BJP's poll poser-how to net Gujarat's Muslim vote

RAJAT GHAI

Ahmedabad, Nov 18: Will Gujarat's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manage the unthinkable and garner Muslim votes when the state goes to the polls next month? The party is certainly hoping that the Muslim community, comprising almost 10 percent of the population, will forget the volatile past but has done little to win back the confidence of what is a valuable 'vote bank'.
 As Chief Minister Narendra Modi makes a third bid for power, the BJP at the national and state levels acknowledges the importance of getting the Muslim vote. But party leaders are evasive when asked what was being done to woo the Muslim vote.
Gujarat's Muslim community constitutes 9.89 percent of the state's 60 million population. They have historically experienced riots at regular intervals, including in 2002 when at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
 "The Gujarat BJP's strategy will be for all six crore Gujaratis, including Muslims," Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat Parshottam Rupala told IANS.
 But behind the scenes, BJP planners, it is learnt, are trying their best to woo Muslims. They have to, for demography and delimitation dictate so.
 Muslims can influence the outcome of the elections in at least 35 of Gujarat's 182 constituencies. In 10 constituencies, the Muslim vote is more than 25 percent. Five of these 10 constituencies lie in Gujarat's largest city, Ahmedabad: Jamalpur-Khadia (61 percent), Dani Limda (48 percent), Dariapur (46 percent), Vejalpur (35 percent) and Bapunagar (28 percent).
 There are 25 other constituencies where the Muslim component is more than 15 percent. Of these, seven have more than 20 percent Muslim vote: Godhra, Wankaner, Abdasa, Mandvi (Kutch), Siddhpur, Somnath and Surat (East).
 The party is hoping some of the steps it has taken will show dividends.
 The head of its minority cell, Mehboob Ali Chishti, aka Mahebub Ali Bavasaheb, is from the Barelvi sect that has a large following in the state. As the December polls draw closer, Bavasaheb has been exhorting Muslims, especially Barelvis, to vote for the BJP and 'share in Gujarat's development'.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 18 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 18 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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