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Telangana Muslim votes may split between TRS, Congress (News Analysis)

By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, Dec 2 (IANS) Muslim votes in Telangana are likely to be split between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the opposition Congress-led People’s Front as the two major contenders for power have intensified their efforts to woo the minority community.

With a huge concentration of Muslim voters in state capital Hyderabad and some other districts, they are in a position to tilt the balance in nearly half of the 119 Assembly constituencies going to polls on December 7.

The role of Muslims, who constitute over 12 percent of the state’s 3.51 crore population, may become crucial in what appears to be a straight fight between the TRS and the People’s Front that has the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) as its other constituents.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the third big contestant in some of the constituencies.

Muslim voters are believed to be between 35 and 60 per cent in 10 constituencies in Hyderabad and anywhere between 10 to 40 per cent in 50 other constituencies spread across the rest of the state.

The support of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) to the TRS in all constituencies, except the eight where MIM candidates are in the fray, may give the ruling party some edge over its rivals.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has also declared its support to the TRS while the Jamaitul Ulema-e-Hind is backing the Congress. The United Muslim Forum, which comprises various Muslim religious and social organisations and is seen as friendly to MIM, also appears divided over the issue of support to the TRS.

Those supporting the TRS argue that four-and-half years of TRS rule was free from communal riots and it took some steps for welfare and development of Muslims like opening over 250 residential schools, scholarships for students and schemes like “Shadi Mubarak” under which financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh is being provided for the marriage of poor girls.

However, a section of Muslims is unhappy with the TRS for failing to fulfill its promise to increase reservation for Muslims from four per cent to 12 per cent. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao blames Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Centre has been sitting on a resolution passed by the state Assembly.

This section is also apprehensive that KCR may join hands with the BJP after the Assembly elections. They cite the TRS’ support for the Modi government on demonetisation and on various issues, including elections for the posts President and the Vice President.

A big chunk of Muslim voters are in Hyderabad. They are 50 percent or more in seven constituencies — all held by MIM in the dissolved Assembly.

MIM, which has its stronghold in the Muslim-majority old city, is also contesting another seat. The MIM has declared its support to the TRS in the rest of the state.

MIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has been addressing election rallies in some constituencies outside Hyderabad to campaign for the TRS.

The People’s Front has given tickets to eight Muslim candidates while the TRS has fielded just two. The majority of the Congress’ Muslim candidates are in the constituencies held by MIM. Even the BJP has fielded two Muslim candidates from here.

Prominent among the Muslim candidates is MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term from Chandrayangutta. Senior Congress leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir is contesting from Kamareddy constituency.

The TRS’ Mohammed Shakeel Aamir is seeking re-election from Bodhan in Nizamabad district. The Congress’ Taher Bin Hamdan is contesting from Nizamabad Urban.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be reached at m.shafeeq@ians.in )

–IANS
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