Saturday, 24 March 2012

Muslims to seek their share from Congress pie

Mar 24, 2012

RAJKOT: The red carpet rolled out by chief minister Narendra Modi to welcome Muslims at his 'Sadbhavana Mission' fasts has made the community realize its political clout at least in Saurashtra and Kutch. Muslim votes are a deciding factor in at least 18 assembly seats in the region. Thanks to Sadbhavana fasts, Muslims seems to have gained in confidence and are in a mood to bargain with Congress for their share in the political skyline of Saurashtra and Kutch.

On Saturday, at least 250 Muslim leaders, most of whom who owe their allegiance to Congress, from Saurashtra and Kutch will hold a meeting in Palitana town of Bhavnagar district where they will discuss the issues concerning their community and the strategy for ensuing assembly elections in Gujarat.

"There are at least 18 assembly seats in Saurashtra and Kutch where Muslim votes are a deciding factor. However, no political party, including Congress, is very keen to give tickets to Muslim candidates in assembly and parliamentary elections. No Muslim leader from the region has been nominated to Rajya Sabha by any party for a long time now," a senior Muslim leader from Saurashtra said.

"In the past, except Amreli district, Muslim candidates had been elected from different assembly constituencies. Now there is only one Muslim MLA. Mohammed Javid Pirzada has been elected on Congress ticket from Wankaner in Rajkot district," said M K Bloch, ex-law minister in Madhavsinh Solanki's government in 1981-85.

"Muslims traditionally have voted for Congress, but nothing much has been done to empower the community. In fact, the benefits of central government schemes are not reaching the Muslims in the state. Time has come for the community to decide its political future. Muslims hold significant number of votes in 18 assembly seats in Saurashtra and Kutch yet they are being neglected. Muslim leaders need to discuss why this has happened and what is the way out?" said Nusrat Panja, secretary, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee. Panja had contested assembly election on Congress ticket from Somnath-Veraval in 1998, but had lost.

Another senior Muslim leader said, "We want more from Congress in the coming assembly elections. Frustration is building among Muslims.''

Bhuj, Mundra, Jamnagar, Wankaner, Dhoraji, Bhavnagar, Mahuva, Junagadh, Somnath, Mangrol, Kodinar, Manavadar and Rajkot are among the places where there are a sizeable number of Muslim voters.

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