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'Muslims vote for extremists': Mayawati's 2006 video comes back to haunt her

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:42 IST

An old video clip of Mayawati has come back to haunt her in the UP polls. In this 31 second long video clip, the BSP chief is seen addressing the media and saying that "Muslim community likes extremists. So to make sure that an extremist candidate does not win in Meerut, on my directions - voters belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the backward classes, and those Upper Caste voters who are with the BSP- the votes were transferred to the BJP. Although the Muslims still voted for the extremist candidate."

This could harm Mayawati as it comes at a time when she is trying hard to woo the Muslim electorate in the state.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had earlier alleged that BSP chief had transferred her votes to the BJP which resulted in a clean sweep in UP. Mayawati had then refuted the allegations.

Several politicians from the state including BSP leaders and voters alike confirmed to Catch that they had seen seen the video clip. And going by how it is being pushed, it could cut both ways. It could send a message to Muslims that BSP supremo thinks that all of them are extremists. On the other hand, it could convince the other vote base of the party - Dalits and a section of Upper Castes - that although Mayawati believes that Muslims are extremists, she is still trying to woo them.

The caption that has been put on the video clip uploaded on YouTube says "Some time back Mayawati too agreed that to stop Muslim extremists it is important to vote for the BJP. Please spread this message to all Dalits in the country."

This video which is being aggressively being pushed on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook, could dent the BSP's chances in the elections at prevent her efforts to forge a Dalit-Muslim alliance.

She has fielded more than 100 Muslim candidates including the mafia don Mukhtar Ansari and his brother after their party Qaumi Ekta Dal merged with the BSP.

Reports from the state suggest that BSP, which was looking on a stronger wicket till a few months back has been rapidly slipping.

BSP's response

"This is a conspiracy by anti-BSP forces," says Munqad Ali, senior BSP leader in-charge of Eastern UP. "It is difficult to put a finger on who is circulating it," Ali said.

The party's candidate from Swar constituency in Rampur, Kazim Ali Khan, who hails from the family of the erstwhile Nawabs, is more direct. "It is Azam Khan and the Samajwadi Party which is circulating this video," he told Catch.

A politician who has been a senior functionary of the BSP says "Mayawati should have come out and clarified her stand." This politician who has received this video at least thrice, recounted the 2006 press conference, which the video clip is a part of. "After a severe beating in the civic polls in Meerut, where Mayawati's candidate lost his deposit, as a face saver the BSP chief had said that she transferred the BSP's Dalit votes to the BJP.

Interestingly, the candidate who Mayawati was referring to as "extremist" was the wife of Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, who was later inducted into the BSP. Qureshi became infamous for his statement in which he declared an award on the Danish cartoonist who drew Prophet Mohammad.

"The video is being taken out of context. The political equation has changed a lot in the last few years. One should not forget Azam Khan's role in the Muzaffarnagar riots," Kazim Ali Khan says. Azam Khan's son is SP's candidate against Kazim Ali Khan in Swar.

As BSP has a history of aligning with the BJP - it has formed a government with the help of the saffron party twice in the past - Muslims have been mostly wary of voting for Mayawati's outfit, except where it fields a popular Muslim candidate. This contrasts with the way in which Muslims come out in large numbers to vote for the SP and other outfits including the Congress, as surveys show.

The BJP has been going all out to portray SP, BSP and Congress as parties that appease Muslims. Observers point out that this could shore up BJP's chances. This is what happened in the 2014 elections in which sections of the BSP's Dalit vote bank and SP's Yadav vote bank moved towards the BJP.

First published: 4 February 2017, 9:45 IST