Lucknow, Feb 7: With the SP-Congress alliance going strong after initial hiccups, BSP and BJP have been forced to rework their strategies in the western belt of Uttar Pradesh where Muslim voters are a major force to reckon with. Western UP has 140 Assembly constituencies spread over 26 districts which will go to polls in the first two phases on February 11 and 15.
BSP, which was expecting a cake walk in the wake of feud in the Yadav family, to provide a strong alternative to BJP, got a blow with the coming together of two young faces of Indian politics - Akhilesh and Rahul - who do not have any previous record of hobnobbing with the saffron party.
To win over Muslims, BSP fielded has fielded as many as 50 Muslim candidates in the first two phases as it felt that Muslim vote along with its own core Dalit vote bank would see its candidates through. However, with the coming together of SP and Congress, the community got an option to choose between the two dispensations sending BSP knocking the doors of Muslim leadership and drum up the Muzaffarnagar riots with renewed vigour.
The fact that Muslims are important in the scheme of things for SP too can be seen in the party fielding Muslims on 42 of the 140 western UP seats. Interestingly on 28 seats in the first two phases, both BSP and SP have fielded Muslim candidates. If the Mayawati-led party is focussing on providing a "riot-free" and "crime-free" state on coming to power, the SP alliance is reopening the pages of BSP's history, especially its (BSP's) alliance with the saffron party.
"Can the community ever pardon Mayawati for 'falsely' implicating 43 youths on terror charges during her regime which is yet to be proved," posed a Samajwadi Party leader. BSP is also out to tar Akhilesh Yadav as "anti-Muslim" with the new entrant in the party Afzal Ansari, brother of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, recalling a statement by Mulayam Singh Yadav in this regard that Akhilesh was working against the interest of Muslims. Ansari has resolved to campaign all over the state against the "anti-Muslim" Akhilesh.