Some 16% of the state's electorate is Muslim. The community is more densely populated in the western districts. Subsequent to the delimitation exercise, there are now some 50 assembly constituencies where Muslims account for more than 25% of the electorate.
This is why cues to the upcoming elections should be taken from electoral performance of parties in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections rather than the 2007 assembly elections. The general elections were held after the delimitation.
Figures available with the Election Commission suggest the main tussle for the Muslim vote in 2007 was between BSP and SP. While BSP bagged 33 of the 80 assembly seats with a sizeable representation of the Muslim community, SP was only marginally behind, winning 27 seats. While BJP's share was 10, Congress managed to win just one seat - Bilaspur in the Rampur Lok Sabha constituency.
The trend remained largely unchanged in 2009, with BSP candidates leading in 17 of the 50 assembly segments with a high Muslim concentration in western UP, and SP managing to win in 15 of those segments.
SP's feat was regarded impressive as the votes came in despite its alliance with Kalyan Singh, the former Hindutva posterboy. Congress, which belied all expectations to win 20 of 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, posted a lead in four Muslim-dominant seats (Kanth, Moradabad City and Moradabad Rural falling in Moradabad Lok Sabha seat, Suar Tanda in Rampur) while BJP was No 1 in five assembly segments (Thakurdwara in Moradabad, Bulandshahr, Thana Bhawan and Shamli in Kairana Lok Sabha constituency and Chandausi (SC) falling in the Sambhal Lok Sabha seat).
Now, on the eve of the critical assembly elections, parties are jostling with each other to woo the Muslim vote. Congress was first off the mark, getting the Cabinet to endorse a proposal to reserve 4.5% seats in government jobs and educational institutes for the backward among minorities. This sub-quota would be carved out of the larger 27% reservation for the OBCs.
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