Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s `sadbhavana’ was put to test earlier last month, when the BJP finalised its list of candidates. It failed. The party gave the Muslims a miss.
But post delimitation, there are at least 5 constituencies In Ahmedabad, where the Muslim vote is high --- Dani Limda (48%), Dariapur (46%), Vejalpur (35%), Bapunagar (28%) and Khadia, the erstwhile Hindutva stronghold which has been merged with Jamalpur and now has Muslim vote of 61%.
Modi’s volte face, after giving indications of change -- like holding meetings with Muslim leaders, the sadbhavana rally and giving tickets to Muslims in recent corporation election -- has irked the Muslims.
“We are often asked if the community has moved on since the 2002 riots. This question should be put to BJP and Modi. Why wasn’t a single ticket given to a Muslim?” asked a 25-year-old engineer on condition of anonymity. “Modi does not get elected because of development agenda. He gets elected because there is majority that sees him as a protector. That’s not going to change.”
Going by his poll speeches where he attacked Ahmed `mian’ Patel and invoked Ramayana in a Muslim-dominated town, Modi is well aware of this.
“The Kshatriyas, Kolis and even Sindhis count. But, Muslims don’t make the cut. As a community we feel politically disempowered,’’ said SA Kadri, principal of a minority school for girls.
Asrar Kadri, a businessman, said reconciliation with Modi is impossible for most Muslims, because of the low trust factor. Some sections of the community, though, feel it is better to align with power rather than be ignored.
AI Saiyed, BJP leader and former IPS officer, fees his community needs to think less of religion and more of development. “If they want better infrastructure, development, it’s time to wake up and vote for someone who will deliver.’’
But for some Muslims, the debate is not about development or religion.
“There is no space for dissent in Gujarat. My husband dared to raise his voice against the land mafia in Juhapura and against the government in Naroda Patiya. He was butchered,” said Shagufta Saiyed. Last November, Saiyed’s husband Nadeem, a RTI activist and witness in Naroda Patiya case, was stabbed 28 times at the Juhapura crossroads, barely 100 metres from a police station. His murderers are out on bail.