Up till the early 1980s, the Congress party used to be the traditional choice of Muslims.
But over the decades disillusionment has set in. Initially they wavered, but after Congress Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ] unlocked the Ram Janambhoomi doors and performed 'shilanyas', the Muslims were disgusted.
Eventually, the Muslims left the Congress's fold and made a beeline towards Mulayam Singh Yadav [ Images ] who was only too willing to get their mass support. Every election witnessed Mulayam win with growing Muslim support.
They would not like to stop supporting him and leave Mulayam's Samajwadi Party. But, his hobnobbing with Kalyan Singh [ Images ] (of Babri Masjid [ Images ] demolition notoriety) has disillusioned the Muslims considerably.
Mohammed Azam Khan, a long-time Mulayam chela, has also revolted. Even if a patch-up takes place, the sheesha-e-dil has been splintered.
Disenchanted with Mulayam, the UP Muslims are floating around in search of a suitable anchor, and are desperately being ensnared by the Congress and Mayawati [ Images ].
The BJP's poster boys like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shah Nawaz Hussain, and a few others stand zero chance of attracting Muslims into the BJP fold. Even L K Advani's [ Images ] certificate to Mohammad Ali Jinnah [ Images ] could not make any dent in the Muslim psyche.
Today, the Muslims seem to have, once again, expectantly veered towards the Congress.
The irony is that the Congress in UP has no leader who has the charisma or calibre to exploit the Muslim voters' desire to return to the Congress fold.
Ghulam Nabi Azad [ Images ] is not acceptable as he is an outsider. Mohsina Kidwai is a washout. Salman Khurshid has been a victim of infighting.
Rashid Alvi has not yet been absorbed into the inner Congress coterie wielding power. His Bahujan Samaj Party past haunts him.
Rita Bahuguna -- the state Congress president -- lacks the political acumen and finesse of her resourceful father Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna.
The Congress's loss of Muslim votes may once again seem to be a boon for the BSP.
The Muslims are being persuaded to forgive Mayawati for her tactless jibe that the Muslims were 'kattarpanthis' (hardcore).
Nowadays Naseemuddin Siddiqui is desperately trying to convince Muslims to join Mayawati as a last resort. Her potential to defeat the BJP is her apparent strength.
The BSP is ceaselessly harping on this theme by which Mayawati will make an all-out bid to mop up a sizeable chunk of the floating Muslim votes this time.
The way she slapped the National Security Act on Varun Gandhi [ Images ] to impress the Muslims says it all.
But her past intimacy with the BJP -- when she became chief minister thrice with its support -- is proving to be a lingering curse for her.
Unpredictable as she is, Muslims are wary of her.
She has noiselessly reduced the number of her Muslim MP candidates to 14 from the earlier 16.
Her street-smart opportunism and lack of credibility are additional impediments.
Few Muslim politicians of any hue trust Mayawati's overtures. They have heard her say 'talaq, talaq, talaq' to the BJP before, only to snuggle back into its arms.
This time, Muslims are suspicious and wary of reposing their trust in Mayawati's tall political promises. They have seen through her game and know only too well that she is trying to hoodwink them into casting/wasting their vote in her favour.
Once the election is over, Mayawati may well betray the Muslims and run towards the outstretched arms of her tried and trusted BJP partner.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad sees a Hindu in her, and will reconcile to supporting her if the need arises.
Mayawati is a politician who has fully exploited the Dalits' blind faith/following and heartlessly commoditised her vote bank.
She has positioned herself at the crossroads --- willing to drive to the prime minister's house along with anyone --- be it the Third Front, the Congress or obviously the BJP.
'Ideology' and 'idealism' are words not found in her dictionary.
If she has no remorse in trading Dalit votes, what is ever going to prevent her from bartering away newfound Muslim support and cleverly commoditising the same once again to jump onto the BJP's bandwagon?
Muslims are not going to risk wasting their vote on Mayawati and her BSP.
Some Muslim candidates she has picked are not well reputed and respected, but people like Mukhtar Ansari, Afzal Ansari, Rizwan Zahir, etc whose muscle and money power she hopes to use to gain Muslim votes and win seats.
Hardly a commendable thing to do for a candidate aspiring to be the prime minister of India.
Law-abiding and right thinking Muslims do not respect gangsters from their community.
The UP voters, including intelligent, self-respecting and peace-loving Muslims, will possibly give a fitting response to her.
Muslim votes in the Lok Sabha polls 2009 will go only against the BJP.
Their support will flow only towards that candidate whom the Muslims of each constituency perceive and firmly believe will defeat the BJP candidate.
In the process, if the strongest contender against the BJP is from the SP, then the Muslims will vote for him. Similar will be the fate of BSP and Congress candidates.
Only those with a demonstrable and proven clout to defeat the BJP will stand to gain Muslim voters' support. And this support or its withdrawal is bound to play a decisive role in many a seat in UP.
Irrespective of any party considerations, old loyalties, tempting baits thrown by the BSP, Congress or even the SP -- none of these will substantially influence the resolute will of Muslims in UP to defeat the BJP.