Has the BJP finally managed to break into the Muslim votebank? Or doesn’t the 9% Muslim population of Gujarat carry any weight any more?
The 2012 assembly polls, which have given a third term to chief minister Narendra Modi, saw a slight blurring of communal lines, with the BJP winning chunks of minority-dominated areas.
In 14 constituencies, where the Muslim vote was more than 20%, the BJP bagged nine seats, the Congress, five.
In the six constituencies where Muslim vote was more than 35%, BJP won four seats, the Congress, two.
This includes Jamalpur-Khadia (61% Muslim votes), Vejalpur (35% Muslim votes) in Ahmedabad and Vagra (44% Muslim votes) in Bharauch.
On paper, this can be interpreted as a saffron entry into the Congress votebank. But on ground zero — around Muslim ghettos and inside the walled city — no one is exactly cheering.
“There is a section of well-to-do Muslims who are willing to move beyond the 2002 riots. But I don’t think overall, the community has voted for the BJP,’’ said Vidyut Joshi, political analyst and professor with Gujarat University.
It was delimitation, he said, which has hit the minority votebank. Many Muslim colonies have been clubbed with Hindu-majority areas, reducing the impact of the Muslim vote.
He cited the example of Vejalpur, a Hindu-dominant locality, which now has a large portion of Juhapura. It has brought down the Muslim vote to 35%.
“But even if 60,000 of the 70,000 Muslims voted for the Muslim candidate of Congress, there was a chance of him losing, as he did,’’ said Joshi. Not everyone is willing to buy this theory, though.
“How do you explain his loss with a 40,000-vote margin?” demanded Zafar Sareshwala, a businessmen who is a Modi supporter. “How do you explain Vagra, a Muslim-dominated Congress bastion for 35 years, falling into the BJP’s lap?”
Sareshwala believes that a section of Muslims is willing to give Modi a chance as they are also seeing the fruits of development, be it in job opportunities or education. “The Congress had taken the community for granted and didn’t bother to address their issues or even campaign seriously in these areas.”
Some within the Congress tend to agree.
“The Congress tiptoed around the Muslim issue, pretending there was no polarisation. For the Jamalpura ticket, the current Congress MLA was given a miss. He rebelled and ate into 30,000 Muslim votes,” said local Congressman Asrar Kadri.
Within the Muslims, the results are being viewed with a mixture of disappointment, indifference and a tiny ray of hope.
“We are okay with Modi being the chief minister. It was inevitable. The good news is that with him hoping to be the prime minister, there won’t be any riot. There hasn’t been one in the last ten years,’’ said Zakhirbhai Shaikh, a resident of Juhapura.