BJP leaders say that five years back the party could pick up an essentially Muslim-predominant Jamalpur-Khadia seat in Ahmedabad and -- ostensibly this was not possible without Muslim votes. "In fact, initially BJP was proposing to field Muslim candidates in Jamalpur-Khadia. A I Sayed was in the race. But ultimately, for 2012 polls, ticket was given to Bhushan Bhatt, son of Late senior BJP leader Ashok Bhatt. BJP won the seat wherein total electorate was 1.8 lakhs and out of that 1 lakh were Muslims," says Viren Kumar, a local BJP leader.
Similarly, in other riot-ravaged areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara, interactions with locals including Muslims show the battered community of 2002 wants to move ahead "forgetting the nightmares of 2002 behind". However, Muslims also wonder why BJP did not field any Muslim candidate for state Assembly in 2012. One school teacher in Vadodara echoed this sentiment well, when he said, "The BJP will do well to field Muslim candidates. Many respectable Muslims are coming forward to join BJP now." But about the Muslim voting pattern vis-a-vis 2002, he said, "The Muslim parents now focus about education of their children.....and hence 2002 may not be an election issue any more".
Moreover, what has gone down well among the voters in Gujarat - that also includes sizeable number of Muslims - is that with about 10 per cent of Muslim population, around 5.4 per cent of government jobs have gone to Muslims. "Few years, compared to this of the 25 per cent Muslim population of West Bengal, only 2.1 had benefited from government jobs.
This only shows the double standards of secular political parties," said Tanmoy Godhania, a BJP worker at Surendranagar in Saurashtra region. Others seem to endorse. Even a Muslim tea-stall owner on the state highways said, "Post-2002 riots and after BJP won successive polls in 2007 and 2012, Muslims have prospered in Gujarat and the crime rate among Muslims saw considerable decline". On the other hand, in 2012, the Congress seemed to understand the predicament of Muslim mind and thus did not rake up Gujarat mayhem of 2002. "In fact, Congress tried a vanilla-secularism, but it it did not help either". But analysts in Gujarat say, the Congress confusion on dealing with Muslims vis-a-vis the challenge thrown by the BJP does not end here. "It is a case of once bitten, twice shy. Sonia Gandhi's 'Maut Ka Saudagar' card against Modi had failed and backfired.
Since then, Congress campaign actually oscillates between soft-Hindutva and anti-Modi attack for the mayhem," pointed out educationist Dipak Rapadia. In Vadodara, a college student Nandini Shiva points out that according to recent reports: "The literacy rate of Muslims in Gujarat in some pockets is 73 per cent which is higher than that of the Hindus. Interestingly, rural Muslim women’s literacy is 57 per cent compared to national average of 42-43. In other words, Muslims are better off here". (UNI)