BJP leaders are having to choose words carefully as they campaign for the party’s only Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh, Fatima Rasool Siddiqui. Occasionally, she is introduced as Shrimati Fatima Rasool Siddiqui and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Wazir-e-Aala because Bhopal (north), the constituency she is contesting from, has a strong Muslim presence.
Fatima (35) joined the BJP a day before filing nomination from the constituency represented by Arif Aqueel of Congress since 1998. When the ruling party announced Fatima’s name, most people were clueless until it became clear that she is the daughter of Rasool Ahmad Siddiqui, former minister during the Congress regime. Despite the fact that the senior Siddiqui, who died nearly two decades ago, was a Congress leader, Fatima is seeking votes in his name, and that of Chief Minister Chouhan.
“I know how much my father was loved for his work, like providing 7,500 government jobs. There is no Hindu-Muslim issue here,’’ she told a crowd in Kazi Camp locality. Accusing Aqueel of engineering an attack on her house in 1993, she said, “A stone missed my mother by inches’’.
Aqueel denied the charge, saying his rally passed by her house and an FIR was lodged. He dismissed her as a greenhorn and “bechari’’, saying she was fielded because the BJP could not find anyone else. “Will a doctor’s son be allowed to give medicines without a degree or a lawyer’s son to argue without qualification?’’ he asked, adding, “even if the entire government were to contest, it would lose here’’.
Many in the constituency vouch for Aqueel, saying he is accessible even after midnight and someone who even takes on the police to defend the poor in the constituency.
“Aqueel would win even if Shivraj Singh Chouhan contested from here,’’ asserted Rafique Qureshi, a dairy owner. “Most people here are small vendors and are not bothered about development in the way others relate to it. If they can earn daily, they are happy. When the need arises, Aqueel supports them,’’ explained S A Khan, a retired government employee.
The BJP camp held Aqueel responsible for the constituency being “one of the dirtiest” in the state. They said Fatima is getting a lot of support from women. “She talks about triple talaq only before women in closed rooms and not in public because it may backfire,’’ said one of her campaign managers. “Let them talk about triple talaq and BJP will lose by a bigger margin,’’ said Aqueel. “Aqueel wins because Muslims vote in large numbers, unlike Hindus,’’ said BJP leader Pankaj Chourasia.