A woman scrap dealer and another, the daughter of a man who was one of the initial members of the BJP in the 80’s are among the five Muslim candidates contesting the Delhi municipal elections on a BJP ticket.
The party fielded 6 Muslim contestants, one more than what they had in 2012 MCD election. The election commission rejected the nomination of one candidate on Wednesday evening because of an error in his form. The Muslim names in the list created a buzz in the backdrop of the saffron party not fielding even a single Muslim candidate in the recently-concluded assembly elections to the five state assemblies.
For these ‘chosen five’, the challenge would be — besides beating a decade-old anti-incumbency against the party — to communicate BJP’s agenda to a group which is not known to support the party. Some of the issues that unite them are their praise for UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his anti-Romeo squads, and their opposition to cow slaughter and triple talaq.
Locked in an unprecedented six-cornered fight, HT tracks the six ‘odd balls’ and asks them what their plan of action is.
Rubina Begum,52, Ward: Quresh Nagar
Rubina Begum is the only exception to the party’s pre-poll claim of not fielding relatives of sitting candidates. Last month, the BJP had claimed that tickets would not be given to the relatives of the present councillors. Though there are some candidates related to BJP leaders, Begum will be fighting in place of her mother.
She is the daughter of Hoor Bano, BJP’s sitting councillor in ward 89 N Quresh Nagar. Begum family’s said her father was a supporter when BJP founders were still a part of the Janta party. ”Begum’s father was Delhi metropolitan council member (equivalent to an MLA today) when Delhi was not a state. Before her mother, her brother Ismail was a councillor in 2007-12. We are hardworking grass root party workers and have got the ticket. The family’s good work is the reason for the exception,” said her relative Haroon Ismail.
Begum, a twelfth pass, mother of three, is married to a businessman in Sadar Bazar. Unlike other wards, where the party has fielded Muslims, Quresh Nagar in north Delhi’s Bara Hindu Rao has a sizeable Hindu population. The ward has around 60,000 voters. Around 35,000 are Muslim voters. Begum, contesting for the first time will be fighting a ten year anti-incumbency of two terms led by her elder brother and mother. The AAP and the Congress have also put up Muslim faces in this ward, reserved for women.“
Kunwar Rafi,37, Ward: Zakir Nagar
Rafi, who runs a computer shop at Nehru Place, is associated with the BJP for the past 10 years. Rafi, who has studied up to Class 12, plans to induct his other Muslim friends into the party. “The country is doing well under the BJP rule. There is no corruption, no riots. Why shouldn’t we too be part of our country’s growth?” he asks.
Rafi is a resident of Muzaffanagar, Uttar Pradesh where riots broke out in 2013. Rafi does not buy allegations that BJP leaders were behind the violence. “The BJP was not at the Centre then. I always tell this to my brothers.”
Rafi claims that he helped the local residents during the last year’s outbreak of dengue and chikungunya and it will now help him win their support.
Fahimuddin Saifi,30, Ward: Delhi Gate
Saifi is the youngest among the five Muslim BJP candidates. Saifi claims he has been a party worker since July 2011. “I am a businessman and have been inspired by former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Modiji, when he was still a chief minister. I joined the BJP when I realized that in all these years, Muslims have only gotten poorer. Most parties only exploited Muslims for votes.”
Saifi, runs a steel business, says he supports the anti-romeo squads in UP. “This is actually what Muslims should have been doing -- ensuring that no one sleeps hungry or dare to harass our sisters. Yogi Adityanath is doing it. Anti-Romeo squads can ensure incidents like the Bulandshahr highway rape are not repeated,” he said.
Saifi claims he was once a part of the Congress, but did not hold any party post.
Sartaj Ahmed, 43, Ward: Chauhan Bangar
This month marks Sartaj Ahmed’s 11th year in the BJP. Ahmed, who runs a metal box manufacturing firm, had joined the BJP in April 2006. Ahmed held many posts in the local unit of the party. “This is my first election. I am happy that the party has given foot soldiers like me a chance.”
Ahmed says people in this Muslim-dominated area know him for his round-the-clock work in helping residents get ration cards, solve power problems. Ahmed has never met Modi or BJP president Amit Shah but says the fact that he has got a ticket has only strengthen his resolve to work for the party.
Sabra Malik, 42, Ward: Mustafabad
A woman who till recently helped her husband dismantle scrap outside their home, Sabra Malik, a mother of five, has taken a break from work and is busy campaigning. The lone Muslim woman in the BJP list is contesting from the Mustafabad ward in northeast Delhi. Malik says her family has been a supporter of BJP for the past 17 years.
Besides local problems, Sabra says she will raise the issue of triple talaq. She also supports the ban on slaughter house in Uttar Pradesh. “The law is the same for everyone. Anything illegal should be banned. Legal meat shops are not being closed,” she said.
Sabra’s husband, Yusuf Malik, claims he supports the BJP stand on triple talaq. “How can a woman be thrown out just because her husband repeated a word thrice. I hope my wife’s stand will find resonance with the Muslim women in the area.”
SELF-PROFESSED SUSHMA FAN LEFT OUT
Jamal Haider,52, Ward: Abu Fazal Enclave
“I have two gods, one above and Sushmaji below,” said Jamal Haider who had offered to donate his kidney to Sushma Swaraj when she was in AIIMS. However, Haider’s god was with him, fate wasn’t. Haider’s nomination was rejected by the Election Commission because of an error in his form. A party worker since 1988, Haider was one of the first to write to AIIMS offering to donate his kidney to the union external affairs minister last year. When HT met him on Tuesday, Haider was confident of a win and thanked Swaraj for giving a ticket. “ She is a great leader. The party has given foot soldiers like me a ticket. I have been part of protests and social work all these years. The party has rewarded me,” he had said.
In his resume submitted to the party office, the last line read: “Was the first to offer kidney to Sushma Swaraj”.