Thursday, May 18, 2017

BJP fields record no. of Muslim nominees




Mateen Hafeez



The BJP has fielded the maximum candidates ever for the Malegaon Municipal Corporation election, slated for May 24. The party has put candidates in 77 of the corporation's 84 seats, with over 45 of the contestants being Muslim. For the BJP , this is a record number of tickets to Muslim candidates anywhere in the country in a single election. In the words of an observer, it looks like the BJP is set to test the `Modi wave' in a minority-dominated city .
As for the others, the Congress, the biggest party in Malegaon, has fielded 73 candidates, followed by the NCP-Janata Dal (Secular) combine, which has put 66 contestants in the fray . The Hyderabad-based and Asaduddin Owaisi-led All-India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is contesting in Malegaon for the first time, and has fielded 37 candidates. The Shiv Sena has fielded 25 candidates. During the last Malegaon civic polls (2012), as many as 24 BJP candidates contested, but all lost, 12 losing their deposits.

Malegaon, in Nashik district, has a population of 4.71 lakh (as per the 2011 census), with 65% Muslims and the rest mainly Hindus. Both communities are dependent on each other economically: Muslims work in power looms while Hindus trade in textiles.

During scrutiny , many forms were rejected. So, the number of BJP candidates has gone down to 58, which includes 29 Muslims. Political observers say that it will be tough for the BJP to fight with the Congress and the NCP in Malegaon, since the saffron party's candidates don't have a strong local grounding. But Shabbir Baba, the vice-president of the BJP's local minority cell, said the party hopes to secure seven to eight seats. “We have selected candidates knowing they can win,“ he said.

The BJP's candidates include Faheem Mehmood, a commerce graduate and fish trader. “Our agenda is development and we have been working at it. We hope voters will elect us,“ he said. Another can didate, Shamshad Bi (48), who studied up to Class III, owns a grocery shop. Yet another, Sugra Bi (32), a Class VIII dropout, is a wholesale onion seller.Citing variety , Baba said, “We have also given a ticket to Shaheen Parveen (28), a science graduate who owns her own laboratory . We have good candidates.“

The Congress's main poll plank is development, and the NCP-JDS combine's is corruption. While social media is playing an active role, voters are worried. “Several candidates are distributing money to buy votes. No party has any development plan. Every party is blaming rivals. If we look back 15 years, we will find the same parties, the same faces and the same issues,“ said Mujahid Sultan, who comes from a prominent business family.

The BJP's Malegaon president, Sunil Gaikwad, said the party is contesting for “vikas“.“In the 2012 civic polls, we could not secure any seats. And in the last parliamentary elections, Malegaon gave only 5,000 votes to Dr Subhash Bhamre, who is now Union minister of state (defence). Talking of his party's “contribution“ to Malegaon, Gaikwad said CM Devendra Fadnavis sanctioned and inaugurated a flyover built with a budget of Rs 22 crore.


The Times of India, May 18, 2017

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