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As Bilkis Bano goes to SC, BJP Godhra MLA keeps out any reference in his campaign

C K Raulji, who was renominated despite his low 2017 margin, was part of the panel that released her convicts; is busy Wednesday preparing for PM Modi's rally

Godhra MLA Chandrasinh Raulji has been sticking to the BJP's strategy -- not to bring up the Bilkis Bano case. (Express Photos by Bhupendra Rana and Nirmal Harindran)

On a day that Bilkis Bano filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the remission of the life sentence awarded to 11 people convicted for gangraping her and killing her family members, including her three-year-old daughter, Godhra MLA Chandrasinh Raulji was in the midst of a hectic campaign schedule.

Raulji, who was part of the Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) that was instrumental in the early release of the 11, is seeking a sixth term from Godhra. He spent Wednesday preparing along with other BJP leaders to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is arriving in Vejalpur in Kalol taluka Thursday for campaigning.

Raulji, 68, has been sticking to the party’s strategy in the villages of his constituency, a mix of tribals and OBCs. And that is, not to bring up the Bilkis Bano case, one of the incidents of violence in the 2002 riots. He speaks about the “development” of tribals under Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat, the setting up of a National Commission for OBCs by the Modi government at the Centre, its schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, Ujjwala Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, and emphasises repeatedly about the BJP’s “trustworthy governance”.

Even as Raulji’s phone rings incessantly Wednesday after news breaks of the appeal filed by Bilkis in the Supreme Court, he steers clear of it. He does not want to delve into the subject, he says, and maintains that his stand in the JAC was “as per rules”. “What the JAC recommended was as per the remission policy of the state,” he says, warding off further queries citing his “hectic day”.

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As villagers in Kaliyavav, Asadi and other pit stops on the way, led by BJP workers, gather to welcome him, Raulji seeks their blessings “for the party that is led by PM Modi”, and promises that “the double-engine government (of the BJP at the Centre and in state)” will take care of every concern of the people.

Raulji, who won by the second-lowest margin of 258 votes in 2017, is clearly hoping the Modi name will help him surge ahead. On Tuesday, he had taken a backseat during the Yogi Adityanath rally for him in Godhra. Asserting that he will win by a higher margin this time, Raulji says: “There is no doubt the party has the complete support of the people of Godhra… Those who believe in the ideology of the BJP will always vote for the BJP. Those who do not believe in the ideology — which is inclusive development for all — may vote for some others, who are enticing voters with many promises. But the fact remains that on the ground, it is the BJP workers and the government that work for the people.”

However, while Raulji does not face rebel leaders this time, a local leader admits his selection left many unhappy, given his low margin of 2017, and dwindling margins even before that (including in 2007, 2012 for the Congress). The fight might be further complicated due to the caste angle. “The Congress has played its cards well by fielding an OBC candidate,” says the leader.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 07:45 IST
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