Lucknow will vote on Sunday this week (as a Phase II district) and as I was chatting with a friend earlier today, I was reminded of how unique the politics of Lucknow are in Uttar Pradesh. The parties that compete in Lucknow are the same parties that compete across the state, but the presence of a significant Muslim community, and the cleavages within that community make the competition uniquely interesting. Lucknow has historically had a large Shi’a Muslim community. The Shi’a presence goes back to the pre-colonial days of the Nawabs of Awadh.
The rivalry between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims reverberates in the city of Lucknow, and by some accounts, Shi’as nurture more resentment towards Sunnis, than Sunnis nurture toward Hindus. Muslims are usually perceived as a vote bank of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, but Muslims in Lucknow do not vote en masse for the party. Shi’as historically supported the BJP, despite its anti-Muslim rhetoric. Atal Vihari Bajpayee, the former Prime Minister of India, could always count on the Shi’a vote to win his seat in the Lok Sabha.
It is unclear which party will effectively pull ahead in Lucknow, a city that is on average richer, and more educated than the rest of the state.