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Delhi Polls: Congress eyes Muslim votes, but Iqbal factor weighs heavy

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New Delhi, Jan 11, 2020-

The Congress in Delhi is focusing on minority-dominated seats to garner Muslim votes, which comprise about 13 per cent of around 1.5 crore voters in Delhi where Assembly polls are due on February 8.

After a series of protests against Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Congress is eyeing a comeback in these seats.

The Congress had held these seats before Aam Aadmi Party routed it in 2015 Assembly polls. In the 2013 polls, the Congress won 8 seats with mostly Muslim MLAs. That year, the Congress had offered “unconditional” support to AAP, but the bonhomie lasted barely two months, and the AAP government fell.

In the 2015 Assembly polls, the Congress was wiped out with Muslims voting for AAP.

The Congress efforts to woo the Muslim community suffered a setback after its prominent leader, Shoaib Iqbal, joined AAP just when Delhi polls were announced.

Shoaib Iqbal, a five-time MLA from Chandni Chowk’s Matia Mahal Assembly constituency, has of late been a vocal supporter of AAP convenor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and has supported the ruling party on the new citizenship law.

Iqbal has been a party hopper — he started off as a Janata Dal MLA in 1993. After his desertion to AAP this time, the poll equation in three constituencies of old Delhi — Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal and Ballimaran — can change.

The Congress at present has three prominent Muslim leaders — Haroon Yusuf from Ballimaran, Matin Ahmed from Seelampur and Parvez Hashmi from Okhla.

Congress sources say that despite the work done by the ruling AAP, the minority community is miffed with Chief Minister Kejriwal for not taking a strong stand against the new citizenship law.

Minority-dominated Okhla, Seelampur, Matia Mahal, Ballimaran, Mustafabad and Chandni Chowk seats were once Congress strongholds, but are now represented by AAP in the Assembly.

The main problem the Congress faces is the selection of candidates. Party sources said there are just too many claimants and that it is difficult select consensus candidates.

The party is also banking on a large chunk of minority votes in Sadar Bazar, Kirari, Sangam Vihar, Babarpur, Karawal Nagar and Rithala.

“The community has presence in Gandhi Nagar and Laxmi Nagar (east Delhi) also, where tactical shift may benefit Congress as the community is going to vote against the BJP,” said a party leader.

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