Bareilly: Caste and religious equations are expected to dominate in the nine assembly seats in this district famous for the ‘dargah´ of Sufi saint Ala Hazrat that attracts Hindus and Muslims from across the country.
As a majority of the nine seats have a sizeable Muslim population, the voting by the community will in all likelihood decide the fate of candidates in the fray here.
Though all parties barring the BJP claim to have the support of the dargah, which has a large following in the district, ulemas and clerics associated with it have so far not issued any appeal in favour of any party.
Muslims are also unlikely to back candidates of any single party, rendering the contest wide open.
A lot is at stake for the ruling Samajwadi Party, which won five of these seats in the 2002 assembly elections, followed by the BJP with two seats and the BSP with one. An independent candidate was victorious in Bareilly Cantonment.
What makes the contest interesting is the presence of a Muslim party, the Ittehad Millat Council (IMC) headed by controversial Maulana Aukeer Raza Khan, who came to the limelight after he issued a fatwa for “beheading” Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, currently living in India.
The IMC has fielded candidates in several seats in the district and has some support in the city and cantonment. Observers say a close contest is certain at Faridpur and Aonla, when Bareilly goes to the polls in the third phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on April 18.