Ishaan Bagh (25), a fruit vendor at Shahgad, minces no words when it comes to discussing the mood against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the Muslim-dominated pockets in the Beed Lok Sabha constituency, where senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde is pitted against NCP’s Suresh Dhus, a minister in the Maharashtra government. Beed goes to polls on April 17.
“The battle here is not between BJP and NCP. The majority are unlikely to accept Modi as the prime minister of India,” he says.
Maulana Sayeed (45), a resident of Momimpura, echoes his views. “Let’s not discuss this issue too much. We are not against Gopinath Munde, who is a good person and has never let us down. Personally, we have great respect for him. Last elections, I voted for Munde. But, now our support to Munde would mean helping Modi.”
Across the Muslim pockets in the prestigious Lok Saha constituency, the anti-Modi factor has overshadowed the moderate image of Munde, who had managed to get a good chunk of Muslim votes in the 2009 LS polls. Muslims account for 16-18 per cent of the total 18 lakh voters in the constituency. However, Munde, who is the deputy leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, is not too much worried.
“In Beed, people have always reposed trust in me. They have seen my work as home minister of Maharashtra during the Shiv Sena-BJP government (1995-99). In fact, I am spending more time campaigning for other candidates than confining myself in Beed. Just compare the public response to my rally and Sharad Pawar’s rally held last week. It exposes NCP’s claim of making a dent in my home turf.”
Though Munde’s estranged nephew Dhananjay, who has taken to the streets with vengeance to defeat his uncle, claims the NCP candidate would win by at least 40,000 votes, the BJP leader’s political managers are confident that Marathas and Other Backward Castes would unite in favour of Munde across the six Assembly segments of Georai, Majalgaon, Beed, Ashti, Kaij and Parli.
Munde’s daughter Pankaja, who is the BJP MLA from Parli, is busy campaigning in Muslim pockets, explaining to them how Modi would bring development at their door-steps. “I am explaining to them how they should be more worried about the lack of education, poverty and unemployment.”
Munde’s confidence also stems from his unchallenged hold over the OBC community, which accounts for 30 per cent of the total voters. Munde, who himself hails from Banjara community, enjoys their absolute confidence.