Jaipur, Nov 20 , Three Hindu seers have been fielded by the BJP in Rajasthan against the Congress’ Muslim candidates in Tijara, Pokhran and Hawa Mahal.
Out of the total 5.25 crore voters in the state, more than 62 lakh voters are Muslims. But this time, after a long time, the BJP did not give a ticket to a Muslim leader on a single seat out of the total 200.
Rather, seers have been fielded on three Muslim-dominated seats. This is being seen as an attempt to polarise, which is expected to benefit the BJP in the long run, said saffron party leaders.
In Pokhran, during the last Assembly polls, just 872 votes separated the winner from the defeated candidate hence a Hindu seer is now pitted against the son of a Muslim religious leader.
The Congress’ sitting MLA Saleh Mohammad believes people will vote for his development work and not along religious lines. He is hoping to buck the trend of anti-incumbency in the seat.
Pokhran is estimated to have about 2.22 lakh voters – most of them Muslims or Rajputs. There are about 60,000 Muslim, 40,000 Rajput, 35,000 SC/ST, 10,000 Jat, 6,000 Bishnoi, 5,000 Mali and 3,000 Brahmin voters.
While both leaders will count on their religious vote banks, support from other communities will decide the fate of the race.
Local issues and the leaders’ personal connection with the people in the last five years could also play a crucial role.
Both Puri and Mohammad have a firm hold over their communities, as the former is a Rajput community leader and the religious head of the Taratara Math in Barmer district, while the latter has a large number of supporters in India, as well as, across the border in Pakistan.
Following the death of his father Gazi Fakeer, Saleh Mohammad is now the representative of Peer Pagaro, a religious head of Sindhi Muslims in Pakistan. Saleh Mohammad has won two elections out of the last three times. However, he won by just 339 votes in 2008 and 580 votes in 2018 and lost in 2013 by 34,000 votes.
Both the candidates from the last election are face to face again and the competition will again be tough. The BJP hopes to benefit from polarisation, said political experts.
Similarly, Hawa Mahal in Jaipur is a Muslim dominated seat. For the last three elections the Congress never fielded a Muslim face here. This time both the parties have changed candidates.
The BJP has fielded Balmukund Acharya and the Congress has fielded RR Tiwari. The AAP fielded Pappu Qureshi, but the party leadership convinced him and he has announced that he will extend support to the Congress candidate.
In Tijara, MP Balaknath of the BJP has been fielded against Imran Khan of the Congress. Here there is a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress.
The Congress fielded Imran Khan, who was earlier given the ticket by the BSP. He changed his party overnight and became a Congress candidate.
Among Muslim faces, the Congress has nominated Rafiq Khan from the Adarsh Nagar seat of Jaipur, Amin Kagzi from Kishanpol, Zakir Hussain from Makrana, Hakam Ali from Fatehpur, Wajib Ali from Nagar, Saleh Mohammad from Pokhran, Zahida Khan from Kaman, Imran Khan from Tijara, Zuber Khan has been fielded from Ramgarh, Shahzad Khan from Sursagar, Amin Khan from Shiv, Naseem Akhtar from Pushkar, Danish Abrar from Sawai Madhopur, Rafiq Mandelia from Churu and Naeemuddin Guddu from Ladpura.
However, the BJP, playing on Hindutva card, has refrained from fielding Muslim candidates. In fact, Yunus Khan, a former minister in the Vasundhara Raje Government, angry over being denied a ticket has broken his ties with the party and is contesting as an independent candidate from Didwana.
Amin Pathan, who held the status of Minister of State in the BJP Government, also joined the Congress. In the last election, eight Muslim faces had won on the Congress ticket. This time 15 Muslim faces have been fielded.
A senior BJP worker told IANS, “Hindutva is the main plank of the BJP this time and hence it has restricted itself from fielding any Muslim candidates. We are confident that we shall be winning all three seats here.”
Party panelist Nimisha Gaur said, “We have fielded three seers who are working for all communities; so there is no caste-kind situation on which they have been fielded. In fact, they have been fielded looking at their work as they are working for everyone’s development. They are following the ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ concept and hence they have been fielded.”
Congress leader Dr Varun Purohit said, “Societies are being split. BJP, the party in power at the Centre is doing this. How can it neglect 20 per cent of the population? The consequences of this can be dangerous. What if they start thinking that they are being sidelined by this country and will be inclined towards the Islamic world, which is dangerous for a secular country like India. For the social fabric like India which has been secular for thousands of years this doesn’t augur well and can result in a Gaza kind of situation.”