In what appears to be an attempt to placate the minority community, given that not a single Muslim candidate was fielded by the BJP in the assembly polls, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi shared the dais with cricketer Irfan Pathan at an election rally in Kheda district on Wednesday.
Pathan, who is currently not in action, hails from Vadodara.
Though the cricketer waved at spectators during the campaign rally, he did not address them. In communally sensitive Gujarat, which goes to the polls on December 13 and 17, no Muslim leader was asked to hold any public rally for the BJP.
Kheda is traditionally a Congress bastion, and the district has seven assembly segments. Congress stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela is contesting from Kapadvanj, which has a sizeable Muslim population.
Vaghela described the act as “an indication of Modi’s desperation to get Muslim votes without giving any representation to the community”.
Rakesh Rao, BJP rebel and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) candidate from Matar seat in Kheda, said, “Modi is on a weak wicket, which is why he invited Irfan to bat for him.”
BJP leaders, however, said that Irfan came over because he is a fan of Modi and his work.
Gujarat has a Muslim population of 9.5%. There are as many as 182 assembly segments in the state.