With merely a week left for the Gujarat elections, the struggle for both the parties (BJP & Congress) to woo voters seems to be intensifying day by day in Gujarat. Every day we get to witness one or the other new twist which is turning the political tables.
BJP and Congress are trying harder and gearing themselves to remain in the league. Both the parties are following the way of Hindutva and Soft Hindutva. Talking about the Congress campaign, it has been witnessed strong religious element with its ‘will be Supremo’ Rahul Gandhi visiting 21 temples including Somnath, Dwarkadish, Ambaji, Akshardham, Chotila, Ambaji and the list goes on.
On the other hand, BJP is also not leaving any stone unturned by campaigning in Gujarat trying to gain voters attentions through Hindutva. Ironically, in the game of temple run both the parties have forgotten to target the Muslims community.
Looking at the current scenario, Congress have emphasised more on casteism rather than religion polarisation. They are relying upon the ‘PODA’- P (Patidar), O (OBC), D (Dalit), and A (Adivasi) strategy to revive its fortune.The party has managed to gain the support of Patels, Dalits, and OBCs but failed to prepare a manifesto for its Muslim voters.
On the other hand, BJP has also been another side of the same coin, targeting voters through following the path of Hindutva.
Elections-Community over religion
Interestingly, Of 182 Assembly constituencies in Gujarat, over 20 per cent voters are from the Muslim community.This election is totally different from the previous as the talks is only about the casteism but not religion. The campaign has only been dominated by caste groups but the muslims were seen behind the curtains.However, muslim leaders in Congress too are aware about the change in strategy as they cautiously defend the choice.
Comparing regarding giving tickets to the candidates; BJP has not given a single ticket to any muslim, going back to the times, mission ‘Sadbhava’ already failed during 2012 elections. Whereas Congress has six muslim candidates in their list. A statistics presented by Indian Express, proves that Congress too have sidelined muslims with the growing years.
|Year||Number of Muslims MLAs|
The elections in 2002 was held post Gujarat riots and during that time Congress main focus was the muslims by campaigning on the protection of Muslims. Five years later, Congress President Sonia Gandhi targeted Narendra Modi, by calling him Maut Ka Saudagar (merchant of death) in the run of 2007 elections.
Whereas on the other hand in 2012, Narendra Modi launched mission Sadhbhavna to attract the minorities, but a year later Sadhbhavna failed as saffron party didnot give ticket to any muslim candidate during then. Even after the BJP tried to play safe irrespective allegations of the Congress, it offered tickets to Muslims in the local body polls in 2010 and many of them emerging winners.
Ecoing the same problem, in the same year, the Congress again spoke about the muslims protection in Gujarat, But this time the pitch was not same like previous two.
In 2014, during lok Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi returned with another phrase aimed at ‘protection of Muslims’ minority. She attacked Modi without naming him by accusing him of doing “zehar ki kheti” (sowing seeds of poison).This again worked in BJP’s favour and the saffron party has won around 26 lok Sabha seats.
Well, looking at the history, it seems that RaGa is more cautious this time as he has already viisted 21 temples and offered prayer. But no where in campaign, he has discused about the Muslims, rather the focus was on PODA’s rights. For BJP, CM Vijay Rupani took a roadshow in muslim dominated area Jamalpur-Khadia of Ahmedabad, While Minority Morcha leaders have campaigned among Muslims in Surat.
What do numbers speak?
As per the reports of Indian express and Times of India, muslims constitute around 9.5% to 10% of the total Gujarat’s population. But seeing at the current statistics, a record number muslim MLAs were witnessed during 1985 with around 12 representatives.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel is the only Muslim MP who got elected to Lok Sabha more than once from the state.Patel has earlier won from Bharuch in 1977, the same year when two muslims were elected as Lok Sabha MPs from the state. The first MP was Ahmed Patel and the second MP was Ehsan Jafri who got elected from Ahmedabad.
Around seven Muslim MLAs were elected in the first Gujarat assembly elections after the seperation from Bombay in 1962. With the similar number the MLAs returned in 1985, when the Congress implied the KHAM (kshatriya-Harijan (now Dalit)-Adivasi-Muslim) strategy with around 149 seats.
Isn’t it a stoic irony that Congress has always targeted about PM Modi for not giving importance more to the muslim minorities, whereas on the other side BJP is planning to implement a law for the social issue like Triple Talaq but none of the parties has the intrest on the minority when the Gujarat Elections are just about to take place. Well only time will tell that Muslims voters will support which party and also the ball is in whose court.