The Muslim votes will play a crucial role in the Karnataka assembly elections. The Congress is banking on this vote bank to boost its chances of winning the elections and retaining the chair.
Several surveys suggest that the Congress would end up with a large chunk of the Muslim votes in the upcoming elections. The Muslims realising the importance of their votes have now demanded that the Congress field one Muslim candidate from every district.
In Siddaramaiah's scheme of things, he would sail through comfortably with the votes of the Dalits, backward classes and Muslims. If Siddaramaiah's calculations on the Muslim votes goes entirely right, he is then in with a chance.
However there is a good chance of this calculation going wrong for the CM with the entry of the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) and the Mahila Empowerment Party. Both these are Muslim dominated parties and while they are not in with any great chance, they could still play spoilsport for the Congress. The MIM has decided to contest in 60 seats while the MEP would go for it all 224 constituencies.
The Muslims account for 13 to 16 per cent of the population and have a strong influence in over 30 seats in the state. The AIMM would have candidates in all these constituencies. While the chance of a win remains remote, the Congress is worried that the party could end up splitting the votes. For the Congress to win big, it will need the Muslims to vote for it in large numbers. The Congress is also aware of the fact that the Muslims also vote for the JD(S) and with the AIMM in the fray the division would be further.
The AIMM is the key worry for the Congress. It realises that the party can spring a surprise in smaller pockets. For instance in the UP Municipal elections, the party won 29 out of the 78 seats it contested. In Nanded Municipal Corporation polls, the party won 11 seats whereas in Aurangabad the MIM finished second.
In the 2015 the MIM fielded 29 candidates from the Muslim dominated belts. The party however failed to impress and did not win a single seat and this is something that the Congress would take solace from. However this time for the Congress the worry is more about the MIM splitting the Muslim vote which would indirectly help the BJP.
Take for instance the Vijayapura City seat. Both the MIM and MEP are fielding candidates. They would also field candidates in the two other seats which fall under Vijayapura.
The MIM which has launched a Ghar Ghar Majlis campaign has being witnessing impressive turnouts at its rallies. The battle at Vijayapura would be a test case of how much the Muslim vote would split. It is a three way fight with sitting MLA, Maqbool Bagwan of the Congress, Basavaraj Yatnal and the MIM candidate who is yet to be announced. Analysts say that Yatnal could have an edge as the MIM would split the Muslim votes which would hurt the Congress. Observers also add that the MIM would have a similar effect in ten or more constituencies.
However for the Congress the worry does not end with the MIM. There are smaller parties such as the SDPI which can split the Muslim votes. The SDPI is no novice in Karnataka and has won 72 seats in the gram panchayat elections. In the BBMP poll, it polled 15 per cent of the votes and even managed to win against the Congress in the Siddapura war.
The Congress would tread carefully as it would not want to lose out on the Muslim votes. In the 30 Muslim dominated constituencies, the worry for the Congress is the consolidation of the MIM coupled with other parties such as the SDPI and MEP.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|