Muslims with a Quranic verse on the windscreen of their vehicle campaign for the BJP.
Muslims in Rajasthan are drifting away from the ruling Congress party, with some of them shifting toward the Bharatiya Janata Party. This has emboldened the BJP to put up four Muslim candidates in the state and organise Narendra Modi rallies in Sawai Madhopur and Sikar, two constituencies with a substantial Muslim population. It was a rare Modi appearance in Muslim majority areas outside Gujarat. A large section of Muslims is also shifting toward the Jamaat-e-Islami-backed Welfare Party of India and other such outfits.
According to political observers, all four BJP Muslim candidates are strong in their constituencies. Former MLA Habibur Rehman is contesting from Nagaur city. Former Rajasthan Sports Minister Yunus Khan, who lost the 2008 elections, has been given another chance from Deedwana constituency in Nagaur district. Abdul Sangeer Khan is contesting from Dholpur, while Salim Tanwar, a new face, is contesting the elections from Mandawa.
Muslims constitute around 14% of Rajasthan voters and influence results in 40-45 Assembly segments of a total 200. Muslims have been traditionally voting for the Congress in the state. But numerous incidents of communal violence, particularly the Gopalgarh riots, during Ashok Gehlot's five-year rule, have angered the community. The Congress has given tickets to 18 Muslims, but it has to contend with the Jamaat's call to punish all "communal elements" in the ruling party.
Engineer Khursheed Husain, the chief of Jamaat's Rajasthan unit, said that Muslims are upset with the Congress because of its inability to act against the perpetrators of communal riots. "We have fielded our candidates in areas where Congress MLAs are said to be communal — Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur and Jhunjhunu. In other areas, we have instructed our workers to organise support for secular candidates," said Husain.
Jamaat is the most organised Muslim organisation in the state and hence wields considerable influence on Muslim opinion during election time.
Journalists covering the Rajasthan elections say that Muslims are determined to punish the Congress and are warming up toward the BJP. Neetu Soni, a local journalist, who was present at the Modi rallies in Sawai Madhopur and Sikar, said that she saw a sizeable number of Muslims listening to the Gujarat Chief Minister. "No anti-Modi processions were organised in these areas as had happened in the 2008 elections when Modi was supposed to come here," said Soni.
She said that Muslims see as a positive BJP's agenda of protecting wakf land, fencing all graveyards, modernising madrasas and giving scholarships to community students. "Even the Gehlot government had promised some of these things, but failed to deliver," said Soni.
Of his community's seeming shift toward the BJP, Amin Pathan, BJP's minority morcha chief, said that his party works for all communities, including Muslims. "Unlike Congress, we don't believe in community or caste specific politics. There are 36 major communities in Rajasthan. Muslims are one of them. BJP sees all of them as equal," said Amin.
Even the custodians of the famous Ajmer Dargah, where many Rajasthan politicians, belonging to all political parties including the Congress and the BJP are turning to seek Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty's blessings, do not see any problems in the BJP coming to power.
"Both Gehlot and Vasundhara Raje did good work during their tenures as Chief Minister. Both are good for Rajasthan," said Syed Zainul Abedin, the sajjadanashin (caretaker) of the shrine.
Article Credits,The Sunday Gaurdian,30th November 2013