Vijayawada: After wooing the Backward Classes, there seems to be a competition between the ruling Telugu Desam and the YSRC for the Muslim vote. At this juncture, MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s open announcement that he will campaign for his good friend YSRC chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in the Andhra Pradesh polls next year is being seen as a game changer.
Muslims make up 8.5 per cent of the overall population in Andhra Pradesh. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had been trying to woo them intensely after he snapped ties with the BJP-led NDA by renewing his secular credentials.
While it was evident that in the 2014 polls, a majority of Muslim minorities had sailed with YSRC, Naidu had been trying hard to bring them to the TD fold again.
The CM went a step ahead and gave a Cabinet berth to a Muslim candidate just a few months before the polls. He also held an exclusive meeting for the Muslims. Mr Owaisi, who is known for his fiery speeches, is also known for igniting passions among his community.
Political observers point out that Mr Owaisi’s campaign will definitely help Muslims voters consolidate against the TD. The YSRC, on the other hand has maintained that whether Owaisi campaigns against TD or not, the Muslims are already aware of Naidu’s poll tactics and political flip-flops about them.
“First of all, Jagan Mohan Reddy had not invited Owaisi to campaign for him, he didn’t even do that for the bypolls for Nandyal where there are a considerable number of Muslims. Owaisi has himself volunteered to campaign against Naidu. We have to wait and see his next move and what will be the impact,” former IPS officer S.M. Iqbal, who joined the YSRC recently, told the Deccan Chronicle.
He said one thing was clear. “Muslims are keenly watching Naidu’s moves since the last four and half years. What made him ignore Muslims all these years? He has suddenly found love for Muslims and offered a Cabinet berth to a Muslim just a few months before the polls. He looks at every community as a vote bank,” Mr Iqbal said.
The TD seems to be rattled with Mr Owaisi's move. Finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu questioned Mr Owaisi’s friendship with Mr Reddy, who is an accused in quid pro quo cases and was behind bars for almost 16 months. He added that Mr Owaisi joining hands with Mr Reddy would only help the BJP which had meted out a raw deal to Andhra Pradesh. He said Mr Reddy had a secret pact with the BJP.
Andhra Muslims are found fairly spread over the state. However, their greatest concentration is in Kurnool district where they number around 6 lakh and form 17 per cent of the district’s population. Large pockets of Muslim population are also found in Vijayawada, Kadapa, Guntur and Anantapur.
Like the Muslims of North India, Andhra Muslims are concentrated in the cities with much smaller rural populations. Kadapa and Anantapur have around 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. North Coastal Andhra has very few Muslims.
Among these 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh, the four Rayalaseema districts of Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor and Nellore, Ongole, Guntur and Krishna in coastal AP have a considerable Muslim population.
East Godavari, West Godavari and Vishakhapatnam districts have a small Muslim population....