During the election campaign in Gujarat various radio channels in the state were wont to interrupt their broadcasts with the sound of a conch shell.
Muslims (foreground) among others attend Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's three-day 'sadbhavna' fast for peace and harmony in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was being projected as an avatar of Lord Krishna on this earth and the blowing of the
conch shell was a reminder to voters to "vote as one" for the BJP.
This was a clever ploy by Modi to bypass the Election Commission's ban on the mention of religion or Hindutva during the campaign. Social scientist Ganesh Devy says it was also a response to the "fragmentation'' of Gujarat's Hindutva vote which has been divided by the estrangement of the powerful Patel community from Modi and united with other sections of society, including the poor, Muslims and tribals by the Gujarat government's failures.
"Modi has been unable to cash in this time on the natural resentment of Gujarati Hindus towards Muslims and he has not been able to woo Muslims either because he was unsure of how far he could go without inviting the resentment of Hindutva voters," says Devy.
So, barring a handful of Muslims who have vested interests in going along with Modi, the minority vote this election season seems to be decisively going against the government. "He did try," senior journalist Ayesha Khan says, pointing to a road leading into a posh largely Muslim enclave which was just a kachcha road until the Baroda Municipal Corporation, controlled by the BJP, tarred it up a few weeks before the elections. "I can't say how much the community might or might not be swayed by that.''
Says educationist Zohair Gopalani, Muslims have in many ways moved on from 2002 but "not because of Modi or anything the government might have done'' for them. "We have done things for ourselves. Roti, kapda aur makan and bijli, sadak aur pani are outdated. Most governments have now provided these to the people. What we need now is the three Es of education, employment and empowerment. That is to be had nowhere in Gujarat - for Muslims, Adivasis or even large sections of the Hindu population."