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Gujarat Elections 2012: Feeling betrayed by Gujarat Congress leaders, a segment of Muslim voters was already with the BJP

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: "Ten years ago, the situation was worse. Our men used to get killed in communal clashes before 2002. But we have moved on and thanks to BJP government in state, not a single serious communal violence in all these years," says Hanifabibi, resident of Gomtipur in Ahmedabad. She told that she and some other Muslim women had made up their mind to vote for BJP well before voting day.

Rizwana Sheikh, a commerce graduate who lives with her husband at Mubaraknagar, a ghetto for Muslims in Ahmedabad, says Muslims have changed and benefited from the development under the leadership of Modi.

"The fact that Muslims are crucial voters gas been completely bypassed political parties even Congress. For this grand old party Muslims are only vote bank stuff," said Mustufa Khan of Juhapura.

Three of Ahmedabad constituencies were considered to be Congress boroughs, but the party lost two of them to BJP because of bickering that led to division of votes. Situation came to a pass and the Muslims voted for BJP candidates in all three places in significant numbers.

The party should feel lucky in scraping through with a small margin in Dariapur. Three constituencies in the city — Jamalpur, Shahpur and Kalupur — had Muslim voters in majority and Muslim candidates had been winning there on Congress symbol.

The delimitation of these constituencies changed them into Dariapur, Jamalpur-Khadia and Vejalpur. The voter composition meant that Muslims retained the edge in these constituencies. Congress in its wisdom, ignored its senior and experienced candidates and opted for new faces.

And how it boomeranged. Sitting MLAs, Farukh Shaikh and Sabir Kabliwala, were miffed and filed papers as independent candidates challenging the Congress nominees.

However, after the intervention of Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser, Shaikh extended his support to Congress candidate Gyasuddin Shaikh in Dariyapur, but Kabliwala remained adamant.

The impact on the final tally of votes is for all to see. In Jamalpur-Khadia, BJP’s Bhusan Bhatt coasted to victory with 48,388 votes against Congress candidate Samirkhan Pathan’s 42,029. Add to Pathan’s tally Kabliwala’s 30,668 votes and it takes little genius to conclude who would have been the winner if Congress votes were not divided.

Kishor Chauhan in Vejalpur got 1,13,507 votes while Congress candidate Murtuja Khan Pathan got 58,345. Vejalpur is the largest Muslim constituency (more than 80,000 voters) in the city, yet Congress faced a rout. In Dariapur, Bharat Barot of BJP got 58,345 votes and Congress’s Gyasuddin Shaikh just about scraped past him with 60,967 votes. The division confused the Congress supporters.

A segment of Muslim voters was already with the BJP only because they felt betrayed by the Congress. Their argument: known devil is better than unknown. The remaining votes were divided, giving advantage to the BJP candidates in all three seats.

Not just the independent candidates, but others who had aspired for the ticket started working against the party. Many of the supporters began canvassing for the BJP candidates in private meetings because they wanted to teach lesson to their party high command which obviously underestimated their strength.

"Congress lost some Muslim dominated seats because of a split in the candidates' vote share. We are still to study what happened in Vagra, where we lost with a big margin. There is no question of Sadbhavana having worked its magic in these polls."

Sadbhavna surge

Muslim-dominated Congress bastions that BJP won this time

Seat                               Muslim voters in percentage

Khadia-Jamalpur          61.28
Vagra                             44.02
Dediapada                    31.25
Jambusar                       24.00
Karjan                             15.29

What is missing in the Congress in Gujarat that it is just not able to trump Modi? Is the absence of a leader, direction, identity crisis, ideological mismatch with the society, or just the absence of purpose? Or perhaps all of these?

A fortnight before the polling day, Congress’s high-profile maverick leader Shankersinh Vaghela announced suddenly, “I am the captain (of Congress)”. At the time the statement appeared to have come rather unprovoked and from the apparent muted reactions, the sentiment did not find much support either. As the results have come out today, Vaghela aka Bapu has actually become the veritable captain of Congress’s ship, without its reigning leaders’ support.

