Azamgarh (UP):  Caste and not religion is a major player in the February 11 assembly election in this eastern Uttar Pradesh district which has been in limelight due to the alleged involvement of its youths in terror activities.

But religious leaders from the Muslim community maintain that elections are an important means to highlight their demands including the need to speed up trial of the accused so that justice is delivered on time.

"In 2010, (Congress general secretary) Digvijay Singh had assured an NIA probe into all terror cases and speedy trial of the accused. He had said that all cases will be tried in one place and not different states.

"But nothing has happened," said Masiruddin Sanjari who belongs to Sanjarpur village from where more than 12 accused in various cases belong.

A social activist, he said at least a speedy trial could be ensured "on the lines of Ajmal Kasab" the lone surviving convict in Mumbai terror attacks.

To highlight the cause of Muslims in the district, the Ulema Council has jumped into the fray by fielding 170 candidates across Uttar Pradesh.

Council president Maulana Aamir Rasadi, while accusing BJP of going soft on terror during the NDA rule, slammed Congress for shedding "crocodile tears" to further its political interests.

"BJP released terrorists in Kandahar who later targeted India. They should not talk about terrorism," he said.

When asked why Ulema Council protested before Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during his recent visit to Azamgarh, he said Congress had been shedding "crocodile tears" in support of Muslims to further its political interests.

"While Digvijay Singh says Batla House encounter is fake, Home Minister (P Chidambaram) says its genuin...we have been demanding a probe by a Supreme Court judge. Why not accept it?” he asked.

He claimed that post-mortem reports of those killed in the encounter showed that they were killed point blank even as he alleged a conspiracy behind the death of Delhi Police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma in the same case.

The Ulema chief suggested a Left-led third front could be the best choice for governance.

Most of the ten assembly seats in this district are dominated by backwards where BSP has six sitting MLAs and SP four.

The fight among parties is to get maximum number of votes from the community.

UP Assembly Speaker Sukhdev Rajbhar, Madhya Pradesh Governor and Congress veteran Ram Naresh Yadav’s son Ajay and wife of sitting BJP MP Ramakant Yadav are in the fray.

While Rajbhar is contesting from Didarganj, Ajay Naresh Yadav is contesting from Phulpur seat so far held by Arun Yadav who till recently was with SP.

Arun, son of Ramakant Yadav, is now contesting on a BJP ticket from Jalalpur seat in Ambedkar Nagar district.

The MP’s nephew Virendra is contesting from Phulpur on a BJP ticket, while his (Ramakant's) wife has been fielded by BJP from Nizamabad.