Modi may field Muslim candidates in assembly polls
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi may field some Muslim candidates in the coming Assembly elections for the first time to present his secular face with an eye on the prime ministerial chair. Not a single Muslim was fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last two Assembly elections in the state.
He made the beginning by fielding some 200 Muslim candidates in the district panchayat and local bodies' elections and got 160 of them elected to boast that "this shows acceptance of BJP even among the minority community in the state."
Gujarat has nine assembly seats with more than 30 percent Muslim voters. Modi is looking for the Muslim faces to contest these seats. They are Dariapur, Jamalpur, Vejalpur, Vagra, Abdasa, Bhuj, Vankaner, Danta and Mangrol.
Quietly toning down his Hindutva rhetoric in his Sadbhavna yatras, Modi is concentrating on attacking Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the centre on corruption issues. Pakistan and terrorism appear to be out of his campaign theme as he rather focuses on his repeated claim that the Muslims in Gujarat are better off than those in other states.
He rather projects it as a BJP philosophy of "no policy of appeasement" but ensuring that the minorities are equal beneficiaries of development in the state.
Since the last assembly elections in December 2007, which were fought on the hardcore Hindutva plank, Modi has silently cultivated some Muslim individuals and groups. This was apparent in 2010 local bodies’ elections, though his gamble of putting up a Muslim candidate in the Ahmedabad municipal corporation election as the BJP's mayoral candidate did not work. Abdullah Ibrahim Saiyed, a retired additional director general of police, was fielded from the Muslim-dominated Sarkhej ward, but he was defeated by the Congress.
Another prominent Muslim face of the BJP in Gujarat is former director general of police SS Khandvawala. Some Muslim artists and religious leaders are also frequently seen in the BJP campaign.
In March, Khandwawala had released two books written by suspended IPS officer DG Vanzara, who is cooling his heels in Ahmadabad’s Sabarmati Central Jail in connection with the fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife Kausar Bi.