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By Fatima Tanveer, MM News
Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded a total of 450 Muslim candidates in upcoming municipal and panchayat elections despite several BJP leaders in UP and Bihar having provoked anti-Muslim sentiments. The total number of seats in municipal and panchayat elections for which the elections are being held in 8,434. While municipal elections are to be held on November 22, panchayat elections will be held on November 29.
This is the second time in the history of BJP in the state that the saffron party has fielded Muslim candidates, particularly from Muslim dominated areas where Hindu or non-Muslim candidates cannot win the polls. In 2010 panchayat and municipal polls, BJP had fielded a total of 325 Muslim candidates and 245 of them had won the polls.
Mahboob Chishty, president of the State BJP Minority Morcha and chairman of the Gujarat State Minority Development Corporation told mediapersons that the number of Muslim candidates fielded by BJP may be small compared to the total number of seats but the Muslim candidates have been fielded from seats where there are better chances for them to win. “Ideally, the number of Muslim candidates should have been more than 800 depending on the proportion of their population which is a little less than 10 per cent but the reality demands that Muslims be fielded from seats where they can perform better and win their seats”, said Chishty.
Stating that the importance of Muslims in BJP had increased after Muslims got elected for the first time in 2010 civic and panchayat elections and they also voted for BJP candidates in 2012 assembly elections, Chishty said that Muslim candidates getting elected on BJP tickets were acting as a bridge between the community and the state government. He said that it was a different thing that BJP did not field Muslim candidates in assembly elections.
“The atmosphere is changing now within BJP and it is very much possible that BJP may field Muslim candidates from Muslim dominated seats in 2017 elections”, Chishty pointed out.
Asked why should Muslims votes for BJP when its leaders have been openly supporting Dadri incident and leaders like Mahant Adityanath and others had been issuing statements resulting into `intolerance’ against Muslims across the country, he said that they were fringe elements and what they spoke was not the policy of the party.
“But the fact is that BJP has been in power in the state for more than 20 years and hence, it is not wise for the community to keep itself away from the centre of power. Presence of Muslims in BJP  is important to protect the interest of the community in Gujarat”, opined Chishty.