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Modi is de-polarising Figure in Gujarat

In the 2012 assembly elections 31% Muslims voted for BJP. Before this election, numerous Muslims have won on BJP ticket at all levels - Zila Parishad, Municipal Corporation and Panchayat. Salaya is on the western coast. Once upon a time, this area was famous for smuggling. It was one of the most neglected areas as far as economic and infrastructure development is concerned. It had no electricity, no roads. Modi brought in an ambitious coastal development plan. In that area, there are a lot of Muslim villages. You can see for yourself that the development activity in the region which has Muslim dominated villages.

However, in my view, a certain number of Muslim candidates winning elections are far less important than the economic development of Muslim community. When a certain number of Muslims or SCs win elections and hold political office, it does not necessarily lead to betterment in the life situation of the entire community, especially since too many of our elected representatives of all communities start behaving like super maharajas without the social responsibility erstwhile maharajas held towards theirpraja. When a certain number of Muslims or SCs win elections, political power rests in the hands of select few but inclusive economic development raises the status of the entire community which can then negotiate with these power holders from a position of relative strength. This is exactly what is happening in Gujarat.

When 31% of Gujarat Muslims voted for Modi in the 2012 elections, they were accused of voting for BJP under fear. In 2002, Gujarat Muslims were actually terrorized. But at that time they did not vote for Modi. Do they mean Muslims got terrorized in 2012? When the atmosphere was actually filled with terror in 2002, the Muslims did not vote for BJP. But now Muslims have progressed. They have experienced terror-free life. They know they can exercise free choice. No one can say that Gujarat elections have ever been rigged.

The truth is Modi has excellent personal relations with a large of number of Muslims. He has built a very strong team of Muslims who work closely with him. They are well educated; command the respect of the community. They are not seen as bikau types; they are not the kind who curry personal favours and become courtiers. By contract, the Congress Party is today devoid of credible Muslim leaders, not just in Gujarat but also in the rest of India. Tell me, do you see any serious Muslim face in Rahul Gandhi's team? Media has never celebrated the unprecedented victory of hundreds of Muslims in Panchayat, Zila Parishad and Nagar Palika elections on BJP tickets in Gujarat. But they rave and rant endlessly about Muslims not being fielded in the Assembly elections. Why are they so desperate for bad news from Gujarat? If they don't get it on the ground, they will cook it up! I am convinced that these recent elections in which Muslims are openly voting for Modi will be a game changer for all of India. If BJP projects Modi as their prime ministerial candidate, I think Modi will have no difficulty in convincing the rest of India, including Muslims that he is their best choice. It will be a cake walk for him. Those who allege that only wealthy or elite Muslims are tilting towards Modi should be reminded that only a small super elite group among Hindus in select metros is demonizing Modi. This is all media manipulation. Modi has built a very strong team of thinking and respected Muslims in Gujarat. That is why people like Maulana Madni feel compelled to revise their stand. He has had to admit that Muslims of Gujarat are prospering. If there was discrimination, how could Muslims prosper? In pre-Modi days, the BJP did not have a single Muslim face in Gujarat. Today, it has the most respected Muslims to act as BJP spokespersons. It is the Congress which has lost out on Muslim support and doesn't have a single credible face to defend the party.

Remember, since 1947 there have been 11,000 communal riots in Gujarat. Did any of the previous chief ministers undertake a Sadbhavna Mission or work for national integration? Mind you, Modi did not start the Sadbhavna Yatra in a vacuum. For years before that, he actually put it into practice. Because he brought peace, prosperity followed easily. When there is peace people like to work study and go for new jobs. He opened many new educational and career advancement opportunities for Gujaratis. There has been all round development and Muslims are getting equal benefits. Today Muslims don't feel discriminated against. No development scheme has come in the name of minorities. Everything is in the name of Gujaratis. When he brought the coastal development scheme, there were no special baits for OBCs, Muslims or this or that section. But Muslims benefited equally. This is national integration in the real sense. All of us rise above narrow sectional identities and take pride in the collective development of Gujaratis.

Sufi performances at the Sufi Festival during Heritage Week at Sarkhej Roza. Now they have taken up four more such old Islamic monuments for restoration and development. If Modi were hostile to Muslim heritage, he could have let such places fall apart as was happening earlier. But the Government today boasts in its promotional programs that Gujarat state has the largest number of Muslim monuments. Jhoolta Minara at one time Muslims used to think that Gujarat government promotes Somnath temple, Dwarkadhish and such Hindu monuments but not our Muslim heritage. No one may have said it aloud, but it was certainly at the back of the community's mind. Nobody from among us raised this issue with Modi, but the Gujarat Government started work on these quietly no fuss, no pompous announcements. So much so that most Muslims are not even aware of the transformation that has taken place but the Government today owns these with pride as Gujarat's great heritage. In a booklet issued by the Gujarat government, they have written, "We are proud of the heritage of Badshah Ahmed Shah." Remember, earlier BJP had tried to change the name of Ahmedabad to Karnavati in an attempt to erase the Islamic heritage of the city. But the way Modi is handling this heritage is altogether different

Social interaction between Hindus and Muslims had altogether collapsed during the riot-torn decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s till 2002. Now all over Gujarat you will find Hindus and Muslims freely intermingling and also having social interactions which were earlier non-existent. Mr. Modi has truly evolved a new relationship between the communities and has emerged as a de-polarizing figure.

Zafar Sareshwala @ 2021