A set of young, educated Muslims are gently shaking up the political landscape of Rajasthan. These individuals are trying their luck at the hustings to challenge the politicians, who they say have used them as a vote bank by creating a fear psychosis.
“The perception that the Muslim community is a blind follower of the Congress is no longer true. They are willing to look at other options,” says first-time contestant Fasahat Ali. A post graduate from Aligarh Muslim University, Ali is representing the Welfare Party from Sawai Madhopur.
Muslims constitute 12% of the population in Rajasthan and most of them have traditionally supported the Congress. In fact, this time the Congress has given 16 seats to the minority community but that has not appeased young leaders who claim the party has taken them for granted.
Wajib Ali, 31, returned from Australia to his village in Bharatpur district last year. Ali, an MTech, and his brother run vocational education colleges in Melbourne with an annual turnover of $250 million.
Ali is from the Meo Muslim community, which is dominant in the Alwar-Bharatpur region of north Rajasthan, but is economically and educationally backward. He is contesting as an independent from Sikri. “I wanted to give back to my community. Leaders have no connect with the people. I am telling my people, choose your own, don’t go with outsiders.”
In Soorsagar constituency of Jodhpur, the 30-year-old Shabana Abbasi is contesting as an independent against BJP MLA Chandrakanta Vyas.
Shabana is being encouraged by her mother-in-law, Mehmooda Abbasi, who is also contesting, but from Jodhpur North. “It’s important for women to come out,” says Shabana, who feels strongly about women’s education. Her grouse against politicos: Soorsagar has the maximum slums. So where is the development the government boasts of?
And the angry
Mohammed Shafi, 37, a social worker is debuting from Kota (North) as an SDPI candidate. He too is angry with the Congress. “There were so many communal clashes during the Congress rule. People in Kota are angry with former home minister Shanti Dhariwal,” he says.
“The Congress has only instilled fear among Muslim voters. They keep fanning the bogey of the BJP, Advani, Modi. The Congress has ruled the country for 65 years but where is the empowerment they talk of,” he asks.