NEW DELHI: Of all the politicians, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is emerging as the popular leader of Muslims in a the state which saw a Muslim massacre in 2002.
Modi has grown apologetic and is trying to woo the minorities after the 2002 programme. His efforts are bearing fruit and the ground situation bares the fact he would return to power with comfortable majority in the 2012 Legislative Assembly elections.
First Muslim support was seen in Gujarat in 2010 during civic polls in which the BJP swept all the six municipal corporations on account of 30 per cent Muslims voted for it.
The party gained two-third majority in the municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot and Bhavnagar. This huge political change came about after eight years of the Gujarat massacre. It would have seemed a little funny some years ago if someone had predicted that Muslims would give a massive vote for the BJP.
The situation is tilting in Modi’s favour, partly due to his development programmes and 4000 days of good governance, and partly due to panic in the Congress party.
In fact, the Congress has no leader in Gujarat of Modi’s stature. The Congress is relying only Shanker Sinh Waghela who ironically joined Congress after being expelled from the BJP. People have seen Waghela’s eight months corrupt and dishonest tenure as the CM of Gujarat. Waghela’s palatial house on Gandhinagar-Mansa Highway is an ordinary reflection of his misrule.
Another Congressman Himmat Sinh Patel had also left the Muslims in a lurch when riots had broken out in the State. When the rioters vandalized the shrine of Wali Gujarati, Patel was the Mayor of Ahmedabad. He overnight constructed a road across the shrine, demolishing it completely.
Gujarati Muslims do not have sympathy for the Congress for other reasons also. Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel belongs to a Muslim dominated district Bharuch of Gujarat that happens to be his stronghold. Till date, he did not utter a word against Narendra Modi. The overwhelming welcome received by Modi in Bharuch extended by Muslim women during his yatra must be a warning to Ahmed Patel.
Secondly, the Central government of the UPA is also responsible for this erosion. Recently, a Muslim welfare organization, the Gujarat Sarvajanik Welfare Trust applied to the Central Home Ministry to get it registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011 to get foreign donations. The Home Ministry rejected the application saying ‘it is against the public interest’.
Moreover, the image-building task has been entrusted to two key figures of the Muslim community. One is Gujarat Haj Committee Chairperson Sufi Sayyad Mehboob Ali and other is retired Indian Administrative Service officer and Gujarat Waqf Board Chairman Ali Sayid. The BJP Minority Cell and Modi’s key strategists are monitoring the task and minority welfare programmes.
The State government data and Sachchar Committee Report on Minorities reveal that Muslims are well off in Gujarat in comparison to other parts of India. They have developed more even after the genocide. Modi supporters attribute this to his various minority welfare schemes. In Gujarat there are 89 per cent Hindus, 9.1 per cent Muslims, 1.0 percent Jains and 0.1 per cent Sikhs. Two districts Bharuch and Kutch have maximum population of Muslims. Each has 21 percent. Next comes Jamnagar where Muslims are 14 percent. It is noteworthy, according to the State government data, 40 percent businessmen are Muslims whereas in Kutch 47 percent Muslims are involved in the ship building yard business.
In 2006, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh appointed a high powered committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachchar (former PM IK Gujral’s brother-in-law and former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.) to make detailed study of the economic, social and educational condition of the Muslims of the country.
The Sachchar Committee after completing the task submitted its report of over 400 pages. The report reveals that Muslims of Gujarat are well-off than the Muslims of other parts of India.
In terms of literacy level, Muslims in Gujarat stand at 73.5 percent as compared to the national average of 59.1 percent. The figure of the urban males is 76; it was 81 for those living in rural areas as compared to the national average of 70 and 67 respectively. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 4.1, Page No. 287)
Even Muslim women in urban areas of Gujarat have average literacy rate 05 point higher than the national average whereas women of rural Gujarat fare even better with a literacy rate of 57 percent as compared to the national average of 43 percent. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 4.1 b, Page No. 289)
In Gujarat, a greater percentage of Muslims have attained primary, secondary and higher secondary level education compared to national average and compared to other States. Against the national average of 60.9 percent, Gujarat has 74.9 percent Muslims at the primary level while the percentage is 45.3 at the secondary level as compared to the national average of 40.5 percent. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 4.6 and 4.7, Page Nos. 295,296,297,298)
Most importantly, in terms of per month per capita income, Muslims in the urban areas of Gujarat earn an average 875 rupees that is higher than the national average of 804 rupees. In contrast, it is 662 rupees in Uttar Pradesh, 748 rupees in West Bengal, 811 rupees in Punjab, 803 rupees in Andhra Pradesh and 837 rupees in Karnataka. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 8.2, Page No. 364)
In rural Gujarat, the per capita income, per month of Muslims is 668 rupees as compared to the national average of 553 rupees. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 8.5, Page No. 370)
Even in terms of share of Muslims in government job, it is 5.9 percent in Gujarat while it is 2.1 percent in West Bengal, 3.2 percent in Delhi and 4.4 percent in Maharashtra. (The Sachchar Committee report: Appendix table 9.4, Page No. 370)
This shows that despite all odds, Muslims have begun responding to Modi’s efforts. He is successfully distancing himself from the culprits of anti-Muslim riots, and this would pay him in the election.