Published On:26 September 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

BJP may field Muslim candidates in assembly polls for the first time in Gujarat

Ex-DGP Khandwawala among party’s probable candidates
By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

For the first time, the Gujarat BJP is said to be considering fielding Muslim candidates in Assembly elections which includes former DGP Shabbir S Khandwawala and former additional DGP Abullah Ibrahim Saiyed.

The ruling party had not fielded a single Muslim candidate in the 2002 and 2007 Assembly polls.

While state BJP leaders were tightlipped about the candidature of the two former police officers, Saiyed said he was ready to shoulder whatever responsibility the party would give him, including contesting elections. Saiyed was fielded in the 2009 Ahmedabad Municipal corporation (AMC) elections from Muslim-dominated Sarkhej ward but lost to the Congress. The party had projected him as a mayoral candidate.

Khandwawala could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

The BJP had fielded about 200 candidates in district panchayat and other local bodies elections and 160 of them won.

Modi is seen to be keen on mending his anti-Muslim image as he seeks a bigger role on the national stage. If he succeeds, it would also blunt the edge Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has over him in terms of their prime ministerial prospects.

Meanwhile, other major political parties in the state have begun the process to identify the Assembly seats with 15 to 30 per cent of Muslim population to field Muslim candidates there.

The Congress, which has always been a beneficiary of the Muslim votes, is under pressure to field more Muslim candidates this time. Though state Congress leaders say winnability would be the only criterion for allotting tickets, the party’s minority cell in the state is reported to have submitted a list of 14 Muslim candidates. In 2007 elections, Congress had given tickets to five Muslim candidates and all of them had won — three from Ahmedabad city alone, one from Wankaner in Rajkot and another from Vagra in Bharuch district.

The JD-U, which on Saturday declared to contest 50 Assembly seats in the state in polls due at the end of the year, has is fielding candidates from constituencies with some Muslim population. Its national general secretary Chandra Raj Singhvi, who is in the state, told reporters that Muslims were natural allies of his party. He had also brought along with him a senior JD-U Muslim leader from Bihar, Javed Raza, to make inroads into the Muslim electorate.

The Samajwadi Party, which too has decided to contest Assembly polls in the state, is set to field candidates from Muslim-dominated constituencies.

Its state unit president Surendra Yadav, who hails from Azamgarh in UP, has been very active for the last few months.

There was a time when BJP would not even distribute election voters' slips in Muslim areas in Gujarat. In 2005, during the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation ( AMC) election campaign, chief minister Narendra Modi's war cry was to abolish Rule of 'begum, badshah aur gulam', referring to the first woman Muslim mayor of Ahmedabad from the Congress at the time, Aneesa Mirza. But now in Sadbhavna mode and one eye on Delhi, Modi is considering giving tickets to Muslim candidates in upcoming assembly elections.

The BJP has conducted a survey of nine seats in the state with more than 30 percent Muslim voters. These include Dariapur, Jamalpur, Vejalpur, Vagra, Abdasa, Bhuj, Vankaner, Danta and Mangrol. Modi is likely to give anywhere between a minimum of two and a maximum of four tickets to Muslim leaders with good academic, religious and administrative backgrounds on these seats.

Among the Muslims that Modi may consider favouring with tickets are two retired senior IPS officers - former director general of police S S Khandvawala and A I Saiyed, who retired as additional director general of police. Some Muslim artists and religious leaders may also be considered.

Claiming that Muslims in BJP-ruled Gujarat are better off than those in other states, the chief minister recently said minorities had been equal beneficiaries of development in the state which "does not practice policy of appeasement".

It should be noted that it is for the first time that Gujarat BJP has got together to chalk out a plan to woo Muslims under Modi, a man accused of complicity in the 2002 post-Godhra riots. With one eye on the 2014 general elections, and his burning ambition to become prime minister, Modi has dropped his hardcore Hindu card, even at the cost of alienating his own Sangh Parivar. It is now left to the voters to decide if this gamble will pay off.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on September 26, 2012. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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