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JUHAPURA, by most local accounts, is home to 4.50 lakh Muslims who, packed into 5 sq km, reportedly represent the densest concentration of the community in one place in Gujarat. Residents say they have, however, not yet been visited by any major political leader, nor witnessed any election meeting. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani started his door-to-door campaign 10 days ago from Khadia-Jamalpur, another Muslim-dominated constituency (over half the voters) in the walled city of Ahmedabad.
Juhapura’s estimated 4.50 lakh Muslims represent more or less its entire population; its 1.07 lakh registered voters account for 35% of Vejalpur constituency. On November 9, Union minister Smriti Irani’s tour covered only Hindu areas in Vejalpur.
Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi claimed party leaders have been and will cover the area from door to door. “There will be regular monitoring of the campaign by AICC. Juhapura has been covered in this campaign but if it is being missed, party workers responsible will be answerable,” Doshi said.
Vejalpur’s BJP MLA, Kishorbhai Chauhan, claimed to have visited nearly 10 societies in Juhapura last week. Juhapura came into existence in 1973 when inhabitants on the Sabarmati’s banks were settled here after a severe flood. Others arrived after being displaced during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Residents talk of lack of education, transportation, water supply and sewerage. “Why has not a single political leader from either party visited? We have been neglected for decades,” said Arif Sheikh, 36, who runs a small stock market business. He moved to Juhapura from Behrampura after the 2002 riots, just after he had completed his ITI.
“Despite getting borewells on which we spent over Rs 50,000 and an annual maintenance of Rs 5,000 we have no access to clean drinking water,” said Anwarbhai Kajdi, 57. Formerly under Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, Juhapura is now under Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. All four corporators of Makhtampur ward, which covers Juhapura, are of the Congress; residents complain of discrimination by the BJP-ruled corporation.
“We have not only raised these issues in the AMC but also appealed in Gujarat High Court. Not much has moved on the ground, although on paper the government claims to have done substantial work for the community,” says Congress corporator Haji Asratbaig.
The Bus Rapid Transit System route terminates on the edge of Juhapura. The overhead Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro is being built around it. Hardly 400m away is a Hindu-dominated area, Vasna, which has one of the largest, busiest bus termini and is connected to the Metro.
MLA Chauhan denied discrimination: “Work on drinking water is half done and will be completed soon. Drainage work is almost complete. All development work including an urban health centre has been done after 2014.” He claimed to have spent Rs 25 lakh from his MLA fund on RCC roads and street-lights.
Political leaders do visit for events. Mayor Gautam Shah has visited Juhapura five times in his two-year tenure, most recently for an underground borewell project. Former chief minister Anandi Patel laid the foundation for an urban health centre, an anganwadi and a municipal school in 2013, and inaugurated an underground water tank in 2016.
“Gautam Shah was the first mayor who had visited our area, that too so many times, and he took a tour of by autorickshaw. But the visits failed to bring development,” said Aizaz Pathan, 30. Juhapaura has, nevertheless, had nonpolitical visitors. Prof Vipin Tripathi (physics) of IIT Delhi visited several times for his doctorate thesis in 2007. “With repeated efforts, a little change has been brought in the area in the field of education but a lot still needs to be done without discrimination,” he said.
Former Gujarat Waqf Board chairman A I Syed, a retired IPS officer who lives in Juhapura, said, “Residents are not politically literate. The area lacks political leadership and lack of understanding on how to get work done… We cannot rue sitting in the Opposition that things are not done.”
Of the 3.2 lakh voters in Vejalpur, the 1.07 lakh Muslim votes are concentrated in Juhapura. In 2012, the BJP’s Chauhan (42%) defeated Congress candidate Akbarkhan Pathan (26%). Before becoming part of Vejalpur, Juhapura was in Sarkhej constituency that was represented by BJP president Amit Shah. Before delimitation, Sarkhej’s 8-9 lakh voters included 1.50 lakh Muslims, including those of Juhapura. After delimitation split the constituency into many, it was the BJP that gained as it won most of the new seats, said Asratbaig, the Congress corporator.
The area and the seat: 1.07 lakh
Voters in Juhapura, part of Vejalpur 2012
BJP 42%, Congress 26%