Rajkot’s Sofia Zahid Dal might be the only successful Muslim candidate from BJP in the Municipal Corporation elections, but more than 200 party candidates from the community have won elections to municipalities, district panchayats and taluka panchayats.
“The total tally of the winners will go further up because we are yet to receive reports from all talukas and districts from where we had fielded Muslim candidates,” said Sufi Mahbub Ali Chisty, chief of Gujarat BJP Minority Morcha. The saffron party had fielded around 450 Muslim candidates in the local body polls.
BJP claimed its candidates from the minority community wrested several seats which were earlier represented by Muslims from Congress. “BJP has made a big political dent in the Muslim pockets, particularly in rural areas which were earlier considered by Congress as its impregnable political bastions,” said Chisty. In 2010, as many as 160 Muslim candidates had won on BJP tickets.
In Muslim-dominated Ward No. 2 and 7 of Umreth Nagarpalika in Anand district, entire panel of BJP — three Muslim (two women) and five Hindu candidates — was elected. BJP candidates defeated the Congress-NCP panel which also included candidates from the minority community.
Aminabibi Malek, elected from Ward No 2, said, “Muslims in Umreth have voted BJP for development.” She is in BJP for 15 years along with her husband Altafmiyan.
Umreth city BJP president Sujal Shah said: “Muslims in these two wards had also voted for the BJP candidate in the 2012 Assembly elections.”
Asif Zakaria (48), a share-broker who is among the three successful Muslim BJP candidates from Gondal Nagarpalika in Rajkot district, said, “Almost 60-65 per cent of Muslims voted for BJP candidates in Gondal because they benefited a lot in business and other activities in Gondal and nearby areas.”
“Congress only used Muslims as a vote-bank and gave us nothing in return. Congress promises of sops for Muslims were only on paper and never translated into action. This, in fact, created a wrong impression among the majority community about so-called Muslim appeasement by Congress. So, while Congress did not give any benefits, they also lost the support of Hindu liberals,” said Zakaria.
A total of 20 Muslim candidates from BJP have won in Gir-Somnath district — eight in Una Nagarpalika, eight in Kodinar taluka panchayat and four in Gir-Somnath taluka. Muslims comprise almost 50 per cent population of Somnath town, and according to Chisty, the victory of BJP candidates indicated growing acceptance for the party among the minorites.
While Congress won all district and taluka panchayats in Saurashtra, Gir-Somnath and Porbandar remained the only fortresses of BJP in the coastal belt.
According to Chisty, “Majority of Muslims were not comfortable with BJP due to various reasons, and voted for Congress only. This situation was exploited by Congress leaders who neither gave them any political benefit nor any share in development. But, the political scene has undergone a complete change in Gujarat with the emergence of a strong educated middle class, some with political ambitions. This was driving the Muslim youth, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, to BJP to fulfill their political ambitions and work for development of the community.”
When questioned about BJP gradually making inroads in the Muslim support base of Congress, the party’s minority cell chief Ghulam Khan Rauma said: “This is primarily because of Congress is out of power in the state for over 25 years. Muslims also want development in their areas and they, rightly or wrongly, think that they can get benefits only if they are with the ruling party. That is why Muslims in several areas have supported BJP. But, there is nothing spectacular.”
BJP making gains among Muslims were first seen in the bypoll to the coastal Salaya Municipality of Jamnagar district where the party had swept the elections. Muslims comprise 90 per cent of the population there.
According to Chisty, “The political scene has undergone a complete change in Gujarat with the emergence of a strong educated middle class, some with political ambitions. This was driving the Muslim youth, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, to BJP to fulfill their political ambitions and work for development of the community.”
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