In contest to corner Muslim votes, AIMIM and SP cautious against polarization of Deoband electorate

The electoral battle in the politically important Deoband Assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh has intensified with Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) entering the fray and eyeing Muslim votes in the constituency.

While AIMIM and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi party are vying for Muslim votes here, the BJP is confident that its candidate and incumbent MP Kunwar Brijesh Singh will win.

AIMIM candidate Umair Masoodi hails from the prominent Masoodi family of Deoband. Her father, Masood Madani, is a regional politician who held a ministerial position in the government of Uttarakhand. His association with Mahmood Madani of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and Arshad Madani, which is the main seminary of Darul Uloom, is not lost on anyone despite claims that the two families have severed their ties.

The Samajwadi party, which has apparently enjoyed a monopoly on Muslim votes so far, withdrew Maviya Ali from the constituency and fielded Kartikey Rana, a Rajput, instead.

Of the roughly 3 lakh voters in Deoband constituency, it is estimated that around 1.2 lakh are Muslims.

But Kartikey Rana dismisses AIMIM as a factor, calling it the BJP’s “B-Team”. “No one takes AIMIM seriously because everyone knows it is the B-Team of the BJP,” the SP candidate says when asked about a possible Muslim vote split.

However, the scrum candidates are not the only ones hoping for support from Muslim voters. Maaviya Ali, who had presented his candidacy as the SP candidate, continues to be reflected on the Election Commission website as the party candidate. His nomination has yet to be accepted, but Ali, too, dominates the community’s votes, having once been a deputy from the seat.

Ali’s son, Haider Ali, has filed as an independent candidate.

Speaking to, a senior SP official said: “As the party has decided on Rana, Maviya Ali will have to withdraw his nomination. In this case, he will be working for his son’s election campaign and it may still harm to the consolidation of Muslim votes.

Apart from these well-known faces, there are also minor players, like Rahat Khalil who features on the Congress ticket, Jaheer from the Jansatta party and Naushad from the Samyukt Vikas party.

Subtle messaging

The Deoband Assembly constituency, home of the major Islamic seminary of Darul Uloom, has been at the center of a fierce battle between the ruling BJP and opposition parties since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath laid the groundwork from the counter-terrorism squad here.

The opposition views the move as an attempt to polarize the electorate and has been cautious in making no negative comments about the creation of the ATS center. On the contrary, the opposition welcomed the center in unison, with some leaders even claiming that their ancestors opposed the Muslim League during the partition.

Amit Shah’s Door-to-Door in Deoband

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has staged a door-to-door campaign for the party’s candidate in Deoband as he is seen as high on the BJP’s messaging strategy Politics. Shah clubbed his tour of Muzzafanagar with that of Deoband and Saharanpur constituencies.

Photo credit: Pragya Kaushika/

The region, considered to have kept its social fabric intact for years, changed after the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots and the BJP made favorable gains in the 2017 assembly elections.

U-turn on Jinnah

The seat has a significant number of Dalits followed by Rajputs, and with an intense struggle to corner Muslim votes, opposition parties are fighting hard to avoid any statement or action that could polarize the constituency.

Ask SP leaders about Akhilesh Yadav’s praise for Mohammad Ali Jinnah and they accuse the BJP of polarizing the election.

Jinnah hamara dushman hai (Jinnah is our enemy). He divided the nation. And those who speak of Jinnah are of his ideology. You’ve all heard half the statement,” spearheaded SP chief Imran Masood.

Still projecting himself as a PS candidate, Maviya Ali declares: “Those who support the Jinnah debate, go over there (to Pakistan) and eat biryani. Till today, not a single non-BJP prime minister has gone to eat biryani in Pakistan.

Masood Madani, father of AIMIM candidate, says: “We stood with Gandhi and the Hindus bay and opposed the Muslim league.

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