Why was there no official comment from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), when it was blamed for not giving tickets to Muslim candidates in the recent assembly elections? The answer can be understood from the results of recently concluded elections for 75 municipalities.
Salaya, where the BJP fielded 24 Muslim candidates, besides three candidates from the reserved category, and won all 27 seats, is not an isolated case. The saffron party had fielded 140 Muslim candidates in 75 municipalities, of which 85 were victorious. In the polls held in October 2010 and February 2011 for 53 and 27 municipalities respectively, the party had given tickets to 325 Muslims, of whom 192 won.
There are pockets in many of these municipalities, where non-Muslim candidates fielded by the BJP have won from Muslim-dominated wards. The results not only indicate the party’s acceptability among the community, it is also helping it to promote the development agenda. “Results show that the Muslim community wants development. Apart from Salaya in Jamnagar, Kodinar in Junagadh district also got eight municipal councillors elected on BJP tickets. The Congress had fielded six candidates and the BJP had given tickets to Muslim candidates in Kodinar, which is dominated by Muslims. There are Hindu candidates who have won from the wards, which are dominated by Muslim voters,” said Mahebubali Bava, president of the BJP Minority Morcha. “This shows that the community wants development and they have understood that they have been treated only as vote-bank,” he added.
Citing the instance of a civic body in Navsari district, Bava said, “I visited a Muslim locality Gandevi in 2011. I found that after so many years of independence and despite Gandevi having a municipality, the locality didn’t have proper roads, drinking water supply and streetlights. I talked to the people and promised them that if BJP came to power, the face of the area would change. We gave tickets to four Muslim candidates, all of whom won and now the area has a water filter plant, an RCC (reinforced cement concrete) road and automatic streetlights.”
“Development is all about delivery of services and satisfying people’s need. So now a big section of the Muslim community, which is still deprived of basic facilities, is experiencing the delivery of such public amenities and trusting BJP’s development agenda. This is not only helping the party in municipal elections but also in the assembly elections,” Bava said.
Asifa Khan, spokesperson of BJP, who recently shifted to the saffron party from the Congress, agrees with Bava’s views. “Look at the results of Vagra and Bharuch assembly constituency. Vagra has 44% Muslim voters of which 34% had voted in the election and yet BJP’s Hindu candidate won against Congress’ candidate,” she said, adding, “The government’s development work is reaching out to the people without any distinction of religion or caste. As a result, along with all other communities of the state, Muslims are also benefiting.”
“As our chief minister (CM) Narendra Modi talks about all the six crore Gujaratis, government designs schemes and programmes to fulfil people’s need and the CM personally ensures their effective implementation. The perception of the Muslim community has changed; earlier, it was believed that it would vote only for the Congress. They are now happily voting for the BJP,” Khan added.
Regarding absence of Muslim candidates in the assembly polls, Khan said, “It was never a demand from the Muslim community for assembly tickets. Even if there would have been tickets for Muslims, the number would not have been more than two or three. Now these few MLAs cannot help the whole community to develop. If it would be the case, there are 69 Muslim MLAs in Uttar Pradesh; look at the condition of Muslims there! Today, the community has far important issues than assembly tickets, such as development and education.”
Commenting on the Congress’ defeat in municipal elections, Khan said, “Had Muslim councillors of the Congress worked in their areas, they would have never faced such a situation. They don’t function for the people of their own community, whereas a Hindu councillor of the BJP helps Muslims to get the signature of a BJP MLA for his Haj pilgrimage. It seems a small gesture, but it creates a big change in the community’s perspective.”
The reason for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar disliking Narendra Modi doesn’t seem to work among Gujarat’s Muslims. Keeping Hindu and Muslim identities aside, doesn’t everybody need water taps, good roads and streetlights? Modi knows it, BJP’s grassroots-level municipal councillors understand it and his administration delivers it.
The writer is a deputy chief correspondent with DNA
correspondent with DNA