In Muslim-dominated Jamalpur, BJP candidate says: ‘You are my family, not my voters’https://indianexpress.com/elections/gujarat-assembly-elections-2017/in-muslim-dominated-jamalpur-bjp-candidate-says-you-are-my-family-not-my-voters/

In Muslim-dominated Jamalpur, BJP candidate says: ‘You are my family, not my voters’

Traditionally, a Congress stronghold, the BJP registered a surprise victory in Khadia-Jamalpur in the 2012 Assembly election.

Gujarat elections Muslim-dominated Jamalpur
At a Sadbhavna meeting of the BJP candidate Bhushan Bhatt in the Behrampura area of Jamalpur on Sunday. (Express Photo/Javed Raja)

“Assalamu alaikum!” With this BJP leader and former minister Girish Parmar greeted a gathering of Muslims at a party event called, Sadbhavna meeting, on Sunday evening in Khadia-Jamalpur constituency’s Behrampura area.

His greeting was instantly reciprocated by the audience. “It was absolutely unimaginable for the BJP even to think of fielding a candidate from Khadia-Jamalpur constituency ( where Muslim voters are 61 per cent). But things have changed, and now I am happy to welcome new (Muslim) entrants in the BJP in this constituency,” he said. “You have taken a right decision (of joining the BJP) at a right time,” he added as he likened the country with a garden, where all communities lived in peace and harmony like flowers coexisted with a variety of flowers.

“This is the time to place the tribute of lotus on the feet of BJP,” he added.

The crowd had a sizeable number of Muslim women from the neighbourhood.

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Having thus set the tone, BJP’s sitting MLA Bhushan Bhatt, who has been renominated by the party, stood to speak, but on hearing the sound of ‘azaan’ from a nearby mosque, he stood still. After the azaan ended, Bhatt began his speech saying that the sound of azaan was a sign of blessing in his favour.

“Jamalpur is a matter of prestige for the Congress, which cannot afford to lose even in exchange for the remaining 181 seats, but tomorrow the whole of the Congress will swarm to Jamalpur to save it. I am not going to ask you to vote for me but you compare the divide-and-rule regime of the Congress with the BJP’s inclusive development regime, then decide for yourself,” he said. “In the past 60 years, the Congress gave you only hunger, fear and unemployment, while the BJP, since coming to power, gave you safety and work.”

Traditionally, a Congress stronghold, the BJP registered a surprise victory in Khadia-Jamalpur in the 2012 Assembly election, when Bhatt defeated his Congress rival Samirkhan Vajirkhan Sipai by nearly 6,000 votes.

Bhatt then pointed to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s frequent visits to temples during his Gujarat visit. “My younger brother Rahul has started visiting temples. Let him, he will also come to Jagannath mandir, which he thinks will fetch him votes,” he said. “He eats bhajiya too, but he eats one bhajiya and release 500 photographs. Our (party) president Amit Shah comes to Manek Chowk for bhajiyas several times,” he taunted at Rahul.

“You are my family, not my voters,” he said, claiming that he has a database of 48,000 voters with whom he has been in contact for the last five years. “If I have hurt you in the last five years, vent your anger against me but no against the BJP when you cast your vote,” he concluded.

But the show stealer was M K Chishti, convener of state BJP minority morcha, who first listed the contribution of Muslims to the country since 1857 — the first war of Independence. “Now some people object against chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai. Muslims voted for the Congress, which ruled for 55 years. But what have they got in return after making all the sacrifices,” he asked.

“I have done most of the good work for Muslims than anyone else in the past 10 years… It is my open challenge; if anyone can prove me wrong, I will quit politics forever,” he said amid applause.