And that pretty much sums up the Congress’s fate in days to come after it’s yet another debacle at the hustings in last two decades. Unlike the previous polls, the party this time was proactive in setting the agenda as early as a year ago with multiple yatras across the state. Early on, Congress announced Vaghela as its poll campaign committee chairman, as well as anointing him the chairman of Indian Tourism Development Corporation with a cabinet rank. Two of AICC’s senior delegates - believed to be close to Rahul Gandhi - Mohan Prakash and CP Joshi were dispatched to Gujarat. All the multiple factions of the party had their niche defined and for a while here, Congress showed promise.

Closer to elections, a spark of brilliance emerged in the form of a promise for poor sections of the society ‘Ghar nu ghar’ scheme. The announcement had about 30 lakh women lining up to potentially take benefit of the scheme if Congress was voted to power. Apparently, those long queues did not translate into votes for the party.

This was followed by 12 other promises, including free laptops for students and reducing VAT on fuel. At the time, the promises created much hype and practically shook up the BJP. In retrospect, it becomes clear that coming about three months before polls, Modi got enough time to recover, which eventually reflected in the party’s poll manifesto promise of 50 lakh houses for poor.

By the time candidates had to be finalised, all hell broke loose. The buzz is Rahul Gandhi had a significant say through Prakash and Joshi in finalising candidates’ names, due to which Narhari Amin was chopped off and he migrated to the BJP. Congress made a tacit understanding with some GPP candidates in Saurashtra, Visavadar for instance, which led to severe heartburn.

Instead of strategising, party leaders spent precious time pacifying dissidents. Closer to elections, instead of bringing out its USPs of ‘Ghar nu ghar’ and other promises, Modi-bashing was the only agenda candidates seemed to have. They were banking heavily on anti-incumbency, which was perhaps even simmering, but the Congress summarily failed to bring it to a boil.

Several of Vaghela loyalists were denied tickets, which rendered him amongst the dissidents, but he stayed put on his Kapadvanj seat and at some other places that he had decided to focus on. Most of Vaghela’s coterie from Saurashtra and Central Gujarat has won.

Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel who belongs to Bharuch has not been able to bring home a single of the seven seats in Bharuch and Narmada – most dominated by Congress’s loyal votebank Muslims and tribals. He had camped and campaigned aggressively here for five consecutive days before Phase I polls and briefly even for Phase II. What does this say about the electorate? Did they reject Congress as a party or its regional candidates? This indicates BJP has made a severe dent in its loyal electorates not only in Central Gujarat but all over the state. Needless to say, there is scope for deep introspection.

However, the Congress’s loss of face is in fact its biggest loss this time – literally. Three of the four prominent faces of the party here have lost. The blue eyed boys of Congress high command – GPCC president Arjun Modhwadia, leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil and former GPCC president Siddharth Patel – were clear targets of Narendra Modi and he has succeeded in neutralising them. Ironically, Congress for a change has a leadership crisis?
Or now, does it? Because the biggest concern for Congress’s ideological loyalists and observers has been a top heavy party with too many leaders and not enough workers for societal outreach. Too many cooks have literally been spoiling Congress’s broth.

Besides, the internal churning of incumbents on key positions did not allow new leadership to emerge. “Whether this heralds a leadership crisis in the party in years to come or an opportunity depends on the high command. The clear message that should go to Delhi is not to be paranoid about self-made regional leaders and allow them to thrive.

Despite its defeats, there is young blood committed to Congress ideology which is willing to work hard. In the last two decades, Congress here has made several tactical errors by absorbing break-away factions from BJP and Janata Dal, who obviously have no ideological allegiance with Congress. It is now time to make way for Congressmen,” says a committed functionary at the party’s deserted office in Paldi, watching live coverage of the poll results on television.

[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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1 comments:

  1. This is a good for India and Indian Muslims... :-)

    ReplyDelete