Only a few Muslims are likely to contest the upcoming elections to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, with both BJP and Congress opting for candidates from other communities.
The list of candidates of both parties are out for most of the 76 seats. While, BJP has not fielded any Muslim, Congress named only five from the community and preferred Patidar candidates.
BJP has fielded 50 new faces among the 67 candidates it declared for 17 wards, so far. The list does not include a Muslim candidate and only 17 sitting corporators have been given a second chance, even as the party reserved announcement for all four seats of Wards 1 and 9, and one seat in Ward 3.
While BJP leaders refused to comment on the reason for the delay in deciding candidates’ panel for the two wards, sources said that internal party factions were still vying for their set of candidates in the two wards.
Mayor Bharat Shah, who is a representative of Ward 1, has been sidelined this election, but the saffron party is yet to decide on its candidates from this ward. In Ward 9, party sources said, the dilemma facing the decision of candidates is the presence of heavyweight Rajesh Ayare, who was recently ousted from BJP after his name surfaced in an alleged attack during the inauguration a housing scheme of the VMC on April 27, in presence of Cabinet Minister Saurabh Patel. The attack had left deputy mayor Sunita Shukla seriously injured.
Sources said BJP was “finding it difficult” to find candidates to outdo the influence Ayare has in the ward, especially after he fielded his own panel of four Independent candidates — Pintal Rami, Hemlata Gor, Purnima Ayare and himself. Ayare, filed his nomination on Thursday, along with the three others.
A BJP party leader said, “The seats in Ward 9 are tricky for the party as Ayare has been a sitting corporator for several years. He had contested as an independent in the previous election and joined BJP later. So, having being ousted from the party will not affect his chances and the party is still finalizing strong contenders for the ward.”
The party has also fielded city unit chief Bharat Dangar, whose name did not appear in the first set of contenders on Monday, despite being in the race for the party’s mayoral candidate. The mayor’s post is reserved for an OBC representative for the upcoming term.
Miffed sitting corporators, who have been denied ticket, are planning to contest as Independents. Ashok Pawar, who was awarded a BJP ticket in 2010 after he won as an Independent in the previous civic polls in 2005, has been denied a ticket this time. Pawar, who resigned from BJP on Thursday, said he is prepared to contest the polls on his own.
On the other hand, Congress party has declared its list for all 19 wards and fielded 20 Patel candidates out of the list of 76. The party has fielded only six of the 11 sitting Corporators. Although it was Congress party which wrote to the Minority Commission against the delimitation of election wards in April, stating the move was against the minorities, the list of candidates includes only five Muslims in four wards.
Congress had contended that BJP influenced the delimitation of wards to break minority votes ahead of the 2010 VMC polls to ensure that the two Congress Muslim corporators from 2005 civic polls, Nafisa Kapadia and Imtiyaaz Patel, would face trouble. This time, Congress however has overlooked Kapadia and Patel.
The party had two Muslims out of seven councillors in 2005. In 2010, Congress fielded eight Muslim candidates, sans Kapadia, who won with a margin of over 10,000 votes in the 2005 elections. All eight Muslim candidates of Congress in 2010 lost by small margins. Currently, the VMC has no Muslim corporator on board.
According to sources, Congress gave preference to Patel candidates and the decision has irked senior Muslim leaders, who are now contemplating forming a panel of their own to contest in wards with significant Muslim votes.
While Muslim leaders refused to speak about the possible development, a senior party leader said, “They might contest independently, but I doubt any Muslim candidate will win this time as the delimitation has been premeditated to keep out the Muslim candidates. In the wards having about 80,000 population, if you consider just 50% overall voting, even a 100% minority voting would make up only 15%. The chances are bleak and it is a miscarriage of social justice by denying representation to a community.”