The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sprang a surprise by giving tickets to ten Muslim candidates for the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, said political analysts.
On some earlier occasions, too, the party gave tickets to Muslim candidates in civic bodies' polls but the party distributed 12% tickets to minority candidates for the first time, they said.
A senior Congress leader said, "In the past too, the BJP would field just a couple of candidates for name's sake but this time it's really different." He said, "Clearly, the BJP has a strategy and it aims at winning the Muslim-dominated wards in the old city."
"In wards which have 50-60% of Muslim population, the party has fielded minority candidates, as it hopes that this will divide the Congress' vote and help the BJP," the party leader said.
BJP sources said their aim was to win the BMC elections at all costs, so the party distributed tickets to Muslim candidates in minority-dominated areas. Party's state media in-charge Hitesh Bajpai said the BJP was getting minority votes and it had strong Muslim leaders.
"Earlier, it seemed symbolic, as lesser number of tickets was given to minorities. But the myth that minorities are not with the BJP has broken after our candidates got votes in Muslim areas in Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha polls. Now, we have good Muslim leaders and as they can win election, they are getting tickets," Bajpai added.
However, Madhya Pradesh Congress vice-president Manak Agarwal said though the BJP fielded many Muslim candidates, it would not damage the Congress' prospects.
"In the past, the BJP never fielded so many Muslim candidates. They gave at the most 4/5 tickets. But the fact is that Muslims of Bhopal are strongly with the Congress and hence it won't affect us," Agarwal said.
Meanwhile, the Congress has fielded 18 Muslim candidates. In the last election, there were 70 wards for which corparators were elected but after the merger of the Kolar municipality with Bhopal, the number of wards has gone up to 85.