesis in Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement.

It is not just his victory that is important. What is more significant is the groundswell of support the Aam Aadmi Party got. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have been decimated with just three seats, the biggest loser is the Congress.

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From being a ruling party at the centre and in the capital, the Congress is finding it hard to believe it has suddenly become irrelevant in Delhi. It had an absolute majority just over a year ago in the Delhi assembly. This fell to eight seats in 2013. Now it has failed to win even one seat.

The worst news is that the core Congress voters seem to have shifted en bloc to the AAP. Even Congress leaders who looked infallible (Haroon Yusuf, Asif Muhammad Khan and Choudhary Mateen) were badly bruised.

While the loss in Delhi may be bad for the BJP, for the Congress this is worse. In the last assembly election in Delhi, the party won in all constituencies where Muslims live in large numbers. But this time it lost badly in these places. AAP candidates whose names were barely known won by huge margins while the Congress was pushed to the third spot.

While the BJP has retained its core voters, the Congress' vote bank seems to have gone to the AAP wholesale. From 24 percent vote share in 2013, the Congress now got just nine percent votes.

The worrying aspect of this election is that Muslim voters have ditched the Congress in a manner not experienced in decades. This is something the Congress never imagined could happen. If the trend continues and Dalits, minorities and others continue to drift away from the Congress, it is going to change the political scenario. Is India staring at a scenario in which the Congress will be a marginal player?

While it may be too early to write the Congress obituary, the reversal in fortunes hasn't been caused by either Narendra Modi or Kejriwal. Congress leaders are themselves to blame.

The Congress-led UPA government failed to take any definite steps to improve the Muslim community's lot. The Sachar Committee recommendations were never implemented. Muslim youths across the country were hounded like never before. The Muslim community felt scared. All these had a negative impact on their support for the Grand Old Party. Leadership issue was a concern too. Sonia Gandhi was not keeping well and Rahul Gandhi failed to impress.

Nonetheless everything isn't lost as yet. The Congress has risen from the ashes in the past. Muslims have historically remained with the party. They will flock to it again if and when it starts showing that it cares for them and sorts out leadership issues that seems to plague it.

IANS

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