Gujarat: Parties vying to capture Muslim vote

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November 17, 2012

With elections to the 182-member Gujarat legislative assembly due next month, political parties of all hues have launched frantic efforts to woo the 3.7 million Muslims among the state–s 38 million voters.

While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to blaze a new trail by fielding Muslim candidates, the Congress, which had six Muslim contestants in the last state polls in 2007 is sure to offer the party ticket to some 10 people from the 5.5-million-strong minority community.

November 17, 2012

With elections to the 182-member Gujarat legislative assembly due next month, political parties of all hues have launched frantic efforts to woo the 3.7 million Muslims among the state–s 38 million voters.

While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to blaze a new trail by fielding Muslim candidates, the Congress, which had six Muslim contestants in the last state polls in 2007 is sure to offer the party ticket to some 10 people from the 5.5-million-strong minority community.

If Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has named 17 Muslims in its first list of 53 nominees for the December 13 and 17 ballotbox battles, former chief minister Keshubhai

Patel's two-month-old, 1.5-million-member Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) has also started courting Muslims and has already enrolled countless of them in various districts.

After all, the community, known for voting en bloc for one party, can tilt the scales in as many as 66-almost one-third — of the 182 constituencies where the Muslim population ranges between 61 per cent and 10 per cent.

Not surprisingly, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a shrewd strategist, who never found merit in even a single Muslim while hand-picking contestants for the 2007 elections, finally realized the community's statistical importance. With an eye on the prime minister's throne, he started including Muslims in his scheme of things.

No wonder, as many as 192 Muslims emerged triumphant in the polls to the local self-government bodies during 2010-2011. In September last year, the Machiavellian politician also launched a goodwill 'hunger-strike' mission by observing 36 symbolic day-long fasts throughout Gujarat only to keep the minority community in good humor.

Soon, the BJP's minority cell was revived to offer a platform to the community for coming closer to the saffron party which also soon welcomed Muslim celebrities like Bollywood musician Ismail Darbar.

Only last fortnight, Congress spokeswoman, Asifa Khan joined the BJP and Junagadh's two Muslim councilors were also roped in. But wrongful denial of the federal government's scholarships to Gujarat's minorities, gross negligence of the BJP regime to repair Muslim shrines damaged during the 2002 communal riots and Modi's blatant refusal to apologize for the bloody clashes in which over 1,000 Muslims were killed have all left the community wandering in a fog.

Fearing that it would lose its traditional vote bank, the Congress, desperate to capture power since 1995, also quickly held special conventions for Muslims with its restless leaders going beyond the extreme in blasting the saffron administration only to invite the wrath of the Election Commission of India for their hate speeches.

Not to be left behind, GPP's Patel, who has twice been chief minister, had to clarify that his was not the party of only Patels and make special appeals for Muslims' support 'to help him bring about a change in Gujarat by ousting Modi'.


Courtesy: Khaleej Times

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