GANDHINAGAR: Reeling under an electoral drubbing in Bihar, winnability seems to be the only criteria for the BJP in the upcoming civic polls in Gujarat.
To that end, the saffron party has fielded a record 500-plus Muslim candidates -- of a total 8,434-- in local polls in Gujarat, where delimitation has altered caste and community equations. The BJP first fielded about 300 Muslims in local body polls -- of whom 250 won -- in 2010, when former chief minister Narendra Modi was in 'Sadbhavana mode.' This time, the BJP has fielded 40 per cent more Muslim candidates. The Congress has given tickets to about 800 Muslims.
"After debacles in Delhi and Bihar, we can't afford to lose on our home turf," said a senior BJP leader. "Not only did the experiment work last time, it helped build bridges between the community and the party. Hence, we decided to give more tickets this time," says R C Faldu, president of Gujarat BJP.
In the temple town of Veraval-Somnath, from where BJP veteran LK Advani kicked off his 'rath yatra' to Ayodhya in 1990, the BJP has given tickets to 10 Muslim candidates -- the highest so far -- despite opposition from local leadership.
In another first, the BJP has fielded four Muslim candidates in Ahmedabad, six in Jamnagar and two in Rajkot for municipal corporation elections. Former IPS officer A I Sayyed and Wasim Ansari were the first Muslims to contest on BJP tickets in the Ahmedabad Municiapl Corporation MC polls in 2010.
"Minorities trust the BJP due to development in their areas in the past five years. They got nothing during five decades of Congress rule," said Mehboob Ali Chisti, the BJP'sminority morcha president. "Of the record 500 candidates across Gujarat, 350 to 400 candidates are likely to win," Chisti added..
The Muslim community comprises a little over 9 per cent of the total population of Gujarat, according to 2011 Census data.
Senior political analyst Dinesh Shukla calls the increase in Muslim candidates fielded by the BJP an extension of Modi's 'Sadbhavana.' "The party has given mandate to Muslims in minority dominated areas where it has limited chance of winning. However, the BJP's softening stand towards Muslims may lead to resentment among its core vote bank," he said.
Adding to the BJP's woes in Gujarat is the reservation stir by Patidars, a loyal BJP vote bank that has threatened to distance itself from the party.
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