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Asaduddin Owaisi jumps into Gujarat area to eat a slice of Muslim votebank as he announces first three candidates

Political observers believe that AIMIM along with Aam Aadmi Party may end up winning a few seats here and there mostly because the disgruntled Congress voter may end up voting for them.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi last week announced three candidates for the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls which are expected to be held in December 2022. One Wasim Qureshi will contest from Surat East and Sabir Kabliwala, Gujarat state president AIMIM, would contest from Jamalpur-Khadia in Ahmedabad. One Kaushika Parmar will contest from Dani Limda in Ahmedabad. Dani Limda is a reserved seat and Parmar is AIMIM’s women’s wing president for Ahmedabad city unit.

Surat East constituency

Surat East area is where Gopipura area situated which has significant Muslim population. Some parts of the constituency has the Disturbed Areas Act in place which was brought in to prevent polarisation of communities and demography change. The Surat Municipal Corporation building where the waqf recently staked claim, that is also in Surat East area. Earlier this year, OpIndia had reported how Gopipura, where most residents were of Jain community, has seen demography change and many such apartments are being sold on lower than market rate because most Jain residents want to leave.

In 2014, a Jain Sadhvi who stayed in Surat’s Gopipura area wrote a letter to President of India, Governor of Gujarat, Prime Minister Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel and other leaders about the harassment she was facing in Gopipura, a traditionally Jain locality in Surat, which has slowly turned into a Muslim majority area. In the letter, the Sadhvi had written how near the Upashrays where Jain Sadhvis stay in Gopipura, there are around 25 Jain temples and 35 Upashrays within a 1 km radius. About 70-80 Jain Sadhvis were staying in this place. The Sadhvi pointed out that slowly the area has seen more and more Muslim residents come and live there. 

The Sadhvi in her letter had stated that God has made all living beings the same but Muslims have very ‘tamsic and janooni‘ (aggressive, to put it mildly) and the Sadhu-Mahatma are facing difficulties. “Some Muslim families keep 4-5 cats and goats. Near Sulasa Shravika Aaradhana Bhawan, a Muslim family that has come to stay has tied two goats. These goats can be heard crying in middle of the night because of cold. This pains me too much. I have grown up being kind to animals and this kind of suffering of theirs is very painful for me,” she said.

Of total voters, about 77,365 voters are of Muslim community in Surat East while Hindu voters are 35,427. Interestingly, despite being Muslim majority area, the BJP has managed to win this seat over the years since 1990 – except for 2002 when Congress’ Manish Gilitwala won. Political analysts say that this is because the majority of the Muslim residents here belong to the business-class Bohra community who just want peace and want to make their own living. Bohra/Vohra community voters prefer to vote for the BJP which promises conducive environment for thriving business.

Jamalpur Khadia constituency

Jamalpur-Khadia area in Ahmedabad is also a predominantly Muslim area. Earlier this area had a mix population with Hindus being in majority, but with time, the Hindus migrated to newer parts of the city while more and more Muslim residents purchased properties here.

Jamalpur area is also where the Jagannath temple in Ahmedabad is situated. Every year on Rath Yatra a procession is carried out of Lord Jagannath and invariably it would culminate into communal riots as the procession would pass through old city where demography change had made those areas ‘Muslim dominated areas’.

For the last two decades, the Rath Yatra has been going on in a very peaceful and grand manner. But that was not always the case. In Gujarat, when Congress was in power, the Rath Yatra witnessed bloodshed, and stones pelted at it, forcing the administration to impose curfews. Devotees had to attend the Rath Yatra under a perpetual threat of being attacked.

But this picture changed after Narendra Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. From 2001 to date, not a single such incident took place during the Jagannath Rath Yatra of Ahmedabad. During his tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi paid special attention to the safety of the Rath Yatra and also ensured that the Rath Yatra event is respected on the global stage.

This constituency includes majority of the old city of Ahmedabad where Muslim voters constitute about 60% of total voter base. Like Surat East, this area, too, has many portion which are notified under the Disturbed Areas Act. Currently, Congress’ Imran Khedawala is the MLA from this constituency who defeated BJP’s Bhushan Bhatt with over 30,000 votes.

Don Abdul Latif, a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, operated mostly from in and around these areas. The film Raees starring Shah Rukh Khan was loosely based on Latif. The area has also been controversial in recent times due to violence during the anti-CAA protests. This seat has been traditionally a Congress stronghold but in 2012 BJP had registered a surprise victory. Sabir Kabliwala is a former Congress leader and has also contested and won from Congress ticket. He is currently the Gujarat state president for AIMIM.

Interestingly, in the 2021 local body polls in Ahmedabad, AIMIM had fielded 21 candidates of which 7 had won. All four corporators of Jamalpur ward which falls under the Jamalpur-Khadia constituency belong to the AIMIM. Earlier, all these were with Congress. Similarly, in Behrampura ward which also falls under Jamalpur-Khadia constituency, AIMIM leaders gave a very tough fight to Congress corporators where victory margin was just 200-1000.

Dani Limda constituency

Dani Limda is another Muslim-dominated area. However, this is a reserved seat and only a member of the Scheduled Caste can contest from this seat. Here about 50% voters are Muslims and has significant population of people from Dalit community. This area is also considered a communally sensitive area and the Disturbed Areas Act is in place here.

It is notable that Shah Alam area in Ahmedabad falls under the Dani Limda constituency and during the anti-CAA violence, this area saw some of the worst communal riots where even policemen were attacked by rioting mob consisting mostly of people belonging to Muslim community.

Investigation had revealed how local Muslim leaders including a corporator were involved in the violence.

It is also believed many illegal Bangladeshis live in this area, especially near the Chandola lake area. During the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts, many bombs had gone off in this area and accused were found living in this area. Indian Mujahideen terrorists who planted the bombs lived in the Dani Limda society and many provocative speeches were given to the Muslim youth to join the terror ranks.

Currently, Congress’ Shailesh Parmar is the MLA. Local residents believe Parmar has the patronage of local Muslim leader Nawab Khan’s family. One of his relatives, Shehzad Khan Pathan is also a corporator here. Localites believes that if the seat were not a reserved seat, Pathan would have been the MLA. However, due to the reservation, they have extended support to Parmar instead.

The Disturbed Areas Act

District Administration, to maintain communal harmony and peace, could declare certain areas as ‘Disturbed Areas’ which are susceptible to demography change. The transfer of immovable property in these areas would require an elaborate procedure. The seller, in the application, must mention that the seller is selling the property of their own free will.

Disturbed Areas Act is often wrongly interpreted as it applicable where at least one party between buyer and seller is either Hindu or Muslim. The thing is, any such transactions in such areas would require following due process. This is to preserve the religious and community value and identity of the areas which are susceptible to demographic change.

AIMIM vote-cutter party?

Political observers believe that AIMIM along with Aam Aadmi Party may end up winning a few seats here and there mostly because the disgruntled Congress voter may end up voting for them. More than AAP gaining ground, it is likely the AIMIM might bite into a significant chunk of the Muslim voter-base which has traditionally belonged to the Congress. Thus, the entry of new players in Gujarat arena may just end up reducing Congress’ relevance in the state even further.

With inputs from Lincoln Sokhadia. You can read his analysis in Gujarati here.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nirwa Mehta
Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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