The number of Muslim candidates contesting the by-polls from Bengaluru's Muslim dominated Shivajinagar constituency has created confusion among the voters in the heart of the city.
Except for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), all the other major political parties have given tickets to Muslim candidates, including Rizwan Arshan, standing for Congress and Tanveer Ahmed Ullah for Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). M Saravana will be contesting on the BJP ticket in Shivajinagar as a lone Hindu candidate.
Muslim candidates from little known political parties include Suhail Siddiq Sait, 44, a self-employed person for Berojgar Aadmi Adhikar Party, Abdul Subhan, 52, a businessman for Karnataka Rashtra Samithi and Mukthar Ali Khan, 50, a social worker for Karnataka Karmikara Paksha.
There are also a good number of Muslim Independent candidates such as Syed Asif Bukhari, 46, a tea vendor, social worker Imran, 31, two-wheeler businessman Ishittiyak Ahmed, 45, social worker Shanawaz Ahmed, 47, and Mohammed Hanif, 54, a tailor.
Similarly, there are a bunch of Christians as Independents and from little known political parties as candidates in contention for the by-election. Shivajinagar voter Abrar Ahmed, 43, a businessman dealing with interior designing said multiple Muslim candidates have confused the voters and will lead to the division of votes.
"Political parties are doing very smart work. Majority of people in Shivajinagar are Muslims, they are dividing votes. There is one BJP Hindu candidate and other five parties fielded our Muslims," said Ahmed.
Though a Muslim majority constituency, Shivajinagar has a good mixture of other communities as well such as Tamilians, Christians and Hindus.
Roshan Baig, a former legislative assembly member, represented the constituency for nearly three decades and could not find a political party to back him in the by-election.
"We need a proper representative here. If politicians are good, people will be good. Defections affected Shivajinagar people a lot. So we have a confusion as to whom we should vote," said a Shivajinagar youngster who did not like to be identified.
In the absence of Baig, Ahmed said a good number of Shivajinagar voters are rooting for Abdul Hannan, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidate. One common theme running in the constituency voters is the preference for a secular party. "We decided to support SDPI, it's a secular party. They are working hard now. It is run by Muslims. We have to see good Shivajinagar here," said Ahmed's friend Zia.
A few yards down the street, Hannan was making a fiery speech on Monday addressing the constituency, by a dargah beside Russell market in Shivajinagar.
Hannan was referring to all the incidents the minority community vociferously objected to. He castigated the mob lynchings across India after BJP assumed power in 2014. Assailing the Congress party for aligning with the Shiv Sena, he said the former has an alter ego which takes advantage of the minority community.
Exuding confidence, the SDPI candidate said a good number of Dalits, Christians and Muslims will bring him to power in the constituency. Meanwhile, the sexton of St. Mary's basilica, Andrew, 52, said it was difficult to read the mind of Shivajinagar voters.
"The candidates from major political parties are tough candidates. There are people from many languages here, all the religions are here," said Andrew referring to the mixed nature of Shivajinagar.
Anu Sudhakar, running a small eatery near the Shivajinagar bus station sounded cynical about the by-election. She said there will be no solution even if she tells the politicians about the problems she faces in the constituency. "Let anybody come to power or not, it is we who have to struggle," said Sudhakar.
By-election for 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka is scheduled on December 5.
(With inputs from IANS.)