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Thanks to Triple Talaq, BJP eyes lion's share of Muslim votes in Gujarat

Thanks to Triple Talaq, BJP eyes lion's share of Muslim votes in Gujarat

by Nirendra Dev


New Delhi/Ahmedabad, Sept 8 (UNI) Even as stain of anti-Muslim violence in 2002 could not prevent BJP win successive elections in Gujarat and Narendra Modi could emerge Prime Minister of India, in the run up to 2017 Assembly polls, the saffron party is now eyeing lion's share of Muslim votes. "Whatever our critics have said, BJP has been getting support of all sections of society. Under Narendra Modi we won three elections. This time also many Muslims will vote for BJP; especially after the Supreme Court order against Triple Talaq, Muslim women will vote for BJP," the state Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told a group of visiting journalists. In fact, even in 2012 Assembly polls, the BJP's poll analysis showed that the minority community did vote for the saffron party candidates. BJP leaders say that five years back the party could pick up an essentially Muslim-predominant Jamalpur-Khadia seat in Ahmedabad and -- ostensibly this was not possible without Muslim votes. "In fact, initially BJP was proposing to field Muslim candidates in Jamalpur-Khadia. A I Sayed was in the race. But ultimately, for 2012 polls, ticket was given to Bhushan Bhatt, son of Late senior BJP leader Ashok Bhatt. BJP won the seat wherein total electorate was 1.8 lakhs and out of that 1 lakh were Muslims," says Viren Kumar, a local BJP leader. Similarly, in other riot-ravaged areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara, interactions with locals including Muslims show the battered community of 2002 wants to move ahead "forgetting the nightmares of 2002 behind". However, Muslims also wonder why BJP did not field any Muslim candidate for state Assembly in 2012. One school teacher in Vadodara echoed this sentiment well, when he said, "The BJP will do well to field Muslim candidates. Many respectable Muslims are coming forward to join BJP now." But about the Muslim voting pattern vis-a-vis 2002, he said, "The Muslim parents now focus about education of their children.....and hence 2002 may not be an election issue any more". Moreover, what has gone down well among the voters in Gujarat - that also includes sizeable number of Muslims - is that with about 10 per cent of Muslim population, around 5.4 per cent of government jobs have gone to Muslims. "Few years, compared to this of the 25 per cent Muslim population of West Bengal, only 2.1 had benefited from government jobs. This only shows the double standards of secular political parties," said Tanmoy Godhania, a BJP worker at Surendranagar in Saurashtra region. Others seem to endorse. Even a Muslim tea-stall owner on the state highways said, "Post-2002 riots and after BJP won successive polls in 2007 and 2012, Muslims have prospered in Gujarat and the crime rate among Muslims saw considerable decline". On the other hand, in 2012, the Congress seemed to understand the predicament of Muslim mind and thus did not rake up Gujarat mayhem of 2002. "In fact, Congress tried a vanilla-secularism, but it it did not help either". But analysts in Gujarat say, the Congress confusion on dealing with Muslims vis-a-vis the challenge thrown by the BJP does not end here. "It is a case of once bitten, twice shy. Sonia Gandhi's 'Maut Ka Saudagar' card against Modi had failed and backfired. Since then, Congress campaign actually oscillates between soft-Hindutva and anti-Modi attack for the mayhem," pointed out educationist Dipak Rapadia. In Vadodara, a college student Nandini Shiva points out that according to recent reports: "The literacy rate of Muslims in Gujarat in some pockets is 73 per cent which is higher than that of the Hindus. Interestingly, rural Muslim women’s literacy is 57 per cent compared to national average of 42-43. In other words, Muslims are better off here".


However, the Congress camp does not buy the argument either of state Chief Minister Mr Rupani and others. Local Congress leader in Ahmedabad, Ilyas Qureshi said, "The BJP's claim about Muslim votes is not true. In effect, in Muslim-dominated constituencies, booth-wise details will reveal that in none of the booths, the BJP managed to muster 20-25 per cent votes". But, according to BJP insiders, the Congress is living in illusion. "Muslim community leaders often complain that the Congress has taken their vote for granted". "Triple Talaq development will be a game-changer. The Muslim women now feel liberated. You can see the change in Gujarat polls only," said BJP worker Viren Kumar. In May this year, around 2000 Congress party workers from various parts of the state joined BJP's Minority Cell and also participated enthusiastically at day-long convention in Gandhinagar district. BJP insiders say, the saffron party has already mustered good support among Bohra Muslims and Khojas and are now trying to woo Sunni Muslims. Some Sunni Muslim clerics are openly supporting the BJP and even listen enthusiastically to the Prime Minister Modi's Mann-Ki-Baat. Sources also say from time to time, BJP has swept key municipal corporations in Gujarat often capturing power with two-thirds majority. "Success in the civic polls in cities like Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot and Bhavnagar with a two-thirds majority is not possible with out Muslim support. The national media simply downplays this," commented BJP worker Tanmoy Godhania. Nevertheless, it could be still erroneous to perceive that Muslims have decided to put 2002 riots on backburner. "It may not be fair to quiz Muslims in Gujarat on whether they would vote for BJP or not. Media reports said even in UP, the BJP got votes from Muslims. But it is true, a large section of Muslims in Godhra, Ahmedabad and Vadodara saw the mayhem and hence acknowledge that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the BJP were involved in the riots," said a Muslim hotelier.


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