The Bharatiya Janata Party made massive gains in the Muslim-dominated city of Malegaon, improving its tally from zero to nine seats in the 84-seat Malegaon Municipal Corporation. The party, however, failed to make inroads in the Muslim-dominated pockets of the city. In Spite of putting up a record 27 Muslim candidates. The BJP had fielded a total of 56 candidates, but all its nine successful candidates represent Hindu-dominated wards in the city.
The BJP did, however, meet with some success in attracting Muslim voters; its 27 Muslim candidates mostly drew over 100 votes each, with one candidate receiving 884 votes.
However, the voting disparity between Muslim and Hindu candidates was stark. Its 28 Hindu candidates drew an impressive 84,242 votes with each candidate, on an average, drawing 3,008 votes. The BJP’s 27 Muslim candidates drew a measly 8,916 votes with each candidate, on an average, getting only 330 votes. The BJP drew a total of 93,158 votes.
“We have not met with the desired success but we have made inroads into Muslim pockets. If the candidates in Muslim areas had the desired party support, we would definitely have won a few seats. BJP leaders had pleaded with a lot of us to join the party, which we did. However, when it came to helping us out during elections, we received nothing and were left to fend for ourselves,” said BJP candidate Jabir Khan Sabir Khan, who drew 884 votes.
The grouse of most BJP Muslim candidates was the lack of party support. However, most Muslim candidates were unequivocal about staying in the party despite the debacle. “Even parties like MIM had leaders from Hyderabad coming to campaign. For a national party like us, we only had one rally by Dr Subhash Bhamre in the Muslim areas,”said BJP candidate Dr Shaheena Sayyed.
“The BJP only sent a few Muslim BJP leaders to campaign. If senior leaders of the BJP or ministers from the government had campaigned in Muslim pockets, it would have sent a positive message to the electorate. Sadly, this was not done,” Sayyed said.
The BJP, however, countered the allegations and said it had not discriminated against candidates. “This is a win for the development agenda of the party. Our candidates may not have been elected from Muslim constituencies but we have drawn unprecedented votes in the elections. We see this as a win and a stepping stone to greater success in Malegaon,” said Nitin Pophale, member of the BJP’s state working committee.
Meanwhile, the overall election results pointed to a hung house in the Malegaon Municipal Corporation. The Congress emerged the single largest party with 28 seats, NCP won 20 and its ally Janata Dal 6, Shiv Sena won 13, BJP 9, AIMIM 7 and Independent 1.
Malegaon, where Muslims constitute 78.94 per cent of its 4.81 lakh population, has over the years been stigmatised as a town symbolising Muslim anger, alienation and backwardness. The two bombings in the town, in 2006 and 2008, brought to the fore allegations of the role of Hindu groups in terror activities.
Local residents, however, claimed the BJP’s attempts to woo Malegaon appear cosmetic. “The party could not find traction among the residents of this town who find no common ground with the BJP in its present form. The BJP may claim it wants to reach out to the Muslims, but facts show otherwise. The CM chose to address rallies in both Bhiwandi and Panvel where elections were slated, but ignored Malegaon. What message does the BJP send to the city by doing this?” said Rashid Ansari, a local resident.