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Gujarat’s Muslim Mandate: Vote of Confidence for ‘Constant’ Congress, ‘Pehle’ AAP or ‘Polarising’ AIMIM? Ground Report

By: Aman Sharma

Edited By: Manjiri Joshi

News18.com

Last Updated: November 29, 2022, 13:03 IST

Ahmadabad, India

Two-time Congress MLA from Ahmedabad's Dariapur  Gyasuddin Shaikh slammed the AAP and AIMIM. (News18)

Two-time Congress MLA from Ahmedabad's Dariapur Gyasuddin Shaikh slammed the AAP and AIMIM. (News18)

As News18 travels the locals in Muslim-dominated Dariapur and Jamalpur-Khadia, there is a feeling that the Congress campaign this time has lost steam compared to 2017

Gujarat Gameplan

‘Gujarat does not need an Asaduddin, it needs a Gyasuddin’ — the two-time Congress MLA from the Muslim-dominated Dariapur seat in Ahmedabad City, Gyasuddin Shaikh, repeats his viral statement to News18 in the busy lane of his residence on Rahemani street early on Monday morning.

Next to his house, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has put up a poster of its candidate Hasankhan Pathan, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also put up a Muslim candidate, Taj Mohammad Kureshi.

Travel through the Muslim-dominated Dariapur and Jamalpur-Khadia seats and dominating the discussion is one question — Will their support be with the Congress as always or are they willing to experiment with the AAP or AIMIM?

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All three parties have Muslim candidates in Jamalpur as well.

Most Muslims here say they will stick with the Congress. “We know the Congress is in no position to beat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat. It had its best chance in 2017, but failed. There is no point voting for the AAP or AIMIM as they are here to just cut votes,” Mohd Aslam and Tala Sharif tell News18 near a Jamalpur mosque. They say the “mistake” of 2012 must not be repeated when the BJP managed to win this seat for the first time due to a division of Muslim votes.

‘AAP SILENT ON BILKIS BANO, AIMIM IS BJP’S B-TEAM’

Speaking to News18, Shaikh questions why the AAP leadership has not spoken on the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case and slams the AIMIM for “always helping out the BJP” by cutting into Muslim votes. “The Gujarat electorate has realised who Asaduddin Owaisi is. He speaks in a one-sided manner for his politics of polarisation that benefits the BJP. We have made people understand that such one-sided talk is not good for us to succeed financially or socially,” he says.

A banner of the AIMIM candidate in the area. (News18)

He adds that Muslims can progress better if they get support from the Hindu community. “Owaisi practises politics of polarisation, which isolates the Muslim community. People like him will come from Hyderabad and say things here, but when issues arise in Gujarat as a result of that, Gyasuddin Shaikh will have to tour the entire state, become the voice of Muslims and fight for them,” the Congress MLA says. Shaikh is confident that Muslim voters won’t go for the AAP or AIMIM.

He said Gujarat has always been a two-party system. “The AAP creates a hype, but its balloon has been deflated. People have seen how the AAP blamed the Nizamuddin Markaz for Covid spread in Delhi, did not meet Shaheen Bagh protesters and did not stand with victims in the Delhi riots or Jahangirpuri demolition. In Gujarat, they didn’t say a word on the release of Bilkis Bano case convicts,” Shaikh says.

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The AAP wants Muslim votes, but also maintains distance from them, so the Muslims in Gujarat know the AAP is a “small recharge” of the BJP and stay away from them, Shaikh tells News18.

CONGRESS’s LOW-KEY CAMPAIGN

Shaikh counters allegations of a lacklustre campaign of the Congress, saying the party decided on a “low-profile campaign” that will involve going door-to-door for conversations rather than big rallies. “We did not want to make it a high-profile election, as the BJP otherwise succeeds in polarisation,” he says. Shaikh also says the biggest issue in the election in Gujarat is inflation and people are silently angry over it.

The Congress is the trusted choice of the community. (News18)

Among locals in Dariapur and Jamalpur-Khadia, there is also the feeling that the Congress campaign this time has lost its steam compared to 2017, when the Congress had run the BJP really close.

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“The option for us is not the AIMIM. We know what damage Owaisi caused in the Bihar elections that brought the BJP to power. We don’t want a repeat in Gujarat,” a group of elders in Jamalpur say, expressing their faith in Congress candidate Imran Khedawal.

Political observers point out how the Congress vote share in Gujarat has always remained constant between 35% and 40% over the years because of strong Muslim support, even after the Godhra riots. It is difficult for a new entrant like the AIMIM or AAP to woo them, a local journalist says.​

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first published:November 29, 2022, 08:00 IST
last updated:November 29, 2022, 13:03 IST
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